Lack of transparency, municipalities failed in their openness towards citizens during the year 2023

  • Shqip
  • English
  • In 2023, Albanian municipalities, despite their digital presence, faced criticism for lacking transparency. An INA Media investigation showed non-uniform web addresses, negligible citizen interaction, and unexplained website maintenance costs. Transparency programs were outdated or inaccessible, highlighting a gap between the goal of open governance and its actual execution.

    Author: Fatjon Kaloçi

    The provision of contemporary internet pages for all municipalities was one of the challenging objectives for the new post-Administrative-Territorial Reform municipalities. Today, all municipalities have their own websites, although the naming of online addresses is not standardized. Vlorë Municipality has its online address at Kavajë Municipality’s address is Finiq Municipality’s online address is, while Gramsh Municipality’s address is The lack of a standardized online address system has resulted in 61 municipal websites being difficult to find on the internet. Each year, municipalities incur expenses for maintaining these websites, primarily for the domain, hosting, and other maintenance, aiming to contribute to proactive transparency.

    The municipality websites vary in their level of accessibility. For instance, on the Municipality of Maliq’s website, no material can be clicked. When we clicked on the top part of the button where the Transparency Program was mentioned, we were directed to a new window requesting the registration of an email address, and only after completing this step could we gain access to view the Transparency Program.

    Monda Lajthia is an economics journalist and hosts the E-Zone show on the national television channel, Vizion Plus. The municipalities’ inadequate approach to the need for information is concerning. “The municipalities’ accountability worsened after the 2019 local elections, where the opposition did not participate. Since 2019, Albania has a law in force, according to which builders pay 3% of the surface area of the building for the needy layers. Today, no one, not even the builders themselves, has data on how many families in need have benefited from housing as a result of this contribution. Moreover, it is not known how much the collected fund is, as a legal amendment allows these surface areas to be converted into monetary value,” said Monda Lajthia.

    For Agron Haxhimali, the Executive Director of the Institute for Municipalities of Albania, the reality regarding transparency differs from the propagated image. “When we talk about transparency from municipalities, we should take into account the legal and institutional system or the corresponding instruments for transparency. While laws are being enacted and much is being promoted about transparency, the reality presents a different picture,” said Haxhimali. With extensive involvement in local governance issues over many years, he also suggests how progress can be made: “Firstly, institutional and civic culture must be developed. Secondly, leaders need to change their approach to citizen engagement processes, not just by posting announcements for Municipal Council meetings. Thirdly, the stronghold of political positions and responsibilities of leaders or the administration greatly undermines transparency,” said the Executive Director of the Institute for Municipalities of Albania.

    Unjustified expenditures by municipalities for “transparency” on the web

    We conducted a research on over 61 municipal websites in the country, to which we also officially addressed with a request for information, in order to find out if they spend and how much they spend on maintaining these websites. 18 municipalities did not respond, even though they exceeded legal deadlines, while the data collected for 43 municipalities in the country stated that the maintenance of these official municipal websites for the year 2023 cost them 11,660,579 lek.

    Data on the expenses incurred by 43 municipalities in Albania during the year 2023 for their websites

    Payments for websites that have nothing to offer to the public

    However, what do these payments offer to the public? In the year 2023, the Municipality of Rrogozhina did not have any articles on its website. The last post on this page dates back to December 2022, while the Municipality of Këlcyrë had only one article throughout the year 2023. Another municipality, Tepelenë, stated that it spent about 250,000 lek for the maintenance of its official website, even though it had only published 3 articles throughout the year 2023, with the latest one dated June 21. The website of the Municipality of Kruja seems to have its latest post still from March 2023. However, these are not the only issues. The nature of the posts is dominated by announcements for Municipal Council meetings, job announcements, and there are far fewer articles of broader public interest. The majority of articles focus on mayors, and the publications highlight only achievements.

    The total number of posts made by each municipality during the year 2023 on their website.

    The municipality’s interaction with the reader and security measures are almost impossible

    On only 12 official websites, namely those of the municipalities of Dibër, Lezhë, Mirditë, Klos, Kurbin, Fushë-Arrëz, Finiq, Kavajë, Gjirokastër, Poliçan, Roskovec, and Librazhd, a visitor was allowed the opportunity to comment or make a suggestion under an article or post. However, despite the possibility provided, for the comment to become public, the approval of the website administrator was required.

    We also focused on the security element. If someone tries to access the website of the Municipality of Kuçovë, the first thing that appears upon entry is the warning “not a secure site.” The same situation seems to occur with the websites of the municipalities of Mirditë and Dibër. The major security issues seem to result from outdated uses of plugin versions or elements on their websites. Using a free service called (a tool also used by the State Supreme Audit Institution in some audit reports), scanning the security elements of these websites indicates high-risk levels, suggesting that the claimed maintenance, for which payment is made, appears not very realistic.

