BIRN Kosovo Chairs Debate on Oversight of Spending in Viti/Vitina

On December 24, BIRN Kosovo held a town hall conference in Viti/Vitina on the role of the National Audit Office, NAO, and citizens in overseeing municipal revenues and expenses, the fifth organised within the framework of the Promoting the Auditor General/NAO’s role in Kosovo project.

On December 24, BIRN Kosovo held a town hall conference in Viti/Vitina on the role of the National Audit Office, NAO, and citizens in overseeing municipal revenues and expenses, the fifth organised within the framework of the Promoting the Auditor General/NAO’s role in Kosovo project.

Supported by the Netherlands’ embassy in Kosovo, these town hall conferences are intended to examine the difficulties municipalities face in collecting revenue and executing their budgets. They also present the findings of the Auditor General, with an emphasis on those relating to public finances.

Present at the conference on Thursday were the Mayor of Viti/Vitina, Sokol Haliti, the head of the Audit Department for Municipalities at the NAO, Astrit Bllaca, and Visar Prebreza, Managing Editor at BIRN’s KALLXO.com.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the debate was attended by a limited number of participants from the municipality, as well as representatives of civil society and members of the municipal assembly. The conference was streamed live on BIRN’s anti-corruption platform KALLXO.com.

Prebreza presented the Auditor’s findings from the 2019 report on the municipality, stating that the municipality should be focused on reducing its debts.

“The Municipality of Viti is one of the municipalities that has received the fewest number of recommendations in its 2019 report,” Prebreza said. “However, the municipality’s debts have increased slightly, and this is a concern, especially as debts in most municipalities are decreasing.”

Mayor Haliti promised that the municipality would act soon on all the NAO recommendations. “We will become the first municipality to implement all of the given recommendations from the NAO,” he declared.

Child Protection NGOs Award Journalists Supported by BIRN Kosovo

On December 29 Behar Mustafa, a journalist at KALLXO.com, and Agon Sinanaj, who contributed an investigative story to BIRN’s English language newspaper Prishtina Insight, were recognised at the 2020 Awards for Journalism on Social and Child Protection. Both received prizes from KOMF, a Coalition of NGOs for Child Protection in Kosovo.

Mustafa was awarded for his TV reportage, “Smuggling Children to Italy,” which was broadcast as part of BIRN’s Justice in Kosovo television programme.

The story shed light on minors aged 16 to 18 being smuggled from Kosovo to Italy, with the investigation following the whole journey.

The footage revealed how the young people were in constant danger throughout the route, including when crossing borders with false identity documents alongside unknown companions.

Meanwhile, freelance journalist Sinanaj was also awarded for his feature story for Prishtina Insight, which looked into the lives of families caring for children with disabilities. The article was also published on BIRN’s KALLXO.com.

KOMF awarded a total of seven prizes to journalists for their work in the field of child protection. Other winners included Ardita Rashiti, a journalist at T7, Donika Gashi and Rina Mujku, from Klan Kosova, Drite Slivova-Polisi, of KTV, and Kaltrina Rexhepi-Dragusha, of RTK.

The prizes were awarded as part of the “Strengthening Social Services for Vulnerable Children and Families” project, which is funded by the Swiss embassy in Kosovo and implemented by KOMF. The awards were also supported by Joint Action for Decentralization, a project funded by the European Union and implemented by KOMF in partnership with SOS, OFAP, and KMPF.

BIRN Kosovo Gives Awards for Investigative Reporting on Corruption

BIRN Kosovo on December 18 gave three journalists awards for the best investigative reports about corruption in public spending over the past year, as part of a project entitled Promoting the Auditor General/NAO’s Role in Kosovo.

The winning stories were selected by a jury comprised of Kreshnik Gashi, Mexhide Demolli, Dafina Halili, Leart Hoxha and Mustafa Skenderi from a total of nine entries, all of which were broadcast on TV or published online between October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020.

First prize was awarded to journalist Besnik Boletini for his investigative article entitled “Ineffective Millions”, which analysed investments in agriculture through grants and subsidies.

Over 238 million euros have been invested in agriculture using these methods, with experts arguing that the investment has produced few tangible results. Levels of imports and exports were examined as part of the investigation, which highlighted the ineffectiveness of the huge public investment into the agriculture sector.

