Our dream is to keep up the hard but rewarding, work we have done in these 3 past years. Those who work hard also want to have fun.
Yet, the Tirana mayor’s true motto seems to be “those who steal and abuse power also want to have fun.”
Erion Veliaj has begun organizing several concerts in Tirana to celebrate the three-year anniversary of coming to power as mayor of Tirana. In these three years, his municipality has paid millions of euros for concerts and entertainment with little public interest, while Veliaj swears that there is no money to pay for the construction of schools and cultural objects. Apparently, this encouraged Veliaj not only to find alternative methods to finance his concerts, but also to make a personal profit out of it.
The latest example is that of Albanian singer Rita Ora’s upcoming concert in Tirana on June 3. According to Hashtag, and confirmed by Exit, the company Albtelekom will pay €200,000 for the organization of this event and this entire amount will be transferred to the company Gogël, owned by Veliaj’s brother. This may sound like an act of charity from the part of Albtelekom, but it is in fact the taxes Albanian citizens pay to the Tirana municipality.
From March 2017 onward, the Tirana municipality paid Albtelekom about €450,000 for internet and intranet services. By the end of this year, that amount will have reached €680,000. This is a mind-boggling amount of money to pay for Internet services. Exit inquired about the pricing offered by some of Tirana’s main Internet Service Providers, who serve some of the country’s largest public and private institutions, including banks. From this quick survey, it became clear that the Tirana municipality is paying 4–5 times more than the internet service’s going rate.
It must be stressed that the payments to Albtelekom are made through negotiated contracts, with no prior announcement of the needed service – about €180,000 have been paid in this manner – while other contracts are usually awarded via the now familiar method of pre-determined tenders: other competing companies either fail to make a bid, or are disqualified for failing to fulfill technical criteria, thus the remaining company is automatically declared the “winner.”
According to data made public by Open Data Albania, in a year, from March 2017 to February 2018, the Tirana municipality paid Albtelekom for the following services (at the same time, the possibility that there is money exchanged and contracts signed by the municipality and Albtelekom that have not been made public cannot be ruled out):
- On May 25, 2017, the Tirana municipality signed a negotiated contract for internet service, valued at 7.5 million lekë, or approximately €56,000.
- On August 7, 2017, the Tirana municipality signed another negotiated contract with the same value 7.5 million lekë, or approximately €56,000.
- On October 20, 2017, Albtelekom won the tender for providing internet service for the Tirana municipality. The tender was valued at 21 million lekë, or approximately €157,000. The tender was to last for 167 days, that is, about 156,000 lekë, or €1,000 per day. There were three bidders for the tender: Abcom sha, Albtelekom sha, and Telekom Albania sha. Per the now standard corruptive tender formula, one of the companies did not present a bid, while Telekom Albania failed to fulfill the technical criteria. As a result, Albtelecom automatically won the tender.
- Two months after, on December 29, 2017, the Tirana municipality approved an extension for the “Providing Internet Service for the Tirana Municipality” contract it had signed with Albtelecom in October 20. The new extension cost 1.4 million lekë. This extension was illegal, as the law only allows for a contract extension that will cost up to 20% of the original contract’s value. In this case the extension cost 67% of the original 21 million lekë contract. Furthermore, contract extensions are only approved in special cases concerning changes in the market, natural difficulties and specific provisions.
- On January 26, 2018, Albtelekom was awarded the tender for providing internet service to the Tirana municipality for the February-December 2018 period. The contract was valued at 39 million lekë, approximately €291,000. Once again, this means the municipality will pay Albtelekom €1,000 per day, simply for providing internet service.
- Three days after, on January 29, 2018, the Tirana municipality signed another negotiated contract with Albtelekom valued at 5.4 million lekë, or €40,000.