Vetting to Deliver Police Integrity
*This article was firstly published at POINTPULSE portal on April 2018.
Author: Redion Qirjazi
The Albanian Ministry of Interior (MoI) published in September 2017 a document on 10 priorities in the field of public order and security for the next four years. Re-evaluating about 13.000 employees in the Albanian State Police (ASP), Republican Guard and the Service on Internal Affairs and Complaints (SIAC) was identified as one of the priority.
Re-evaluation or vetting the police staff in Albania will be based on following criteria: personal integrity, professional capacity, and verification of their assets. The Albanian government delivered a draft law in early January. The law on the vetting of police ranks was adopted in the Parliament in March 2018. The application of the law is expected.
The law was drafted after an internal analysis of the MoI had concluded that integrity and professionalism among employees are not at desired levels which can lead to a state of fragile security. Problems were also identified with the internal control mechanisms, which presented weaknesses in the process of ensuring impartial and objective evaluation of employees.
The main purpose of the law would be to filter out of the police force incriminated, dishonest or incapable employees while promoting a system of fair and transparent evaluation for all members of the police force.
Some of the specific objectives of the law, which were also outlined in the strategic document preceding the bill, and which was distributed to the interested parties, were the establishment of (1) clear evaluation criteria, (2) the structures which would implement the evaluation process, (3) evaluation procedures and processes, (4) financial costs, (5) timeline for the implementation of the project and (6) other regulatory mechanisms to enable the implementation of the evaluation process.
The implementation of the screening process will undergo three phases. The first phase consists of re-evaluating around 287 employees at high-level managerial tasks across the ASP, the Republican Guard, and SIAC. Around 3000 mid-career professionals will be evaluated in the second phase of the operation and finally, the rest of the employees will be evaluated during the last and final stage.
The screening process will be implemented by four commissions which are: the External Evaluation Commission, the Central Evaluation Commission, the Local Evaluation Commission and the Special Purpose Evaluation Commission.
Each commission evaluates specific categories of employees within the selected branches. As such, the External Evaluation Commission deals only with high ranking officials, the Central Evaluation Commission executes its authority throughout most mid-careers officials and mainly officer ranks, the Local Evaluation Commission screens all employees which are not evaluated by the previous two commissions, and finally, the Special Purpose Evaluation Commission handles all units whose work is not typically public (classified). The evaluation bodies will be determined by the Selection Board.
There are five members of this board from five different institutions. These institutions are the MoI (also leading the board), the National Security Commission, Parliamentary Commission on Legal Affairs, Public Administration and Human Rights, the General Directorate on Prevention of Money Laundering and Albanian National Security Authority. Other institutions such as Albanian National Security Authority, the State Intelligence Services, the General Prosecutor’s Office, as well as Interpol and Europol might assist the commissions throughout the process in support roles.
The three main categories through which employees will be vetted are the integrity, wealth and professionalism.
With regard to integrity clearance, employees will be screened based on their previous and current activity to check for potential links with illegal activities and past or present malpractices. Verification of wealth is a two-step process of self-declaration and evaluation.
Employees will first be asked to declare their movable and immovable property and assets, wealth above 300 000ALL, income channels and personal expenses, and will later be subject to verification by the appropriate commission.
Verifications for both integrity and wealth might also involve analysis on: current household expenses, private travels out of the country, cost of education for children and dependents, entry refusals to EU or NATO countries, requests for asylum, possible extradition from any other country for infringement of laws, prior involvement in nepotism, narcotics and alcohol abuse, likelihood of cooperating with organized crime under pressure, potential psychological and personality disorders which might impede the employee from performing to standard, and types of addiction (such as gambling).
Professionally, employees will be evaluated based on work assessments, disciplinary proceedings, qualifications and overall performances in professional standards.
The law foresees a 6 step process which begins with the submission of the personal declaration form and ends with the final decision of the assessment commission. The commissions can resort to only four types of decisions: confirmation (test is passed successfully), training obligation (for improvement of professional skills), appointment to a different position (not appropriate for the given job) and expulsion (failed the vetting test).
Throughout the process, employees have the right to be evaluated objectively, independently and impartially, to be informed of the proceedings of the case, to request additional data which might support one’s cause, to attend and speak at hearing sessions and to appeal the decision in a court if necessary.
Perhaps one of the most controversial topics on the law is the “burden of proof” which at the moment rests upon the employees who undergo evaluation, even if accusations are brought up by members of the general public. Yet, the law is a major leap forward towards ensuring greater transparency, accountability, and integrity within the MoI and mainly the State Police; however, ‘the jury is still out’ on the level of implementation and the practical changes it will deliver.