Arta Berisha was awarded second prize for her investigation entitled “Advertising the Government’s Work Online”, which shed light on dozens of contracts, signed by ministries with news websites and other sites, which did not respect tendering procedures, the Law on Public Procurement and professional ethics.

Third place went to Merita Berisha-Prebreza for her investigation entitled “Temporary Contracts that Deny Workers Rights”. The article examined salaries paid to over 2,000 people employed every year by public institutions through so-called Special Service Agreements, often without competition and in violation of the law.

The investigation revealed that public money is often spent on providing financial support for people connected to political parties, as well as party activists.

Promoting the Auditor General/NAO’s Role in Kosovo is supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and is being implemented by BIRN Kosovo.

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Ndahen çmimet gazetareske për hulumtimet më të mira në fushën e shpenzimeve publike

Juria profesionale i ka bërë publike (18 dhjetor)vlerësimet për gazetarët në kuadër të thirrjes për tri hulumtimet më të mira në fushën e shpenzimeve publike.

Çmimet janë ndarë në kuadër të projektit ‘Promovimi i rolit të Auditorit të Përgjithshëm / ZKA në Kosovë’, i mbështetur nga Ambasada e Mbretërisë së Holandës/Ministria e Punëve të Jashtme e Holandës dhe i implmentuar nga BIRN Kosova.

Për këto çmime, në garë kanë qenë 9 storie të publikuara në televizione dhe media online nga data 1 tetor 2019 deri më 30 shtator 2020.

Juria në përbërje Kreshnik Gashi, Mexhide Demolli, Leart Hoxha, Dafina Halili dhe Mustafa Skenderi kanë vlerësuar çmimin e parë  hulumtimin e gazetarit, Besnik Boletini. Çmimi i dytë është ndarë për hulumtimin e gazetares Arta Berisha, ndërsa çmimi i tretë është ndarë për gazetaren Merita Berisha-Prebreza.

Çmimi për gazetarin Besnik Boletini është ndarë për hulumtimin “Milionat e paefektshme”. Ky hulumtim shqyrton investimet e bëra në fushën e bujqësisë përmes granteve dhe subvencioneve. Mbi 238 milionë euro janë investuar në bujqësi në këtë mënyrë, me ekspertë që argumentojnë se paratë kanë treguar pak rezultate. Nivelet e importeve dhe eksporteve u analizuan si pjesë e hetimit, i cili nënvizoi jo-efektivitetin e investimeve të mëdha publike në këtë sektor. Hulumtimi mund të lexohet në këtë link.

Çmimi për gazetaren Arta Berisha është ndarë për hulumtimin “Reklamimi i punës së qeverisë në internet”. Ky hulumtim zbulon mbi dhjetëra kontrata të nënshkruara nga ministritë me portalet e lajmeve dhe faqet e internetit të tjera në kundërshtim me procedurat e tenderimit, Ligjin për Prokurimin Publik dhe etikën profesionale. Arta Berisha zbulon se sekretarët e përgjithshëm të ministrive, si dhe zyrtarë të tjerë, e kanë trajtuar buxhetin e shtetit sikur të ishin paratë e tyre, duke shpërndarë shuma të mëdha portaleve në kundërshtim me legjislacionin. Hulumtimi mund të lexohet në këtë link.

Çmimi për gazetaren Merita Berisha-Prebreza është ndarë për hulumtimin “Kontrata afatshkurta që mohojnë të drejtat e punëtorëve”. Ky hulumtim shqyrton pagat e paguara për mbi 2,000 persona të punësuar çdo vit nga institucionet publike përmes Marrëveshjeve për shërbime të veçanta, shpesh pa konkurrencë dhe në kundërshtim me ligjin. Hulumtimi zbulon se paratë publike shpesh shpenzohen për të siguruar mbështetje financiare për njerëzit e lidhur me partitë politike, si dhe militantët e partive. Hulumtimi mund të ndiqet në këtë link.

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Dodeljene nagrade za najbolje novinarske priče iz oblasti javnih troškova

Stručni žiri BIRN Kosova objavio je svoje ocene (18. decembra) za novinarke i novinare, u okviru poziva za tri najbolja istraživanja iz oblasti javnih troškova.

Nagrade su dodeljene u okviru projekta „Promovisanje uloge generalnog revizora/ NKR na Kosovu,“ čiju je realizaciju podržala ambasada Kraljevine Holandije/Ministarstvo spoljnih poslova Holandije, a koji realizuje BIRN Kosovo.

