Urim became part of the BIRN Kosovo team in 2020, and with his extensive experience in the field of photography will help refresh BIRN’s visual library.
BIRN Kosovo held a town hall conference in the municipality of Vushtrri/Vucitrn on September 29 to discuss the roles of Kosovo’s citizens and the National Audit Office in overseeing municipal revenues and expenses.
The debate, entitled ‘The Role of the Auditor and Citizens in Overseeing Municipal Revenues and Expenditures’, was the third to be organised within the framework of a project called ‘Promoting the Auditor General/NAO’s role in Kosovo’.
Supported by the embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Pristina, these town hall conferences are intended to examine the difficulties that municipalities face in collecting revenues and executing their budget. They also present the findings of the Auditor General, with a particular emphasis on those relating to public finances.
At the conference on Tuesday were the ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Carin Lobbezoo, the mayor of the municipality of Vushtrri/Vucitrn, Xhafer Tahiri, general auditor Besnik Osmani and the managing editor at KALLXO.com, Visar Prebreza, as well as a number of representatives from civil society and assembly members from the municipality. The conference was streamed live on BIRN’s anti-corruption platform KALLXO.com.
Ambassador Lobbezoo opened the session by stating that the embassy has supported this project because citizens should know how money is being spent by their elected representatives.
“Citizens need to know if their elected representatives are doing a good job for them and spending money properly,” Lobbezoo stated.
“That is why, through our project, we have supported BIRN and the role of the Auditor General in Kosovo.”
Issues surrounding procurement turned out to be the most problematic area in the municipality of Vushtrri/Vucitrn. In the last four years, this municipality has received 19 recommendations from the NAO to address violations and irregularities in procurement, including seven recommendations in 2019 alone.
Prebreza presented the auditor’s findings in its 2019 report on the municipality of Vushtrri/Vucitrn, explaining the areas in which the municipality has both succeeded and faltered.
He said that the municipality of Vushtrri/Vucitrn is extremely good in terms of budget execution compared to other municipalities in the first six months of 2019.
General Auditor Besnik Osmani discussed NAO recommendations implemented by the municipality of Vushtrri/Vucitrn.
“Before coming here, I read an action plan made by the municipality of Vushtrri/Vucitrn to address these recommendations and it is very detailed, and contains both the responsibilities and the time periods for the implementation of the recommendations,” Osmani said.
However, the general auditor stressed that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Mayor Tahiri stated he would personally ensure that more recommendations are implemented.
“I promise that my team and I will send cases to the prosecutor’s office wherever we encounter a criminal offense,” Tahiri added.
Similar town hall conferences will be held in other municipalities in Kosovo with the aim of presenting BIRN’s analysis of the implementation of the auditor’s recommendations and public finances.
All of them will be held in municipal assembly halls, and will be livestreamed by BIRN Kosovo.
The United States has been profoundly committed to seeing Kosovo progress as a democratic, secure, multiethnic country on the path to greater Euro-Atlantic integration. The Embassy continuously works with the Government of Kosovo and members of civil society on a broad range of issues.
The embassy’s priorities stand at insuring improved rule of law and governance that meets citizens’ needs; ensuring Kosovo has sustainable, inclusive economic growth that supports its stability and integration with Europe; ensuring Kosovo contributes positively to regional stability, including by legally transforming its the security sector, countering violent extremism, promoting minority rights, and integrating into Euro-Atlantic structures.
BIRN Kosovo, with the support of the US Embassy in Kosovo, held training workshops for teachers from across the country from September 19 to 23 on public speaking and presenting in front of a camera.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, around 70 teachers were trained to use virtual classroom platforms, including Zoom, Google Meets and Google Classroom, and PowerPoint.
In the first session, teachers acquired skills in public speaking, preparing presentation material, and learned how to position themselves in front of the camera.
The second session consisted of practicing video production, ranging from filming and editing to finalising videos that are used for teaching remotely.
In total, BIRN Kosovo organised eight two-day training workshops with four different groups in each workshop.
