The Prime Minister’s office is now one of the most luxurious buildings in Albania, since it came under the control of Edi Rama’s government.
Immediately after coming to power, Edi Rama revamped the building, providing it with the latest technology equipment and systems through the “free” contribution of some construction firms, Fusha shpk in particular.
The investment of millions of euros has not stopped there. In just over a year, between December 2017 and April 2019, restoration works worth at least EUR 1.55 million were made in the building.
According to data by Open Data Albania processed by Exit.al, this amount was paid to one single company, Ad-Star shpk, for the same service of “restorations in the Prime Minister’s building”:
– December 11, 2017 – EUR 300 thousand;
– January 19, 2018 – EUR 470 thousand;
– December 20, 2018 – EUR 450 thousand;
– January 18, 2019 – EUR 300 thousand;
– April 30, 2019 – EUR 40 thousand.
These were obviously not the only investments made in Prime Minister’s building. For example, in December 2018, ECS ECO Climate Solutions received EUR 370 thousand to upgrade the air conditioning system in the building. In another contract, EUR 100 thousand went for the purchase of computers and electronics.
These luxurious expenses occur at a time when the government claims that it can’t afford investing in education, art and culture, because of the lack of public funds. The government has repeated this claim to justify its expensive and dubious concession schemes to have private companies build the National Theater and schools in Tirana.
What is particularly interesting to note is the fact that all restoration works mentioned above were carried out by an almost unknown company, Ad-Star, founded in 1994 in the southern city of Gjirokastër and owned by Alfred Çomo.
The company did not regularly submit financial balances to the National Business Center despite operating in the market for 25 years. In the last 10 years, it submitted balance sheets only for three years: 2008, 2010 and 2014.
The company’s revenues in these three years are at best, several hundred thousand euros in total, while the modest profits do not exceed EUR 35 thousand per year.
Suddenly, after the first contract for restoration works at the Prime Minister’s building, in the last 17 months the company has become an important contractor of state institutions.
Exit.al found through processing the data on Open Data Albania that this company has received EUR 6.33 million only from public contracts. In all the cases it has won contracts without a contest, though direct contracting or in procurements where there were no other competitors.
As explained above, Ad-Star has benefited EUR 1.55 million just from the Council of Ministers, for works carried out in the Prime Minister’s building.
It has further benefited EUR 1.18 million in three tenders of Durrës, Përmet and Korça municipalities, in the period between December 2017 and April 2019. In all the three tenders, Ad-Star was the only competitor:
– September 2017: The Municipality of Durrës announced Ad-Star as the winning bidder for the “Presentation of the Concept for Archaeological Field Surveys for the Construction of the School Marie Kaçulini” tender, worth EUR 10,680.
– March 2017: The Municipality of Përmet announced Ad-Star as the winning bidder for the “City Stone Lighting” tender, worth EUR 69 thousand.
– August 2016: The Municipality of Korça announced Ad-Star as the winning bidder for the “Restoration of Korça shopping malls, 2nd lot” tender, worth EUR 1.1 million.
In the same period, Ad-Star benefited EUR 3.6 million through 35 different contracts with public institutions such as the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy, the Institute of Cultural Monuments, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Urban Development and Tourism and the School of Public Administration.
Ad-Star’s immediate ascend from being a relatively unknown company into an important public contractor, through unfair processes with no competition and without abiding to legal requirements to submit financial balances, raises suspicions of clientelism and unfair favoritism.
This is yet another case that seems to confirm the trend in recent years in Albania where public tenders are awarded to an ever smaller number of companies without competition and in violation of the law on competition.