Za ove nagrade, u konkurenciji je bilo devet istraživačkih priča objavljenih na televiziji i onlajn medijima od 1. oktobra 2019. do 30. septembra 2020. godine.

Žiri u sastavu Krešnik Gaši, Medžide Demoli, Ljeart Hodža, Dafina Haljilji i Mustafa Skenderi dodelio je prvu nagradu istraživanju novinara, Besnika Boljetinija. Druga nagrada dodeljena je istraživanju novinarke Arte Beriša, dok je treća nagrada dodeljena novinarki Meriti Beriša-Prebreza.

Novinar Besnik Boljetini osvojio je prvu nagradu za istraživanje „Nedelotvorni milioni.” Ova priča istražuje investicije u poljoprivredi, putem grantova i subvencija. Više od 238 miliona evra uloženo je u poljoprivredu ovim putem, a stručnjaci tvrde da je sav taj novac dao malo rezultata. Nivoi uvoza i izvoza analizirani su kao deo istrage, koja je naglasila nedelotvornost velikih javnih investicija u ovom sektoru. Istraživanje možete pročitati na ovom linku.

Novinarki Arti Beriša dodeljena je nagrada za istraživanje „Reklamiranje rada vlade na internetu“. Ovo istraživanje razotkriva na desetine ugovora koja su ministarstva potpisala sa informativnim portalima i internet stranicama, u suprotnosti sa tenderskim postupcima, Zakonom o javnim nabavkama i profesionalnom etikom. Arta Beriša otkriva da su se generalni sekretari ministarstava, kao i drugi zvaničnici, prema državnom budžetu ponašali kao da se radi o njihovom vlastitom novcu, isplaćujući velike svote portalima u suprotnosti sa zakonom. Istraživanje možete pročitati na ovom linku.

Novinarki Meriti Beriša-Prebreza dodeljena je nagrada za istraživanje „Kratkoročni ugovori koji uskraćuju radnička prava“. Ovo istraživanje ispituje zarade isplaćene broju od preko 2,000 ljudi zaposlenih svake godine u javnim institucijama, ugovorima o posebnim uslugama, često mimo konkurencije i u suprotnosti sa zakonom. Istraživanje otkriva da se novac iz javne kase često troši da bi se obezbedila finansijska podrška ljudima povezanim sa političkim strankama, kao i stranačkim militantima. Istraživanje možete pročitati na ovom linku.

 

BIRN Kosovo Trains Auditors in Communication and Social Media Use

BIRN Kosovo held its second training session on writing techniques and the use of social media with the staff of the National Audit Office, NAO, on December 21, as part of the Promoting the Auditor General/NAO’s role in Kosovo, a project aimed at increasing transparency and accountability on the management of public funds.

Supported by the Netherlands embassy in Pristina, the training courses are intended to improve the performance of the Auditor General and NAO staff while writing, reporting and providing information on public spending.

The training session was attended by the Head of Communication and Professional Development Saranda Husajm and communications officer Shqipe Hetemi from the NAO. The course was divided into two sessions, the first held by Kreshnik Gashi, managing editor at KALLXO.com, and the second by Granit Mavriqi, media editor at KALLXO.com.

Gashi explained the fundamental elements of writing an article, news items and a social media status and how to present them on social networks. Mavriqi provided information on social media use and security.

BIRN Kosovo Holds Second Environmental Reporting Workshop

On December 9, BIRN Kosovo held the fifth in its series of debates on the findings of its audit monitoring project, which analyses reports on Kosovo municipalities published by the National Audit Office, NAO.

BIRN Kosovo and TV Mreza held a second workshop for journalists in Kosovo on December 23, providing training on how to best report issues related to energy efficiency and the environment.

The workshop was implemented within the Europeanisation of Kosovo’s Environmental Agenda project, which is funded by the EU Office in Kosovo. The project is focused on improving knowledge of and reporting on energy efficiency, as well as raising public awareness about the health benefits of using renewables and creating a clean environment.

Twelve local journalists attended the workshop, with representatives from News Press Production, TV Herc, TV Mir, TV Most, Epoka e Re, Euro Peja Information, as well as other independent and freelance journalists.