The KALLXO.com training coaches included managing editor Kreshnik Gashi and IT manager Arian Hyseni, as well as Internews Kosova’s executive director, Faik Ispahiu, and IT officer Korab Gërdovci.
Meanwhile, on September 21, as part of the same project, BIRN Kosovo launched a technical support line to provide further support to teachers between 9am to 7pm by telephone, Viber or WhatsApp. The technical support team will also assist parents and students in using other online platforms if needed.
On September 24 in the municipality of Kamenica, BIRN Kosovo held the first of its series of debates discussing the findings of its audit reports monitoring project, which analyses reports published by the National Audit Office, NAO, on Kosovo’s municipalities.
The results of BIRN’s monitoring and analysis were published and discussed in an open debate with more than 30 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.
Visar Prebreza, BIRN Kosovo’s managing editor, gave a brief presentation about the project and its findings, stating that the municipality of Kamenica has performed well in increasing its capital investments. Prebreza also praised the municipality for its positive assessment from the NAO.
Qendron Kastrati, the mayor of the municipality of Kamenica, said that “for the best functioning of an institution, the most important aspect is the audit, whether it is an external or internal audit”.
Kastrati said that the NAO’s opinion is motivating the municipal administration to advance further.
During the debate, Astrit Bllaca, the Head of the Audit Department of Municipalities from the National Audit Office, stated that the municipality of Kamenica had spent 92 per cent of its final budget for 2019, 2 per cent more than in 2018.
Bllaca added that controls over revenues and expenditures are generally appropriate, but that further improvements are needed in subsidies, capital investments, the management of assets, liabilities, and the classification of expenditures in the appropriate economic category.
As well as providing a forum to discuss the implementation of recommendations given by the NAO, the debates also give BIRN the opportunity to record promises made both by the General Auditor and the municipality of Kamenica, to be followed up through KALLXO.com’s fact-checking platform, Krypometer.
The debate in Kamenica was organised within the framework of a project called ‘Support civil society to increase public oversight and accountability of Kosovo public institutions’, funded by the British embassy in Pristina. This specific activity is organised as part of a component looking into the compliance of targeted institutions with recommendations from the Auditor General’s reports.
Similar debates will be held in other municipalities in Kosovo, with the aim of presenting BIRN Kosovo’s analysis of the progress made in implementing recommendations made by the Auditor General. Every debate will be held during municipal assemblies of the municipalities in question, and will be livestreamed by BIRN Kosovo.
The RIINVEST Institute, a Kosovo think-tank, presented awards on Friday for the three best articles covering issues related to the economy that were produced following training sessions held by the institute.
The training and awards were made possible by a grant from BIRN, as part of the ‘Contribute to Strengthening Independent, Investigative and Publicly Beneficial Journalism and Freedom of Expression in Kosovo’ project, which is being implemented in cooperation with the Association of Kosovo Journalists.
First prize was won by Albulena Mavraj for her article evaluating government plans to allow citizens to withdraw ten per cent of their savings in the Kosovo Pension Fund as a means to help combat the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis.
According to the jury, the article provided credible information to the public about a topic which was not thoroughly covered or explained in most of Kosovo’s media outlets.
Albione Hajdari was awarded second place for her article exploring the hardships that young people in Kosovo face in searching for work following graduation. Third place went to Lulzim Ahmeti, whose story outlined some of the economic damage caused by the coronavirus crisis.
The project, which is supported by the EU, seeks to develop journalism that is independent, impartial, unbiased and beneficial to the public interest, while equipping the beneficiaries with the required skills and resources to implement creative, investigative stories.
BIRN Kosovo held a town hall conference on Wednesday about the impact of the pandemic on municipal revenues and expenses, the first such event to be organised within the framework of the ‘Promoting the Auditor General/National Audit Office’s Role in Kosovo’ project.
Supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Pristina, these town hall conferences are intended to examine the difficulties that municipalities face in collecting revenues and spending their budgets. They also present the findings of the Auditor General, with a particular emphasis on those relating to public finances.
