A failure by government institutions to publish official documents in the country’s Official Journal in a timely fashion impedes the government’s work and initiatives.
By Ben Andoni for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 19/01/12
Albania's Council of Ministers in a session. [Ben Andoni/SETimes]
Government delays in publishing laws and regulations in Albania's Official Journal is making some of them unenforceable, according to a recent report issued by the Tirana-based Centre for Transparency (CPII).
Officials say the delays can have dangerous consequences and in at least one documented case has led someone to be wrongfully imprisoned for months.
"Delays ... can indirectly violate the Albanian constitution as well as the principle of legal certainty. They can produce dangerous consequences for persons, starting with arbitrary deprivation of liberty and safety," CPII Director Gerti Shella told SETimes.
The report, "Transparency of State Publications", was issued in December and is the first instance of a comprehensive transparency overview for Albania's three branches of government. It concludes that delays in publishing Supreme Court rulings prevent lower courts from recognising the verdicts in a timely manner. The high court is legally required to publish its rulings in the journal within 30 days.
CPII provided as a most flagrant example the case of a defendant identified only as P. Deliu, who unjustly served an extra five months in prison in 2009 because the court did not promptly publish a ruling in his case. The report did not provide details.
The court's ruling in the case was issued in February of that year and the court published it in the Official Journal in August.
Albania's council of ministers -- the cabinet led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha -- has similarly issued decisions that it frequently does not publish in the journal.
The report says 112 of the 1081 decisions approved by the prime minister in 2010 were not published and never put into law. The education ministry did not publish 20 out of 34 guidelines in the Official Journal, while the agriculture ministry published only one out of its 19 guidelines.
Tirana-based SHQIP newspaper editor-in-chief Aleksander Cipa told SETimes the Albanian authorities cause delays or outright do not publish decisions because they are not interested in being transparent.
"Not publishing [normative acts] is the mirror that shows the government's real state of transparency. For example, the agreement for the maritime border with Greece was not transparent and the public learned only through the media about this damaging agreement," Cipa said.
Enkeled Alibeaj, a former justice minister and current parliamentary law commission member from the ruling Democratic Party, disagrees.
"The institutions responsible for issuing an act are interested in its publishing as soon as possible because [otherwise] the initiative for issuing the act is hampered. … [and] may hamper their functions," Aliberaj told SETimes.
Aliberaj said he saw "no violation of the rights of citizens concerning transparency or failure to notify the publishing of acts in time".
Former legal counsel to the council of ministers Blerta Kraja told SETimes there are sporadic cases of non-publication, but she considers the extent of the phenomenon not that bad.
"The entry into force of the new constitution (1998) and the law of the council of ministers (2003) has [made] a significant improvement in transparency and publication of laws or amendments in the Official Journal," Kraja said.
Delays often occur because of the large number of decisions taken by the council of ministers within a short time period, Kraja said. The heavy load of work challenges the overburdened institutions' ability to process and publish decisions in a timely manner.
She adds that anti-corruption organisations have concluded interested third parties profit the most from the situation.
"In 2008, when we came out with our first report, the State Publications Centre published a massive number of extra editions of [decisions], which were not published since 2005. This action, though laudable, was a de facto silent acceptance of the problem we had already observed in our monitoring," Shell said.