The workshop was conducted by Jeta Xharra, BIRN Kosovo’s country director,
Visar Prebreza and Kreshnik Gashi, BIRN Kosovo’s managing editors, Fatmir Gsrguri, an environmental expert, Aleksandar Djordjevic, an environmental journalist at BIRN Serbia, and Dragan Gmizic, a journalist and award-winning environmental film maker from Serbia.

During the workshop, Xharra discussed the problems of addressing environmental issues in Kosovo through journalism, while Prebreza outlined his and Xharra’s months-long investigation that exposed corruption in state-funded incentives for private solar power companies, which was published under the title “Unclean energy: The Kosovar Who Would Own the Sun”.

Gerguri meanwhile demonstrated the long-term effects of environmental degradation caused by the illegal exploitation of gravel, coal and other natural resources, as well as by the construction of infrastructure projects with low-quality materials.

Djordjevic outlined his investigations into illegal construction in protected areas in Serbia, while Gmizic talked through his eco-documentaries “Black Shadow of Green Energy” and “Flatland without Birds”, as well as his investigation into the illegal fishing trade.

Finally, Gashi spoke about the practical details of reporting on environmental crimes in Kosovo, using his investigations into the illegal exploitation of gravel that was broadcast as part of BIRN’s ‘Justice in Kosovo’ TV programme as an example.

The online workshop was held was the final one to be organised within the Europeanisation of Kosovo’s Environmental Agenda project.

BIRN Kosovo Holds Training on “Fact-checking and Tackling Misinformation”

On December 9 and 10, BIRN Kosovo, in partnership with the International Press Institute, IPI, held its first two-day training course on tackling disinformation and establishing fact-checking methods.

The course was held as part of the “Solidifying the Resilience of Kosovo’s Current and Future Journalists” project, which is supported by the EU.

During the two-day course, participants interacted via video call with specialists from two organisations known for their innovation in fact-checking.

On the first day, Stephane Grueso from the leading Spanish NGO tackling disinformation through fact-checking and data journalism, Maldita.es, introduced the topic of disinformation and revealed current trends within the International Fact-Checking Network.

Grueso also outlined methodologies, examples and case studies, as well as how to debunk misinformation through basic tools like tweets, photos, video and geolocation, among other topics.

The second day was covered by four trainers: Kansu Ekin Tanca, Gülin Çavuş, Öyküm Hüma Keskin and Emre İlkan Saklıca, who are part of Teyit, Turkey’s premier independent fact-checking social enterprise.

The training session covered various topics including the importance of technology and building a community of fact-checkers as well as the roots of online misinformation, the challenges it presents and solutions to it. The trainers also outlined advanced search techniques, digital news tracking, and how to use domain information and visual clues.

A total of 36 participants were part of the training, including 24 journalists and six students of journalism, 20 of whom were women.

BIRN and IPI believe the training will help young journalists tackle fake news and unverified reporting by helping them to spot fake news and provide verified information that adheres to journalistic standards. The delivered knowledge was practical, and will help journalists develop these skills further.

The project aims to organise two additional two-day training courses on the topic of false information featuring different international experts, so that both junior and professional journalists have the opportunity to participate in similar training courses in 2021.

BIRN Kosovo Holds Debate on Audit Report in Peja/Pec

On December 9, BIRN Kosovo held the fifth in its series of debates on the findings of its audit monitoring project, which analyzes reports on Kosovo municipalities published by the National Audit Office, NAO.

The debate was held in the municipality of Peja/Pec, with the results of BIRN’s monitoring and analysis discussed.

Due to circumstances caused by COVID-19, the debate was followed by a limited number of participants from the municipality, the NAO and civil society. It was streamed live on BIRN’s anti-corruption platform KALLXO.com.

KALLXO.com’s Managing Editor, Visar Prebreza, gave a brief presentation on the project findings, stating that the municipality had made progress in some fields, but there were still weaknesses in others.

“We did this two years ago and analyzed the findings, presented the analysis and published four audit reports,” Prebreza recalled.  “The aim was to identify weaknesses that were appearing in certain areas,” he added.

Gazmend Muhaxheri, Mayor of Peja/Pec, defended budget planning at the municipality, and pledged that 50 per cent of the recommendations of the auditors would soon be implemented.

“We never got budget planning wrong,” he said, adding that the municipality always set its budget categories correctly, and had not paid for items that were not planned.

