Three years have past since the events broke out in the central bank of the Republic of Albania, starting by a report made public on the website of the institution itself about a theft that had taken place on its vault premises by two of its own employees, sparking a wave of indignation in the albanian public and a wave of criticism in the media, followed by criminal investigations which brought under arrest 19 of its employees, including officials of the highest ranks. In every state which considers itself serious enough to deal with issues from a standpoint of national interest, such events, taking place at the very heart of its economic and financial system, would set in motion a thorough parliamentary investigation, in order to see and understand the root causes of the problems, driven by the purpose of preventing the contingency that they will repeat itself in the future.
Unfortunately, that was not the case in Albania, a member country of NATO and an aspiring country candidate to the European Union. After some “posing” in the parliamentary Commission of economic and financial affairs, in a “personal show-down” between the Chairman of this commission and the former-Governor, the gist of the matter was covered-up and no serious or substantial examination of the internal governance of the institution occurred.
Today we are left with a nice irony to see that the only innocent person coming out from the criminal proceedings is the former-Governor, who dominated according to his will the institution for almost nine years. The other prosecuted employees were found guilty, including the former Chief Excecutive Auditor, in an absurd and irrational judicial verdict, probably unprecedented in international law, where an auditor faces criminal charges for failing to prevent a theft.
The situation sounds strange enough, targeting the auditor, as the institution had in place fully-fledged security, administrative and accounting internal control systems, with numerous personnel in charge of that duty. In practical terms the former Governor received only one “punishment”, he was sacked from the position he held, because he opted to give financial support to the former opposition Goverment of Mr.Berisha, in a quid pro quo unfair transaction of sale of “Dajti” hotel, situated in a historical site of Tirana, the capital of Albania, violating the fundamental principle of prohibition of monetary financing in a dishonest deal to gain his second term in office. As nobody in Albania cared about opening a public and principled debate on this blatant and gross violation of the principle of prohibition of monetary financing, this amounts to an offence to the albanian people and its fragile democratic institutions by its ruling political elite.
The way the supervisory board of the Bank of Albania dealt with the events was disappointing too.Instead of analysing the risk factors that brought the institution on the brink of collapse, they astonishingly and curiously proclaimed their collaboration with the judicial authorities, as if the Albanian Constitution or the Code of Criminal Procedure was giving them legal authority to conduct criminal investigations and produce criminal evidence(!!).With their irresponsible conduct and lack of transparency, the members of the Supervisory Board, appeared to be the ‘real culprits” of the disastrous internal governance of the Bank of Albania.
The Audit Committee was set up only after the events, in a hypocritical act, an attempt to avoid and twist their responsibilities. Its constitution had been a repeated request on the “deaf ears” of the supervisory Council members by the IMF and the former-Chief Internal Auditors, the leaving the Albania the last country in the region with its central bank having an Audit Committee. Thus the members of the Supervisory Board failed to met the standards of their fiduciary duties and loyalty to the public interest, because If the Audit Committee would have been constituted in due time, the fraud would have been avoided. Thus it seems logical and fair that the members of the Supervisory Board should take their due for their negligence, and be hel jointly liable for the unfortunate event, instead of the “carpenters”, “electricians” or “plumbers” who were charged with malfeasance in public office in the ensuing the criminal proceedings.
Furthermore media, the public opinion and a few politicians expressed outrage for a theft that was held to be an ordinary event, but they remained silent on serious allegations of abuses with internal public procurement procedures and embezzlement of public funds, surmounting the sum to be reported as stolen from the vault.The institution remains nowadays a “nest of cronyism”, almost all of its employees are relatives to people who have a political profile or influential businessmen, in a regrettable institutional situation, unmatched even in the most backward corners of the world.
The Government and the opposition have declared a pact of constitutional reforms, expected to run its course after the political elections and the constitution of the new government. Meanwhile a reform of governmental agencies and departments is taking place in an ongoing effort to make the albanian public administration less corrupt and more efficient.It remains true that the central bank enjoys administrative autonomy from the government, but the political majority has the national responsibility and the constitutional obligation to restore the lacking democratic legitimacy of the Bank of Albania, which has been ruined in the eyes of the public.The events of 2014 corroborated the fact that Bank of Albania has never been an independent institution, instead it has been dependent from both camps of the albanian politics. Things have not taken a positive stand since the encumbent governor has taken the office, being a man of a low proffessional standing and unknown to the public and academia before former President Nishani picked his name and proposed him as the new Governor. It is readily apparent that the current governor, with an obscure provenience as an executive in a commercial private bank, is not able to escape the entangled web of murky interests that link the financial system with the political elite.The Albanians should become the masters of their fragile democracy and financial interests, but this can not happen until and unless Bank of Albania ceases to be the “backyard of the albanian politics”.