The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.
Corruption in the executive branch was widespread and pervasive. The education system remained corrupt, and officials sometimes required bribes from students for them to matriculate or pass examinations. Doctors and other medical personnel frequently demanded payment to provide what should have been free government services. As in other sectors, high-profile defendants usually were found not guilty, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. While numerous low and mid-level officials were prosecuted and often convicted for corruption, prosecuting higher level officials remained problematic.
The government prosecuted corrupt officials and managed complaints regarding corrupt police through the ombudsman and the Internal Control Service of the Albanian State Police. However, broad immunity provisions for judges, members of parliament, and other high-level officials prohibit not only prosecution but any use of investigative measures, hindering the government’s ability to prosecute high-level corruption.
The government’s task force against organized crime coordinated anticorruption activities. The prime minister headed the task force, which included several ministers and heads of independent state-owned agencies, such as the public electricity company, and representatives of the police and intelligence organizations.
The joint investigative units to fight economic crime and corruption (JIUs) are multiagency units that investigated and prosecuted public corruption and other financial crimes. The JIUs continued to bring cases in numerous sectors rife with corruption.
The law prohibits government ministers and their close family members from owning a company directly tied to their official responsibilities. Since its inception in 2003, the High Inspectorate for the Declaration and Audit of Assets (HIDAA) has received assets declarations from officials. During the year HIDAA sent 16 cases to prosecutors for further investigation and facilitated the resolution of 210 conflict of interest cases. During the year there were 427 officials who declared their assets for the first time. During the year HIDAA fined 117 individuals for delaying their submissions and fined them for conflict of interest.
The Ministry of Interior reported that state police investigated 2,065 cases related to corruption and financial crimes during the year, and authorities arrested 266 persons. The courts ruled to confiscate assets in five cases totaling 259,830,519 leks ($2,377,700) and to sequester assets in 11 cases totaling 757,600,138 leks ($6,932,780).
Corruption in the judiciary is pervasive. Many judges issue rulings that do not appear to have any basis in law or fact, leading some to believe that the only plausible explanation is corruption or political pressure. Broad immunity enjoyed by judges prohibits prosecutors from investigating corruption allegations until they make a public request to the High Council of Justice to lift the accused judge’s immunity, and receive its approval. Few judges have been prosecuted for corruption because most criminal investigations must remain secret, at least initially, in order to be successful.
Despite these obstacles, at least two corruption cases were pending against judges in which ordinary citizens recorded themselves offering a bribe to the judge, then provided the video to prosecutors. In a recent similar case involving video of a prosecutor discussing a bribe, however, the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, concluding that the recording could not be used unless it was “authorized” by law enforcement.
The law provides public access to government information, but the process for making the information public was often not clear, and officials were sometimes reluctant to release information.
The law requires public officials to release all information and official documents with the exception of classified documents and state secrets. Citizens often faced serious problems in obtaining such information. Most government ministries and agencies posted public information directly on their Web sites. However, businesses and citizens complained of a lack of transparency and the failure to publish regulations or legislation that should be basic public information.