Legal and administrative irregularities in appointing the Auditing Experts

After publishing the data about the electoral expenditures for the two last campaigns, Open Data Albania, in an effort to ensure as much transparency as possible over the official data concerning the 2013 Electoral Campaign, found certain violations of the law in the organization of work by the Central Election Commission (CEC). Such violations have led to serious irregularities and shortcomings in the process of selection and appointment of the Licensed Auditing Experts for auditing the funds received for the 2013 electoral campaign.

Thus, the CEC is assigned by law (Article 91 of the Electoral Code) to appoint by lot a licensed auditing expert for each electoral subject, party, or participant running in the election. The drawing of such lot as a very important process in ensuring transparency over the financing of the political parties in electoral campaigns requires a strict application of the law in respect of the principles of transparency and impartiality.

Violations and Irregularities include:

1. The lot for the 2013 Campaign was drawn on 02 August 2013 in a meeting of the same date in the presence of four members of the CEC, and representatives of the political parties. The Decision for Announcing the Election Results was registered as Decision No. 752, and it was issued on 02 August 2013. According to the law, specifically Article 91, point 1, the lot must be drawn no later than 45 days after the announcement of the election result. The law implies that the deadline for drawing the lot starts on the date the election results are announced, and expires 45 days after that. Actually, the results of the 2013 parliamentary elections were announced by Decision of the CEC No. 759, dated 06 August 2013. This means that the lot was drawn four days before the expiry of the deadline. Bringing thus the lot date forward is in contradiction with the legal deadline, and hasty without a legal or administrative justification.

2. Such a failure in meeting the legal deadline deepens further shortcoming with the violation at the same time of Article 92 of the Electoral Code “Selection of the Auditors by the CEC„. Specifically, point 2 of this article contains the criteria that the list of experts for this lot should meet. The article specifies that “The list should contain at least 20 experts who have been exercising this profession in the last 5 years „. In contradiction with this article, the lot of August 2nd, 2013, was drawn with an initial list of only 9 experts. These 9 experts were appointed for auditing 68 electoral parties, including both parties and individuals. Thus, each expert will have to audit 7 to 8 subjects as an average. The requirement for providing an initial list of experts that contains at least 20 participants is also foreseen by Instruction No. 8, dated 25.03.2009 “On Appointment of licensed Accounting Experts for auditing the funds received and spent by the electoral subjects for their electoral campaign”. Having not met this legal requirement, the CEC should have cancelled the lot procedure, and repeat it at a later date within the legal deadline. The decision of the CEC does not contain any interpretation of why the lot was drawn in violation of the legal requirement of having a list of at least 20 experts. 

3. The failure of the Legal Experts to show up at the lot demonstrates, first of all, a shortcoming of the work of the respective administration staff of the CEC. The notification about the date and time of the lot in the two previous elections was made by sending a nominal official letter via mail by the CEC Chair Arben Ristani. The invitation for participation in the lot in 2009 and 2011 was sent officially via mail to each accounting firm or individual experts that met the participation criteria. This good model of official notification was not followed for the 2013 elections. The notification was only made in the media for a general audience, while an invitation was only sent to those experts who are part of an official list, i.e., members of the Institute of Authorized Accounting Experts. The public notification was also associated by another defect, i.e. lack of its publication on the CEC official website. 

4. There is also another reason for this hasty process carried out well before the deadline and for the failure of the experts to participate in the actual lot, and for the presence of only 9 experts during the lot procedure. That is related with the fact that according to point 4 of article 92 of the Electoral Code, the CEC is required that together with the budget for elections, it foresees also a budget for the auditing process. Failure of a larger number of experts to participate in the lot comes also as a result of their lack of interest for a professional commitment because of the CEC not paying them in time for their hours of work. Through the service contracts signed with these experts, the CEC is obliged to pay them for the services they render both for the annual auditing, and for auditing the electoral campaigns. The financial effects of these contracts have never been executed in time, but prolonged for twelve up to twenty four months.

The violations made in the procedure of appointing Accounting Experts by lot have serious consequences for the process of auditing, and for the publication of the political parties’ electoral finances. This process is very significant for ensuring Regular Elections and fair Political Representation, with no implications related with unclean sources of financing.