Emine Fazliu, Assistant Auditor General at the NAO, outlined the advantages and disadvantages that Peja/Pec has in terms of financial management.

“The Municipality of Peja for 2019 realised 97 per cent of the final budget, it is a good level; if we compare it with last year, there is a reduction of 1 per cent,” she said.

“However, the municipality has weaknesses in managing expenditures, especially those made through procurement.”

Alongside providing an avenue to discuss the implementation of NAO recommendations, the debates have given BIRN the opportunity to record the promises made both by NAO officials and by the Municipality of Peja/Pec, which can later be followed up through KALLXO.com’s fact-checking platform, Krypometer.

The debate was organised within the framework of the “Support civil society to increase public oversight and accountability of Kosovo public institutions” project.

This is funded by the British Embassy in Pristina. This specific activity is organised as part of the component looking into the compliance of targeted institutions with recommendations from the Auditor General’s reports.

Open Call for Energy Efficiency and Environmental Reporting Workshop

On December 23, 2020, BIRN Kosovo and TV Mreza will organize a workshop for journalists that focuses on improving knowledge and reporting on energy efficiency, as well as the health benefits of using renewables and creating a clean environment.

The workshop will directly increase the capacities of local journalists and help deliver professional and unbiased reporting on energy efficiency, renewables, health and the environment.

It will be designed to contain both theoretical and practical elements, so participants will not only learn theory but immediately implement it in practice.

This workshop is organised within the “Europeanization of Kosovo’s Environmental Agenda” project, which is supported by the European Union in Kosovo and implemented by BIRN Kosovo, TV Mreza, ERA Group and Bankwatch.

Journalists attending the workshop will be equipped with the necessary skills to cover the sustainable development agenda, with a particular focus on energy efficiency and the environment.

Trainers in this workshop will be:

Jeta Xharra – BIRN Kosovo’s Country Director
Visar Prebreza and Kreshnik Gashi – BIRN Kosovo’s Managing EditorsFatmir Gërguri – Environmental Expert and former Chief Inspector at the Independent Commission for Mines and Minerals
Aleksandar Djordjevic – Environmental journalist at BIRN Serbia
Dragan Gmizic – Journalist and award-winning environmental film maker in Serbia

Requirements to participate in the workshop: Participants must have been an active journalist for at least one year, either freelance or connected to a media outlet, and must have published or broadcast a minimum of 7-10 stories.

The deadline to apply for participation is 11.59pm on December 22, 2020. The maximum number of participants is 20. The workshop will be held via ZOOM and is the second and final workshop organised within the “Europeanization of Kosovo’s Environmental Agenda” project.

If you are interested in participating in the workshop, please click on the link/s below to register in:

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Thirrje e hapur për pjesëmarrje në punëtorinë mbi efiçiencën e energjisë dhe raportimin në fushën e ambientit

Më 23 dhjetor 2020, BIRN Kosova dhe TV Mrezha do të organizojnë një punëtori për gazetarë të fokusuar në rritjen e njohurive dhe raportimit mbi efiçiencën e energjisë si dhe përfitimet e të përdorurit të energjisë së ripërtërishme. Gazetarët që do të marrin pjesë në këtë punëtori do të pajisen me aftësitë e nevojshme për të mbuluar agjendën e zhvillimit të qëndrueshëm, me fokus të veçantë në efiçiencën e energjisë dhe mjedisin.

Kjo punëtori është dizajnuar të përmbajë elemente teorike dhe praktike në mënyrë që pjesëmarrësit jo vetëm që përvetësojnë anën teorike por edhe ta kthejnë atë në rezultate të prekshme. Kjo punëtori organizohet brenda projektit “Europeanization of Kosovo’s Environmental Agenda”, mbështetur nga Zyra e Bashkimit Evropian në Kosovë dhe implementohet nga BIRN Kosova, TV Mrezha, ERA Group dhe Bankwatch.

Gazetarët që do të marrin pjesë në këtë punëtori do të pajisen me aftësitë e nevojshme për të mbuluar agjendën e zhvillimit të qëndrueshëm, me fokus të veçantë në efiçiencën e energjisë dhe mjedisin.

