From: Alice Taylor
SPAK to Investigate ex-Defense Minister for Tenders During COVID-19 Pandemic

The Special Prosecution against Corruption (SPAK) has launched investigations against Minister Olta Xhaçka, for suspicious tenders during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

According to Balkanweb sources, the tenders under investigation are related to the period when Xhaçka was Minister of Defense.

One of the tenders was for the purchase of 300 thousand anti-COVID-19 protective masks for the police and the Armed Forces.

Although the tender was initially opened for 300,000 masks, for reasons still unclear, the tender was renegotiated and the number of masks was reduced to 100,000.

Also, SPAK is investigating Xhaçka and the tender of EUR 1.5 million for the supply of food to families in need during the time of the emergency.

SPAK started the investigation after the report by PD, that this tender was conducted without transparency and the winner was a computer company from Macedonia.

A 2020 report from Transparency International found that Albania’s defense sector was at a “high-risk” of corruption. In relation to procurement, it found that 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.

Albania is categorized as high risk along with Kosovo, Serbia, Ukraine, Tunisia, Hungary, and Armenia.