19 September 2012In an effort to stem widespread corruption, the Kosovo government passed a law which requires public servants to file annual declarations of wealth, listing all their assets, to Kosovo's anti-corruption agency, but some have long suspected many officials misrepresent their wealth.
To address the situation, the FOL Movement (Speak up), an NGO which fosters transparent and accountable government, has launched an initiative most often referred to as the "platform," which enables citizens to compare the officials' yearly declarations of wealth and provide comments and information if these are misrepresented.
"We thought it best to open a public debate on comparing officials' property and actively involve the citizens through giving commentaries, information and facts about suspicious declarations," Petrit Zogaj, executive director of the FOL Movement, told SETimes.
Zogaj explained the platform covers 224 senior public officials. He justified launching the platform as a necessary supporting tool to ensure transparency and serve as a check to perpetuating corruption.
"The comments provided in the platform will be sent to the anti-corruption agency and the state prosecutor's office to begin investigating the allegations of inaccuracies or high-level differences existing year after year without any reasonable explanation," Zogaj said.
Hasan Preteni, director of the anti-corruption agency, criticised the program.
"From previous experience, I can say the fight against corruption is actually a cover for seeking funding. A prerequisite for requiring transparency [of others] is to reflect transparency, the means on the receiving end ... including all salaries, where the finances are obtained from and many other questions," Preteni said.
While Preteni said FOL Movement's initiatives are realistic and collaborative, he questioned any real benefit from the transparency platform.
"Transparent disclosure of assets is not a new invention, but citizens can see who and what has been declared on the agency's website. Also, the responses we will receive from them through this platform, I do not see a benefit [from them]," Preteni said.
Zogaj, however, said FOL Movement will continue to work and campaign to change the Law on Declaring Assets because it is weak on provisions that initiate investigations and on how wealth is declared.
"It creates the possibility during the period when the declarations are made to turn to money laundering of [property] obtained in various corrupt ways," Zogaj said.
Kosovo's new penal code, which will enter in force in 2013, stipulates penalties for filing a false declaration and for late submissions.
Citizens like Qendrim Shaqiri, a law student from Pristina, said corruption is a difficult issue to confront.
"I do not know how we can trust even those who criticise officials for corruption, because as reports said, corruption has become part of the whole society, and they are not angels who are excluded," Shaqiri told SETimes.
But some are glad that someone is taking action to fight corruption in the country.
"Because of corruption, we [Kosovo] are in a social situation where the half of population is unemployed. By finding those who are corrupted, and hide their property which they created in a night, we just do good our country," Muharrem Gashi, a resident of Pristina, told SETimes.