    The official websites of 23 municipalities, specifically Berat, Cërrik, Delvinë, Dibër, Divjakë, Dropull, Fushë-Arrëz, Këlcyrë, Kolonjë, Krujë, Kuçovë, Librazhd, Mallakastër, Mat, Memaliaj, Patos, Përmet, Poliçan, Përrenjas, Pustec, Sarandë, Shijak, and Dimal, are classified as having high-risk levels. Classified with a medium-risk level on their websites are 21 municipalities in the country: Belsh, Bulqizë, Finiq, Himarë, Kamëz, Korçë, Kukës, Kurbin, Lezhë, Libohovë, Lushnjë, Maliq, Mirditë, Pogradec, Pukë, Rrogozhinë, Selenicë, Tiranë, Tropojë, Vau i Dejës, and Vorë. The websites with a lower risk level belong to 17 municipalities: Vlorë, Shkodër, Gjirokastër, Fier, Elbasan, Durrës, Skrapar, Tepelenë, Roskovec, Peqin, Malësi e Madhe, Kolonjë, Klos, Kavajë, Has, Gramsh, and Devoll.

    Municipalities that still do not fulfill the legal obligation for the approval of a transparency program.

    The Municipality of Tepelenë confirms that it still does not have an approved Transparency Program.

    Two municipalities, Tepelenë and Memaliaj, stand out from the others in Albania. In the response provided by the Coordinators for Information of these two municipalities, they stated that as of December 2023, these two municipalities have not yet approved any Transparency Program, although they have published a model online. Municipalities have a legal obligation not only to approve but also to publish the Transparency Program on their websites. The obligation for transparency comes from Law 139/2015 “On local self-government,” where in Article 15, titled “Transparency of the activities of local self-government units,” it is stated that local self-government units guarantee transparency of their activities to the public, and every act of the local self-government bodies is published on the official website of the local unit and displayed in designated places.

    The Municipality of Memaliaj confirms that it does not have a Transparency Program.

    The connection with another law, Law 119/2014 “On the right to information,” makes another institution, that of the Commissioner for the Right to Information and Protection of Personal Data, determine the models of these Transparency Programs, which must be published on the municipalities’ websites. In fact, the model has been approved and published for years. It is based on 7 general categories of information, each with specific sub-categories that need to be made public.

    On the website of the Municipality of Kavajë, even though the Transparency Program is displayed, clicking on it does not yield any results. To find the email address of the Coordinators for Information on each municipality’s online page, the number of clicks required to obtain the result was measured. In many municipalities, when a citizen seeks to know the email address of the Coordinator for Information, the click is accompanied by unnecessary downloads of documents, mostly of the type .doc or .pdf, where security is not guaranteed, and the reader is not warned in advance that a specific reader or application will be needed to view the downloaded material. In 19 municipalities, visitors need to make 3 clicks to obtain information, in 21 municipalities, information is obtained with 2 clicks. Only in 18 municipalities, one click is sufficient.

    Although the majority of the monitored municipalities have the Transparency Program on their websites, many sections are incomplete with information and cannot effectively serve the public. Not all elements of the Transparency Program are published or clickable. At least 20% of the sections of the transparency programs of municipalities, although written as sections, the clicks on them are not valid or are without information. In some other municipalities, the configuration of the Transparency Program seems chaotic and disorganized. In the visual configuration, the Transparency Program of the Municipality of Tirana appears more organized. The Transparency Program of the Municipality of Skrapar seems more comprehensive and has more clickable elements, although many materials inside are not updated. The Municipality of Elbasan has visually perceived the Transparency Program differently. It does not resemble the model approved by the Commissioner, and some elements that have the same text are repeated two or more times. Only 10 municipalities self-declared the total number of visitors they had for their websites.

    According to the data provided to INA Media by these municipalities, during the year 2023, the total number of visitors to the websites of the municipalities of Tirana, Kamëz, Kukës, Devoll, Shkodër, Mat, Sarandë, Vau i Dejës, Bulqizë, and Fier was a total of 11,148,399 visitors.

    Municipalities online, few or no requests for information during the year 2023.

    The number of information requests published on the web for the year 2023.

    One of the most accurate indicators of citizen interest in municipalities is the so-called Updated Register of Information Requests. The municipalities of Maliq, Kavajë, Has, Fushë-Arrëz, and Pukë do not enable clicking on the Updated Register of Information Requests. Until January 2024, this register was not updated, and the municipalities of Elbasan, Gjirokastër, Krujë, Dimal, Konispol, Finiq, and Memaliaj still have data from the year 2021 as the latest figures. The municipalities of Selenicë and Këlcyrë still have the update of this register with the data from the year 2022. Thus, in the Municipality of Berat, the Updated Register of Information Requests had the latest update for request number 23, which belongs to July 2023, and from there, no new requests are displayed. As a rule, in the first two weeks of January, the register for the year 2023 should have been completed. The Municipality of Gjirokastër does not have a published register of requests for the year 2023 on its website, although the Coordinator for Information told us that they had 27 requests for the year 2023. However, we cannot verify this when it is not published online.