The conference was attended by the mayor of the municipality of Dragash, Shaban Shabani, Assistant Auditor General, Emine Fazliu, the managing editor at KALLXO.com, Visar Prebreza, as well as representatives of civil society and municipal assembly members. The conference was streamed live on BIRN’s anti-corruption platform KALLXO.com.
Prebreza gave a brief presentation about an analysis of the auditor’s findings, noting that “the pandemic has complicated the issue of revenues and the expenditures of public money in this municipality.”
Assistant Auditor General Fazliu stated that the opinion the National Audit Office provided on the annual financial statements for the Municipality of Dragash for 2019 was an unmodified opinion, which means that the annual financial statements present a true and fair view in all material respects.
Mayor Shabani assessed that “holding this debate contributes to increasing the transparency of the municipality”, adding that the municipality considers the Auditor General a very important mechanism for improving governance.
Similar town hall conferences will be held in other municipalities in Kosovo with the aim of presenting BIRN’s analysis of the implementation of the auditor’s recommendations and public finances. All of them will be held in the municipal buildings of the municipalities in question, and will be livestreamed by BIRN Kosovo.
In its 2020 Investment Climate report on Kosovo, the US State Department has listed BIRN and its executive director Jeta Xharra as a useful resource for reporting corruption.
The US State Department has listed BIRN Kosovo and its director Jeta Xharra as a resource for reporting corruption in a report on the global investment climate in 2020. In 2012, BIRN and Internews Kosova established the KALLXO.com platform for reporting corruption and other irregularities in the provision of public services.
The report states that “opinion polls attest to the public perception that corruption is widespread in public procurement, and local and international businesses regularly cite corruption, especially in the form of political interference, as one of Kosovo’s largest obstacles to attracting investment.”
The State Department emphasizes that Kosovo has adopted strong legislation to fight corruption, but that successive governments have so far been unsuccessful in its efforts to investigate, prosecute, imprison and confiscate the assets of corrupt individuals.
However, the report does cite the work of the previous government headed by former prime minister Albin Kurti in the fight against corruption, referencing the dismissal of boards of public enterprises due to mismanagement.
“The Kurti government, which started its mandate in February 2020, but fell in March 2020, took a number of concrete steps to combat corruption and political interference, but given its short tenure was not able to institutionalize all of its measures and change the perception of political interference in public administration and the judicial system,” the report states.
The US State Department lists the Anti-Corruption Agency and the Office of the Auditor General as government agencies mandated to fight corruption, and states that the country’s laws protect NGOs investigating corruption.
Other resources for reporting corruption listed by the State Department are Shaip Havolli, the director of the Kosovo Anti-Corruption Agency, the Ombudsperson Hilmi Jashari and Ismet Kryeziu, the director of the Kosovo Democratic Institute.
This article was originally published by Prishtina Insight.
BIRN Kosovo held two training sessions with prospective journalists on September 2 and 4 aimed at developing their ability to monitor audit reports.
The training sessions were held as part of the ‘Promoting the Auditor General/National Audit Office’s Role in Kosovo’ project.
Supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Pristina, the training courses are designed to improve the skills of journalists and monitors
The courses are also aimed at encouraging young journalists to enter the field of investigative journalism.
The first training course was attended by 14 prospective journalists, while the second was attended by seven.
The course was divided into two sessions. The first session was held by Kreshnik Gashi, managing editor at KALLXO.com and Labinot Leposhtica, the legal office coordinator at BIRN, while the second was held by Visar Prebreza, an editor at KALLXO.com.
Gashi and Leposhtica explained the importance of following the correct protocol when monitoring audit reports and outlined the purpose and process of sending legal letters and monitoring legal documents.
Meanwhile, Prebreza elaborated on the process of researching and reading the auditor’s reports, and stressed the importance of illustrations and infographics within an investigation.
