From: Alice Taylor
PPPs, Corruption, Inefficient “Publicity Stunt” Institutions Lead to High Levels of State Capture in Albania

Albania has some of the highest levels of monopolisation, corruption, state capture, and private interest bias in the region, according to a report by the Southeast European Leadership for Development and Integrity (SELDI).

The report found that despite continuous advancements in good governance, state capture remains at unacceptable levels throughout the Western Balkans. SELDI notes that developing effective methods to address this before EU accession is an essential prerequisite to successful enlargement.

Through the State Capture Assessment Diagnostics, SELDI provides insight into state capture enablers, key affected economic sectors and risks of monopolisation in the region.

In terms of monopolisation, the pressure is highest in Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In these countries, the situation is exacerbated by deficiencies in antitrust policies and their enforcement. Business state capture pressure is typically channelled through the concentration of public procurement, construction permits, concessions and privatization deals, as well as licenses in regulated and excise duties’ businesses.

Albania also scored poorly in terms of state capture pressure. It was recorded as “alarmingly high”. This calls for more scrutiny in terms of legislation, procurement concentration, the activities of specialised regulatory bodies, and more transparency in critical sectors.

Areas most impacted by monopolisation in Albania were telecoms (59%), wholesale pharmaceutical goods (56%), gambling (50%), electricity and gas supply (47%) and construction (41%).

The monopolisation in the electricity and gas sector was particularly problematic and the report noted that bad governance in the energy sector is rife.

“The confluence between political meddling, poorly managed state-owned enterprises and dependence on foreign supply allows for widespread corruption and abuse of public funds. The energy sector in the region is thus characterised by a lack of transparency and inefficient corporate governance structure of state-owned enterprises,” noted SELDI.

Private interest bias was also found to be a big issue in Albania. The report looked at several sectors and analysed the prevalence of control and imposing of sanctions being done selectively and based on private interests. It also looked at the way that public organisations are used to benefit private parties but as a tool or weapon against competitors.

In Albania, anti-corruption policies are deemed “especially infective” in construction-related public institutions. Private bias was also an issue in mobility, transport, and agriculture-related authorities. Energy, customs, tax authorities, privatisation, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, procurement and local governance were also deemed as having ineffective anti-corruption policies.

Albania has a very high private interest bias in the area of “anti-corruption, organised crime and money laundering prevention.” It was found that many of these organisations and entities acted according to their private agenda, and not the public good.

SELDI recommends that organisations should stop relying on the newly-formed institution for results as these are often a publicity stunt rather than a solution for endemic problems.

The report also noted that citizens doubt the effectiveness of anti-corruption reforms in all Western Balkan Countries. SElDI said that their concerns are justified.

In terms of media freedom, newsrooms in Albania and the rest of the region suffer from interference, government and business control, and a lack of the ability to provide democratic oversight. Media is often used to denigrate opponents, influence politics, and extend private economic interests to politics.

In Albania, SELDI found that there were multiple reports of prominent journalists being pressured by senior government officials. Also concerning was the trend of media ownership and revenue being concentrated in the hands of a few families and oligarchs which underscores media capture risks.

The report wrote that Albania had shown a marginal improvement in their corruption efforts but this was likely due to political pressure from the EU and that it’s a “short-term goal” to perform better.