Research by WNN reveals that the agency in Kosovo tasked with combating corruption and overseeing whistleblower cases in the public sector fails to keep adequate records on case outcomes.
Kosovo’s Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA in English, AKK for Ajencia Kundër Korrupsionit in Albanian) was established in July 2006 through the passage of Law No. 03/L-159 on Anti-Corruption Agency. According to the ACA’s website, the agency is responsible for developing “the procedure for detection and investigation of corruption.” The ACA works “with local institutions, foreign and international missions to prevent and fight corruption,” and “[m]onitors and oversees the implementation of Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan,” among several other duties listed on the site.
WNN recently did some research on the information the ACA keeps about whistleblowers and found a lack of adequate recordkeeping about the outcome of whistleblower cases. This is a result of Kosovo’s laws, which require the ACA to provide little information about whistleblower cases to the public. Additionally, WNN learned that the ACA seems to lack any information about whistleblower retaliation, which seems to be a worrying oversight for an agency tasked with fighting corruption.
Background on the ACA
One of the ACA’s responsibilities is preparing an annual report about the agency’s activities and whistleblowing: Article 29 of Law No. 06/L-085 on Protection of Whistleblowers states that the ACA must “prepare and publish a general annual report on whistleblowing for the previous year.” The law mandates that the ACA’s Annual Report include “the number of public interest reporting or disclosures” and “actions taken in respect of those reports or disclosures.”
The ACA’s Annual Work Report 2020, published in March of 2021, highlights the ACA’s work in the past year and details “the activities, achievements and challenges of the ACA.” The report was submitted to the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo, specifically to the Committee on Legislation, Mandates, Immunities, and Rules of Procedure of the Assembly and Oversight of the Anti-Corruption Agency. The report includes information relevant to the timespan of January 1 through December 31, 2020.
Breakdown of the Report
The ACA report gives an overview of each department within the agency and details ACA’s work in the past year. On page 18 of the report, the ACA covers whistleblower cases that occurred in the past year. “Law No. 06/L-085 on the Protection of Whistleblowers entered into force in January 2019,” the report states. Through this law, the ACA is charged with receiving and dealing “with external whistleblowing cases in the public sector,” among other duties. This section of the report provides information on how the ACA implemented this law and includes a table entitled “Reports from public institutions, private entities and regulators regarding whistleblowing.”
The table contains information about the institutions that received “reports and disclosures in the public interest” and “[a]ctions taken in relation to the case,” but information in the column about actions taken in the whistleblower cases is limited. The report does not include any information about the whistleblowers in the cases. It also provides no information or updates about if the whistleblower experienced retaliation, if the whistleblower was reinstated or awarded damages, etc. For example, in a whistleblower case listed as being from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the “actions taken” column states: “It is submitted with a report to the employer with the recommendations to be implemented.” The description fails to mention anything about the whistleblower who brought about this case.
Annual Report Information Required by Law (And Information the Report Omits)
The reason for a lack of information relating to individual whistleblowers in cases like these can be found in the aforementioned Law No. 06/L-085 on Protection of Whistleblowers. The law does not require the ACA to include any information about the whistleblower in whistleblower cases: as stated earlier, the law only requires the Annual Report to list the number of whistleblower disclosures and “actions taken in respect of those reports or disclosures.”
A representative from the ACA confirmed this in an email exchange with WNN. When asked if the agency had additional information about whistleblowers listed in the Annual Report, the representative responded: “The KACA’s Annual Work Report for 2020 in relation to the implementation of the law on protection of whistleblowers is prepared in accordance with the Article 29 paragraph 4 of Law no. 06 / L-085 on Protection of Whistleblowers. This legal provision contains only the number of reports in the public interest, as well as the actions taken in relation to those reports or disclosures.”
“Additionally, pursuant to the same provision, it is not determined that the institutions should prepare other reports which would be submitted to the Anti-Corruption Agency, in addition to the annual one,” the spokesperson continued. However, the spokesperson did note that “so far, the Anti-Corruption Agency does not have any information that any sanctioning action were taken to anyone as a result of his/her reporting.”
According to Gzim Shala, Programs Manager/Senior Legal Researcher at the Kosovo Law Institute, a nonprofit and non-governmental organization, an individual must go to authorities other than the ACA to get more information about whistleblower retaliation. “To find information whether there have been such instances, one must inquire to any competent court (whether there have been any lawsuits of such nature) or to the state prosecutor (whether there have been any indictments),” Shala wrote in an email to WNN.
Shala expressed KLI’s stance on the ACA’s annual report and record-keeping on whistleblower cases in Kosovo. “ACA, as a mandated agency to oversee the implementation of the Law on Whistleblower Protection, should maintain more detailed data in the field of whistleblowing,” Shala wrote. “In particular, this should extend to the challenges posed in the implementation of the Law on the Protection of Whistleblowers. But, in this regard, it is practically impossible for ACA to keep records whether whistleblowers have been exposed to harmful actions. This is because institutions do not do this type of reporting until the parties who have been exposed to harmful actions due to whistleblowing go to court. The only way for the ACA reports to contain data in this area is if they refer to the data of the competent courts.”
Additionally, Shala provided insight into KLI’s view of ACA’s progress. “KLI had found it problematic that ACA has not played its role in terms of consolidating the whistleblowing system. ACA has not taken concrete steps towards disciplining institutions for the consolidation of the whistleblowing system, which steps would also make public institutions aware of the importance of whistleblowing.” Shala mentioned that KLI “is currently researching whistleblowing in the private sector and in the coming months will publish a report regarding the same.”
Kosovo’s Anti-Corruption Agency seems to have several areas of improvement in protecting and empowering whistleblowers. If better information about whistleblower cases was kept, perhaps both the agency and NGOs like the Kosovo Law Institute could learn how to better protect whistleblowers in Kosovo.