BIRN Kosovo was one of four organisations that implemented the ‘Europeanisation of Kosovo’s Environmental Agenda’ project, which has awarded journalists in Kosovo for the best stories about the environment, energy efficiency and climate change.
TV Mreza, ERA Group and Bankwatch were also involved in implementing the project, which is supported by the European Union Office in Kosovo.
The winning stories were chosen by Kreshnik Gashi, Dajana Berisha and Mustafa Skenderi from a total of 22 entries, all broadcast on TV or published in online media. See more details here.
First prize was given to a story by a journalist from Preport, Besnik Boletini, awarded for his documentary ‘Extraction Industry’.
The investigation revealed the damage caused to the environment by the extraction industry. Thousands of hectares of river bed have been damaged by operators extracting sand and gravel. Many hills, mountains and rivers have been affected by gravel exploiters, leaving the sites in total devastation. The story can be found here.
Sanie Jusufi from the Koha Group was awarded second prize for her investigation titled ‘Farewell River’.
The story addresses concerns over construction permits issued by the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning for hydropower plants, in violation of existing procedural rules and regulations.
The ministry, in violation of the criteria set out by these rules, permitted the construction of the plants, causing environmental degradation and leaving the many residents of Lower Bitija in the municipality of Sterpce without any water. The story can be found here.
Third prize was given to Katarina Marinkovic and Sanja Djokic from Media Centar for their TV report on environmental pollution in the municipality of Kllokot.
Their story addresses one of the most urgent environmental issues in Kllokot – the pollution of the river Morava of Binca, and the obstruction of its water flow as a result of waste being dumped in the river.
The story investigates the issues faced by residents of Kllokot, which are caused fellow locals who regard the river as a landfill, as well as municipal officials, who have failed to take adequate measures to protect it. The story can be found here.
Similar prizes will be awarded for stories published in 2020.
Ndahen çmimet gazetareske për hulumtimet më të mira në fushën e mjedisit
Juria profesionale i ka bërë publike vlerësimet për gazetarët në kuadër të thirrjes për tri hulumtimet më të mira në efiçiencë të energjisë, mjedis dhe ndryshime klimatike.
Për çmimin i cili ndahet në kuadër të projektit “Europeanization of Kosovo’s Environmental Agenda”, në garë kanë qenë 22 storie të publikuara në televizione dhe media online gjatë vitit 2019.
Juria në përbërje Kreshnik Gashi, Dajana Berisha dhe Mustafa Skenderi kanë vlerësuar me çmimin e parë hulumtimin e gazetarit të Preport, Besnik Boletini. Çmimi I dytë është ndarë për hulumtimin e gazetares së grupit Koha, Sanie Jusufi, ndërsa çmimi i tretë është ndarë për gazetaret e Media Centar, Katarina Marinković dhe Sanja Đokić.
Çmimi për gazetarin Besnik Boletini është ndarë për hulumtimin dokumentar “Industrisë së Shkatërrimit”.
Hulumtimi paraqet dëmet që i janë bërë mjedisit nga industria nxjerrëse. Mijëra hektarë shtretër lumi janë dëmtuar nga operatorët ndërsa nxjerrin rërë dhe zhavorr. Shumë kodra, male dhe lumenj janë degraduar nga shfrytëzuesit e zhavorrit të cilët kanë lënë ato vende të shkatërruara më pas. Hulumtimi mund të lexohet në këtë link.
Çmimi për gazetaren Sanie Jusufi është ndarë për hulumtimet “Mirupafshim Lumë” që trajtojnë shqetësimin se si Ministria e Mjedisit dhe Planifikimit Hapësinor lëshoi leje për ndërtimin e hidrocentraleve duke shkelur rregullat dhe rregulloret. Duke u përplasur me kriteret, Ministria lejoi ndërtimin e hidrocentraleve që këtej, duke degraduar mjedisin dhe duke lënë pa ujë banorët e Bitisë së Poshtme – Komuna e Shterpcës. Hulumtimi mund të ndiqet në këtë link.