    Regarding the number of information requests addressed to municipalities during the year 2023, five municipalities with the highest number of information requests are Tirana with 241 requests, Lezha with 112 requests, Poliçani with 94 requests, Durrës with 81 requests, and Vora with 72 requests. On the other hand, Berat, Fier, Tepelena, Divjaka, and Kolonja are listed with fewer information requests in their respective web pages for the year 2023. Another concerning element of this investigation was observed with the responses to information requests.

    INA Media contacted the coordinators of the municipalities through email on January 12, 2024, using the standard form of the information request and the necessary documentation for 61 municipalities. 18 municipalities, namely Berat, Lushnjë, Dimal, Librazhd, Cërrik, Finiq, Fushë-Arrëz, Has, Kavajë, Këlcyrë, Kolonjë, Konispol, Krujë, Malësi e Madhe, Pustec, Rrogozhinë, Roskovec, and Selenicë, did not respond by February 5, 2024. For some municipalities, the deadlines for response have passed, and for many others, we are still awaiting a response.

    While in the set of articles or any type of publication made on these official pages, it appears that for the year 2023, the last post on the website of the Municipality of Kavajë was made on April 24, 2023. Meanwhile, the Municipality of Krujë has the latest published material for the year gone by on March 7, 2023, and from this date, no other publication for the year 2023 is shown. Korça and Tepelena wrote their last materials for the year 2023 in June. In some municipalities, the names of Coordinators for Information and email addresses have not been updated, and in many of them, the emails are not from the official municipality domain, but can be found in gmail, yahoo, or other broadcasters.

    The outlines of public consultation

    The initiative to create a unified public consultation portal for municipalities, standardized with the portal, according to the head of the Center for Public Information Issues, Infocip, Gert Shella, is a good way to increase transparency. The need for standardization is just as important as the willingness that municipalities themselves must show to promote transparency. “For years, Infocip has assisted municipalities in increasing transparency, but it should be the municipalities themselves that prioritize it. In 2022, we completed the platform, which was a missing tool and an unfulfilled obligation by the government according to the requirements of Law No. 146/2014 ‘On Public Notification and Consultation,'” said Shella.

    For Shella, just like with public consultation, transparency needs to be standardized, although, according to him, there are many actors who do not want standardization. Gert Shella said that even standardization is violated.

    “Infocip was among the first actors to fully complete the standardization of the municipal council decision notification service by completing the platform in 2018 with all the municipalities listed on this platform. We were surprised when we learned that a way to strengthen municipalities was hitting and the philosophy of standardization that this platform embodied. For us, who had created this system, this situation was surreal: it was like being inside the myth of Rozafa, where we were building during the day, while our colleagues were destroying during the night in the name of building stronger municipalities. True strength is to build, not to destroy. Unfortunately, destructive forces are present, and this is the reality we face every day in Albania. We were surprised that state structures did not react with the necessary force to these behaviors that violate the universally accepted principles of aligning assistance for government institutions from foreign partners,” said the Director of the Center for Public Information Issues, Infocip.

    Currently, appears to be a standardized platform for all municipalities, at least visually, but in content, municipalities either make publications to appear or do not make any at all. Shkodra, Malësia e Madhe, Vau i Dejës, Fushë-Arrëza, Hasi, Puka, Kukësi, Dibra, Mati, Kurbini, Klosi, Bulqiza, Tirana, Vora, Durrësi, Kamza, and many other municipalities have no publications for 2023 on the vendor consultation platform. Lezha, Tropoja, Shijaku had only 1 consultation call published for 2023. Elbasani made 6 public consultation calls during 2023.

    Today, it seems that municipalities are trying to move towards social networks, losing the official aspect of their representation. The low number of requests for information, the low numbers of publications these municipalities make on official websites, tasteless and almost unreadable articles that come more as organizational work pride; outdated, forgotten, and unpromoted materials seem to be the next useless spending of money that does not return to the public in real-time, in proper updates, and in the service of its awareness.

    Ky shkrim është pjesë e projektit që mbështetet financiarisht nga Zyra e Mardhënieve me Publikun e Ambasadës së SH.B.A. në Tiranë. Opinionet, gjetjet, konkluzionet dhe rekomandimet e shprehura janë te autor-it/ve dhe nuk përfaqesojnë domosdoshmërisht ato të Departamentit të Shtetit. / This article is part of a project that is financially supported by the Public Relations Office of the US Embassy in Tirana. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of State.