From: Alice Taylor
Transparency International: Albanian Security and Defence Sector at “High-Risk” of Corruption

Corruption risks are high in Albania’s defence sector, despite efforts to improve, reports Transparency International in the Government Defence Integrity Index 2020.

Assessing the quality of institutional controls to manage the risk of corruption in security and defense, the report aims to provide a detailed assessment of the integrity of the national defence institutions.

The report found that while the government has an “active focus on modernizing its defence and security apparatus and strengthening procurement legislation”, the sector lacks transparency, especially in procurement and financial management.

Furthermore, they noted that external oversight remains weak and found that parliament fails to scrutinize government performance regularly. Most defense procurement is single-sourced and “significant corruption risks exist in relation to military operations.

The report analyzed several risk factors including political, financial, personnel, operational, and procurement.

Albania performed well in only one category- that of personnel risk, scoring 60/100 otherwise determined as a “moderate risk”. 

It performed poorly in terms of operational risk, scoring 15/100 and being categorized as a critical risk. Procurement, political, and financial risks were deemed as high risk, scoring between 36/100 and 47/100

Political risk

In this category, while rights and laws exist on paper, they may not always be enforced. Political polarization and the fact that the majority in parliament rarely challenge the executive’s proposals results in the rubber-stamping of processes. This means limited effectiveness in terms of the system of checks and balances provided by the Constitution. There was also an observed lack of short-term and long-term oversight and no meaningful dialogue between parliament and the defense and security institutions. TI also noted that there was no systematic or active public debate on issues of defense in the country. Furthermore, the anti-corruption action plan for the Ministry of Defence does not adequately address all corruption risks and no risk assessments are carried out.

Financial risk

TI found there was zero transparency on the disposal of immovable property that is removed from the MoD administration, Armed Forces, nor on anything sold through auctions. There were also discrepancies in asset inventories. Even more concerningly, there was little to no information available on money generated from the disposal of MoD assets and immovable property. 

Personnel risk

It was noted there was a ‘gap’ between verbalized commitments to anti-corruption, and action is taken. TI noted a lack of integrity plan, a decline of anti-corruption discourse by the MoD at the same time as an increased flow in accusations of corruption. Most public comments and statements came from the Ministry and not from Army or Defense personnel. Additionally, while penalties and sanctions are in place for those found guilty of corruption, there was no data available for the number of investigations or prosecutions for defense and security personnel by the MoD. In terms of whistleblowers, while there are laws in place, the results were “very limited” and scored 0/100 for effective implementation.

Operational risk

In the worst-performing risk category, TI said that there was a disregard of corruption in-country. There is no military doctrine on corruption in operations, no transparency in procedures, little training on corruption issues, no planning conducted based on corruption risks, no corruption monitoring, and no reports provided to oversight bodies such as parliament.

Government policy

In terms of procurement, corruption and lack of transparency in public procurement is one of the main issues of concern in Albania. Furthermore, there were issues of political influence on awarding contracts to companies with government links as well as a “widespread belief among bidders that tenders can only be acquired through political connections.” It also found that political affiliations of companies with the ruling party determined how much money is spent in particular areas.

TI said that corruption and weak governance in the region was a huge cause for concern and urgent action is needed to prevent corruption.

Natalie Hogg, Director of TI’s Defence and Security Programme said:

“Following major strides towards more robust defence governance in Central and Eastern Europe, many of these results should be a cause for concern. Corruption and weak governance in the defence and security sector is dangerous, divisive and wasteful. While it is encouraging to see a handful of countries score well the overall picture for the region is one of high corruption risk, especially around defence procurement – an area responsible for huge swathes of public spending.”

Albania is categorized as high risk along with Kosovo, Serbia, Ukraine, Tunisia, Hungary, and Armenia. Very high-risk countries included Montenegro, Kuwait, Nigeria, Palestine, and Mali. North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were ranked as moderate risk and Latvia as low risk