Within two days from the earthquake, the Municipality of Tirana purchased four old fire trucks from Timak shpk for €170 thousand.
The whole process was done within 48 hours– determining terms of reference, setting procedures, identifying providers, negotiating with them, and deciding on the best option. The quake seems to have been used as a justification for urgent procedures that avoid competition, the result of which was the purchase of vehicles that are old, used, and of questionable quality.
Tender without competition
On November 27, one day after the earthquake, the Municipality of Tirana decided to directly procure four fire trucks with a fund of slightly more than ALL 20.8 million (~€170 thousand). Direct procurement means that in practice the municipality can limit or avoid competition and decide on its own who will provide the requested items.
Two days later, on November 29, the municipality declared Timak shpk winner of procurement contract with its offer worth €170 thousand, or 99.9 percent of the limit fund provided by the institution – €270 less than the limit, to be precise.
This means that within just one business day, the municipality received the offer, evaluated it, asked the company to negotiate and agreed to do so at the same day, sat in negotiations, and agreed to go with Timak’s offer as the best option possible.
The terms of reference required for vehicles “to have registration plates and all regular documentation” and for the delivery to be made “within 1 day with the Tirana Fire Service”.
This means that Timak shpk already had the fire trucks ready in stock and in the exact conditions to meet all municipality terms of reference.
Whilst it seems counterintuitive for a company to have in stock, registered second hand fire trucks of questionable quality, for which it pays taxes, the urgent procedure employed by the municipality, lack of competition and the price almost equal to the limit fund raise more suspicions that the purchase was arranged between the municipality and company beforehand.
Article 33 of the Procurement Law states that “procurement with negotiation without prior open call is used only in exceptional circumstances” and it “shall not lead to the avoidance of competition or discrimination of candidates”.
Whilst the situation after the November 26 earthquake may be considered a special circumstance, this case has clearly avoided all competition.
Urgent need for old fire trucks
The main concern regarding the purchase of four fire trucks relates their quality. The average price of €40,000 for each indicates that they are used trucks with old technology.
In fact, the municipality’s terms of reference set curious production years for the trucks– one of them could be up to 30-year-old:
- 1 fire truck, production no earlier than 1989
- 1 fire truck, production no earlier than 1990
- 1 water cannon, production no earlier than 1991
- 1 ladder truck, production no earlier than 2000
It is difficult to understand the rationale behind the municipality’s decision to set these specific years as limits for the production of trucks, particularly when one considers that these terms are in conflict with national regulations for imported cars.
Instead, it is reasonable to think that with this type of procurement the Municipality of Tirana simply aimed at purchasing Timak shpk’s trucks.
On the other hand, the activity of Timak shpk deserves further investigation so as to understand how a company set up in 2016 has immediately become the exclusive supplier of firefighting vehicles to local municipalities. Timak has provided dozens of vehicles for dozens of municipalities across the country in the last two years.
The main issue is that these vehicles are old and most likely declared out of service before being imported to Albania. For example, in at least 6 cases Timak sold fire trucks for the value of €26,000 (including VAT). If we look at market prices for fire trucks, it’s easy to understand the possible quality of Timak’s trucks.
Exit News checked TruckScout24 website:
Therefore, it is reasonable to say that Timak shpk is clearing out its stockpiles of out-of-use vehicles in Albania by selling them to municipalities, as can be seen from Open Data Albania data .
This activity is most likely in violation of the law. Last year, the government banned the import of heavy vehicles older than 15 years.
This means that the Municipality of Tirana and many other municipalities are making technical specifications and likely buying fire trucks in violation of state laws and standards.
The trick that may have been employed is that Timak shpk could have planned and created a large stock, by importing old vehicles before the government decision banning the import of vehicles produced before 2015.
Meanwhile, nearly a dozen municipalities requested almost simultaneously to buy fire trucks, and purchased them from Timak shpk at a price of about 99 per cent of the limit fund.