By Plator Nesturi
The vetting process seems to be degenerating into a debate on the level of salaries. At a time when everyone expected the debate to focus on the reform in the judiciary system and its reformation from corrupt people, in the past two weeks, the political class has been discussing the salaries that will be paid to commissioners and the staff, the number of personnel and operative expenses. It is not known how long this debate will last and when it will see a solution, if they really want a solution and if they want the work of the commissions to continue. And all of this comes at a time when the respective commissions which will handle the vetting process, under the legal prerogatives voted by 140 MPs a year ago, should have become operational several months ago. Now, the commissions have been set up, but they cannot start their work if they still have no budget, offices, personnel and anything necessary to undertake such operation. An operation which has nothing to do with the campaigns of tax and environment inspectors who swarm businesses to see if they have issued the VAT receipt or not or if the smoking ban is being enforced in bars. It has to do with uprooting corruption from the palace of justice.
In its public appearance, the ministry of Justice announced the government’s decision that the salaries for the members of the three institutions of the vetting process would be increased by 50%. It seems that the majority is withdrawing from its previous request that the salaries of the members should be equal to the salaries of the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court. However, this was far from the demands that these institutions have made. The withdrawal of the government from the level of salaries comes at a time when on 29 September, it voted the reduction made by SP lawmakers at the parliamentary law committee of the level of salaries which was 200% higher than the current one, while the number of administrative personnel was reduced by 40%.
This seems to be the government’s last offer. Minister Gjoni says that the new institutions, the Independent Commission of Qualification, Public Commissioners and Appeal College, already have their budget, infrastructure and the salary increase and that now, they can start work. “Now, all is left to do by the vetting institutions is to manifest their will and commitment in starting this process”, Gjoni said. While we still don’t have a reaction by these institutions or international organizations which have inspired the vetting process and support it, it’s still hard to say if this issue can be considered a closed issue, because the concession that the government was forced to do was due to the pressure exerted by international institutions which are engaged in the process of the reform in justice.
Nonetheless, the political debate continues and the two opposition forces, DP and SMI, will continue with their accusations that the budget reduction by the majority shows a lack of will to push the judicial reform forward and to fully implement the vetting process, which would remove incompetent and corrupt people from courts and prosecution offices. If this debate continues with the same intensity, there will be other delays in the implementation of the vetting process and other reforms of the system. The insistence of the majority regarding the issue of salaries is a pointless debate which only causes confusion. When the house is filled with rats from the basement to the roof, what’s the point in asking if the cat will be fed?
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy