It is a fact that there is a lot of corruption in Albania. From the construction of a school to the creation of a road, everything is a good way to line one’s pockets. Erma is in charge of a regional Treasury and she fights, day after day, against this corruption.
It has been 19 years that Erma (her name has been changed) has struggled to do her job correctly. A single woman in her forties, Erma’s religious beliefs keep her strong and ensure that she always has justice in mind. They push her to work for equality and fairness in her country, Albania.
In 1993, Erma decided to apply for a job at the Ministry of Finance after having finished her studies in economics. A bright new institution created by the Albanian government after the collapse of communism, she felt like she would be part of the new clean Albania. Her field of expertise? The “State budget”, an Albanian version of the Treasury. She is the one who keeps an eye on public expenditure and on taxes in her sector, one of the district located in northern Albania.
Threat. Being in charge of taxes is not an easy job. Six years ago, she was threatened by one of her colleagues. He wanted her to stop working on certain cases.
I was assaulted in my office by a man who works with me. He took me by my throat and asked me to give up my work.”
explains Erma, nonchalantly, as if nothing could shock her ever again.
Erma seems to be a rare gem. Odette, a friend of hers who helped her to translate what she wanted to confide in me, stated:
She always tries to know and digs as far as she can. And after, she gets threatened.”
But Erma is never at a loss for words. To these threats she has answered that if they try to fired her or make her leave by forces, she will go to Strasbourg and complain about it at the European Union. Her tentative to defend herself only delay the threats.
Falsification. Her colleague is not the only one who wants to scared Erma. In 2010, the president of the Democratic Party went directly knock at the door of the Ministry of finance to get away from her. And in his hands, a dozen of falsified signatures which confirmed her dismissal. But the young woman did not let it get her down.
I scanned all the fakes documents and I brought them to the Court to sue them, even if I knew it would not work.”
tells Erma, adding that Albanian Justice is as much corrupted. The prosecutors are a part of the “Foes of my friends are my foes” club. That is why Justice won’t do anything to help the State employee.
So she decided to directly call Sali Berisha‘s office, the Prime Minister of Albania, to ask for his help. But there was still a long way to go: Sali Berisha is also part of the Democratic Party. Surprisingly, he called her back and gave his support. He even called the Ministry of Finance to ask that she would not be fired.
Badly paid and surrounded by corrupted. But these episodes never affected her will to fight against corruption (or, to vote for the Democratic party). She is desperated by the weak effort set up to clean Albania from its “leeches” as she calls them:
I don’t know how to fight the corruption. It is clear that their is not enough verification at the level of common people as much as the State employee level.”
Erma gets paid 350 euros (500 $) per month. So, that does not surprise her when one of her colleague accepted money to confirm any type of declaration. The same one who assaulted her.
When you ask her if she feels support around her, she estimates that about half of people are struggling against this plague:
I continue by passion of resisting. They offered me a job in Tirana but I prefer stay in my native district, to built the resistance.”
she claimed,convinced that she will manage to help Albanians to get out from this deadlock.
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