Çmimi për gazetaret Katarina Marinković dhe Sanja Đokić është ndarë për hulumtimet televizive për ndotjen e ambientit veçanërisht në komunën e Kllokotit. Hulumtimi trajton një nga çështjet më të ngutshme mjedisore të Kllokotit, ndotjen e lumit Morava e Binçës, bllokimin e tij për shkak të hedhjes së mbeturinave. Hulumtimi trajton çështjet me të cilat merren banorët e Kllokotit duke pasur parasysh papërgjegjësinë e vendasve që trajtojnë lumin si deponi dhe përfaqësuesit e komunës që nuk marrin masa adekuate për ta mbrojtur atë. Hulumtimi mund të ndiqet në këtë link.
Çmimet janë ndarë në kuadër të projektit “Europeanization of Kosovo’s Environmental Agenda” i mbështetur nga Zyra e Bashkimit Evropian në Kosovë dhe i implementuar nga BIRN Kosova, TV Mreža, ERA Group dhe Bankwatch.
Çmime të ngjashme do të ndahen edhe për hulumtimet e publikuara gjatë vitit 2020.
Dodeljene novinarske nagrade za najbolje priče iz oblasti životne sredine
Stručni žiri objavio je imena nagrađenih u okviru poziva za tri najbolje novinarske priče o energetskoj efikasnosti, životnoj sredini i klimatskim promenama.
Za nagradu koja se dodeljuje u okviru projekta “Evropeizacija kosovske agende životne sredine,” koji podržava Kancelarija Evropske unije na Kosovu, u konkurenciji su bile 22 priče objavljene na televizijama i online.
Žiri u sastavu: Krešnik Gaši, Dajana Beriša i Mustafa Skenderija dodelio je prvu nagradu za priču novinara Preporta, Besnika Boljetina. Druga nagrada je dodeljena za priču novinara iz grupe Koha, Sanije Jusufi, dok je treća nagrada dodeljena novinarkama Medija centra, Katarini Marinković i Sanji Đokić.
Novinaru Besniku Boljetinu je nagrada dodeljena za dokumentarno istraživanje “Industrija uništenja”.
Istraživanje prikazuje štetu koju je industrija vađenja šljunka i peska nanela životnoj sredini. Radovima je oštećeno na hiljade hektara rečnih korita tokom vađenja peska i šljunka. Kopači šljunka su degradirali mnoga brda, šume i reke, a zatim ta mesta napustili i ostavili uništenim. Priča se može pročitati na ovom linku.
Novinarki Sanije Jusufi je nagrada dodeljena za istraživanje “Zbogom reko”. Priča govori o tome kako je Ministarstvo životne sredine i prostornog planiranja kršeći pravila i propise izdalo dozvole za izgradnju hidroelektrana. Protivno kriterijumima, Ministarstvo je dozvolilo gradnju hidroelektrana, degradirajući životnu sredinu i ostavivši bez vode stanovnike Donje Bitinje – opština Štrpce. Priča se može pročitati na ovom linku.
Novinarkama Katarini Marinković i Sanji Đokić je nagrada dodeljena za TV istraživanje u vezi zagađenja životne sredine, posebno u opštini Klokot. Priča se bavi jednim od najvažnijih problema životne sredine u Klokotu, zagađivanjem reke Binačke Morave i njenom blokadom zbog bacanja otpada. Istraživanje obrađuje pitanja kojima se bave stanovnici Klokota uzimajući u obzir neodgovornost meštana koji tretiraju reku kao deponiju i opštinskih predstavnika koji ne preduzimaju adekvatne mere da bi je zaštitili. Priča se može odgledati na ovom linku.
Nagrade su uručene u okviru projekta „Evropeizacija kosovske agende životne sredine“ koji podržava Kancelarija Evropske unije na Kosovu, a realizuju BIRN Kosovo, TV Mreža, ERA Grupa i Bankvoč.
Slične nagrade će biti dodeljene i za priče objavljene tokom 2020.