Trajnerë në këtë punëtori do të jenë:

Jeta Xharra – Drejtoreshë Ekzekutive e BIRN Kosova
Visar Prebreza dhe Kreshnik Gashi – Redaktorë Menaxhues në BIRN Kosova

Fatmir Gërguri – Ekspert i Mjedisit
Aleksandar Gjorgjeviq – Gazetar në BIRN Serbia
Dragan Gmiziq – Gazetar dhe producent i filmave mjedisorë me çmime të fituara në Serbi

Kriteret minimale për të marrë pjesë në këtë punëtori

Pjesëmarrësit duhet të jenë gazetarë aktivë për të paktën një vit, qoftë i/e pavarur apo i/e lidhur me media, dhe të ketë të publikuar apo transmetuar të paktën 7-10 storie.

 Afati i fundit për të aplikuar për pjesëmarrje në këtë punëtori është 22 dhjetor 2020, 23:59, ndërsa numri maksimal i pjesëmarrësve është 20. Punëtoria do të mbahet përmes aplikacionit ZOOM dhe është punëtoria e dytë dhe e fundit e organizuar në kuadër të projektit “Europeanization of Kosovo’s Environmental Agenda”.

Nëse jeni të interesuar të merrni pjesë në punëtori, ju lutemi klikoni në linkun më poshtë për t’u regjistruar:

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Otvoreni poziv za radionicu o izveštavanju o energetskoj efikasnosti i životnoj sredini

BIRN Kosovo i TV Mreža organizuju 23. decembra 2020. godine radionicu za novinare koja se fokusira na unapređenje znanja i izveštavanje o energetskoj efikasnosti, kao i zdravstvenim prednostima korišćenja obnovljivih izvora i stvaranja čiste životne sredine. Ovo će neposredno uvećati sposobnosti lokalnih novinara i pomoći im da na profesionalan i nepristrasan način izveštavaju o energetskoj efikasnosti, obnovljivoj energiji, zdravlju i životnoj sredini.

Radionica će biti osmišljena da sadrži i teorijske i praktične elemente, tako da učesnici neće samo steći teorijska znanja, već će odmah  početi i da ih primenjuju. Ova radionica je organizovana u okviru projekta „Evropeizacija kosovske agende za zaštitu životne sredine“, koji podržava Evropska unija na Kosovu, a sprovode BIRN Kosovo, TV Mreža, ERA grupa i Bankwatch.

Novinari koji prisustvuju radionici biće osposobljeni  veštinama potrebnim za izveštavanje, odnosno pisanje o agendi za održivi razvoj sa posebnim fokusom na energetsku efikasnost i životnu sredinu.

Predavači na ovoj radionicu biće:

Jeta  Džara –  direktorka BIRN Kosovo

Krešnik Gaši i Visar Prebreza – glavni urednici BIRN Kosovo

Fatmir Gerguri – ekspert za zaštitu životne sredine

Aleksandar Đorđević – istraživački novinar u  BIRN  Srbija

Dragan Gmizić – novinar i nagrađivani filmski reditelj o životnoj sredini/ekologiji

Minimalni uslovi za učestvovanje na ovoj radionici: Učesnici moraju da budu aktivni novinari najmanje godinu dana, bilo novinari slobodnjaci ili koji rade za medijsku kuću i da su objavili ili emitovali najmanje 7-10 priča.

Rok za prijavu za učešcće na ovoj radionici je 22. decembar 2020. godine, do 23.59 časova dok je maksimalan broj učesnika 20. Radionica će se održati putem ZOOM-a i druga je i poslednja radionica organizovana u okviru projekta „Evropeizacija kosovske agende za zaštitu životne sredine“.

Ako ste zainteresovani za učešće na radionici, kliknite  link/ove u nastavku da biste se registrovali:

BIRN Kosovo Exposé of Hospital Security Issues Draws Criticism

A BIRN TV report, highlighting the lack of controls on who can enter COVID-19 hospitals wards in Kosovo, has angered politicians and hospitals alike.

BIRN Kosovo Director Jeta Xharra has been criticised after she and a camera crew visited the Infectious Disease Clinic on Prishtina in Tuesday, where dozens of COVID-19 patients were being treated, to see if it was possible to gain access.

On November 16, Health Minister Armend Zemaj told BIRN that there was “no chance” of anyone who had not been tested for COVID-19 entering the clinic, and that police had been deployed and were operating a zero-tolerance policy on unauthorised entry.

