The Special Anti-corruption Structure (SPAK) has submitted extensive materials to the court in connection with the investigation of fifteen individuals involved in procedures related to the construction of a waste incinerator in Tirana. These documents have raised suspicions about the role of these individuals in approving the contract, as they are primarily members of the commission responsible for handling the government tender and are accused of abusing their power.
Two officials, one of whom has already retired, were sent to pre-trial detention, even though their ability to manipulate evidence is limited. However, without delving into a commentary on SPAK's thorough investigation, it is crucial to emphasize that campaigns investigating mid-level public officials require a penal policy that instils a sense of security when they assume office and its responsibilities.
Aside from the fact that such investigations disrupt the functioning of public administration and may discourage individuals from taking up public office, the imprisonment of individuals who cannot obstruct the investigation further exacerbates the challenges associated with holding public office in Albania.
This is not an isolated case. Previously, a mayor in Bulqiza, a municipality in northern Albania, was arrested along with 12 other officials, leading to the temporary closure of the city hall. Two years ago, almost everyone involved in a government tender for police uniforms was arrested, revealing that many were detained without valid reasons.
While refraining from commenting on the ongoing investigation, the mass arrest of commission members gives the appearance of a penal campaign. Public officials may make mistakes, whether knowingly or not, and a comprehensive investigation should precede any arrests. A prosecutor wrongfully detaining suspects is as problematic as a public official making an unintentional error in judgment.
Hence, a specific standard is necessary to determine when a public official should be subjected to pre-trial detention. Similar penal campaigns in other Balkan countries, such as Romania and Croatia, have plunged their public administrations into deep crises, risking potential collapse.
Albania is experiencing a similar situation. In various government offices, including ministries, employees have resigned from positions involving the certification of government contracts. This exodus stems from witnessing colleagues being sent to pre-trial detention without just cause.
The investigation into the incinerator affair is a pivotal action by SPAK, impacting the highest political circles in Albania, deserving acknowledgment. However, it is crucial for this investigation not to conflate individuals accused of capturing the state with public officials merely performing their duties.
While treating these two groups similarly may guard against state capture, it also poses the risk of leaving the country without a functioning state. If a former Minister of Defense, like Fatmir Mediu, is investigated without being detained despite actions leading to the death of 26 people, while a retired mid-level public official is detained for carrying out his responsibilities, it may discourage individuals from accepting mid-level public offices in Albania in the future.