However, Xharra and her camera crew encountered no police and were able to enter multiple clinics treating patients with COVID-19, including the Infectious Disease Clinic, where no security guards were stationed outside.

There, BIRN discovered rooms filled with visitors, some of whom told BIRN that they had not been tested for the coronavirus. Rooms with COVID-19 patients also contained relatives asleep next to them.

The leader of the ruling Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, Isa Mustafa, and the Central University Clinic of Kosovo, CUCK, reacted strongly on Wednesday, accusing BIRN Kosovo of gaining unauthorised entrance to the hospital.

Mustafa said COVID-19 patients were treated well in Pristina and regional hospitals and praise the work of healthcare staff. It was “a miracle” that despite the lack of facilities and human resources, the flow of patients was being managed, he added.

“When you speak to our doctors, they say they have had no private life for nine months. They have no time to take care of their own families. It is therefore low for someone from the media and the politics to try to undermine this titanic work,” Mustafa continued.

“They have no moral right, either, because some of them receive several times higher salaries than doctors, live freely, far from the responsibilities for the sick and their families – and dare to sow defeatism in the name of free speech.”

CUCK, in an earlier statement, accused BIRN Kosovo of entering the institution without official permission and without personal protective equipment, endangering their health of persons with whom they had contact and hindering the work of staff.

“Groundless allegations against health personnel were used during the ]BIRN TV] show, abusing the emotional state of people who lost their relatives in the fight against COVID-19,” CUCK claimed adding that “our institution was not given the opportunity to present the official version on all the issues raised, which is a principle of professional journalism”.

Answering CUCK’s statement, BIRN Kosovo requested an explanation on the disputed issues it had reported on in the Life in Kosovo show on Tuesday evening. However, no explanation had arrived by the time of publication.

BIRN Kosovo Holds Debate on Audit Report in Rahovec/ Orahovac

On Monday November 30, BIRN Kosovo held the fourth of its series of debates discussing the findings of its audit monitoring project, which analyses reports on Kosovo’s municipalities published by the National Audit Office, NAO. The debate was held in the municipality of Rahovec/Orahovac.

The results of BIRN’s monitoring and analysis were published and discussed in an open debate. Due to the circumstances caused by COVID-19, the debate was followed by a limited number of participants from the municipality, the National Audit Office and civil society organisations. The debate was also streamed live on BIRN’s anti-corruption platform KALLXO.com.

KALLXO.com’s Managing Editor, Visar Prebreza, gave a brief presentation on the project and its findings, stating that there progress was made at the Municipality of Rahovec/Orahovac in terms of implementing the NAO’s recommendations, especially compared to the 2018 audit report. However, there were still weaknesses found, mainly in the field of procurement.

According to Smajl Latifi, the Mayor of Rahovec/Orahovac, weaknesses in procurement will not be found in the Audit report for 2020. “We have made an action plan for the implementation of the recommendations, and a working group,” Latifi said.

Meanwhile, Bujar Bajraktari, from the National Audit Office, stated that the Municipality of Rahovec/Orahovac had made progress in implementing recommendations and the focus should now be on asset management, specifically creating an asset register and inventory, among other things.

“Comparing financial reports over the years, it can be seen that the Municipality of Rahovec has shown improvement,” he said. “However, in important areas, such as in the field of procurement, there are still findings to be addressed and the focus should be there. Asset management activities should also be improved, as there are some findings that have been presented for years, including asset management, establishing an asset register, inventory, etc.”

In terms of the implementation of recommendations, Bajraktari said that out of 17 recommendations provided last year, only seven have been fully implemented, while one has been partially implemented, four have not been implemented and five are considered closed.

Alongside providing an avenue to discuss the implementation of recommendations by the NAO, these debates also give BIRN the opportunity to record promises made both by National Audit Office officials and the Municipality of Rahovec, which can later be followed up through KALLXO.com’s fact-checking platform, Krypometer.

The debate was organised within the framework of the Supporting Civil Society to Increase Public Oversight and Accountability of Kosovo Public Institutions project, which is funded by the British Embassy in Pristina. This specific activity is organised as a part of the component looking into the compliance of targeted institutions with recommendations from the Auditor General’s reports.

Similar debates will be held in municipalities across Kosovo, with the aim of presenting BIRN Kosovo’s analysis of the progress made in implementing recommendations made by the Auditor. Every debate will be live streamed by BIRN Kosovo.