On 18 February 2020, Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj said that the Sami Frasheri School in Tirana would be rebuilt using EU Funds.
The school was built by the Municipality of Tirana in 2018 and was presented as a modern institution. Then following the November 26 earthquake, it was severely damaged according to the assessment of a private company, contracted by the Municipality. This company said it needed to be rebuilt. The companies that assessed earthquake damage were onboarded without prior announcement or a tender at a cost of EUR 415,000.
The school had been reconstructed a year before the earthquake and Veliaj was accused of being involved in a “corrupt crime” due to the poor quality of the work.
In his statement in February he said:
“Sami Frasheri school will be the first to benefit from the grants won in Brussels…”
He also defended the need to rebuild the school at all, stating that foundations and columns could not be simply repaired and would not survive another earthquake.
In April, the school was demolished and again it was said that it would be reconstructed with funds from the EU.
The Democratic Party alleged that the value of the new construction would be in the region of EUR 4.5 million and that it was going to be built with taxpayers money. They claimed that schools built with EU money cost in the region of EUR 700,000 and that Veliaj is abusing taxpayers money by inflating the price of construction.
Veliaj responded by saying that the school is bigger so it costs more. He said that critics of its construction and value were opposing a beautiful, big, and strong new school. He called the new project a “miracle”.
This week, Veliaj inaugurated the start of the construction but it was found that works had not actually started and no workers were present on site. The Opposition accused him of manipulating citizens with videos of workers and diggers that are turned off as soon as Veliaj leaves.
Veliaj has also been accused of alienating the land on which the school is located. He posted documents on social media that proved it was still the property of the Municipality and that this allegation was incorrect.
Prime Minister Edi Rama also denied this fact and defended the construction of the school at this price.
The Opposition has since made public several questions that they demand answers to. These include:
- Why was the Sami Frasheri School demolished in the middle of a pandemic in April without a project in the works?
- Why does the Sami Frasheri school cost EUR 4.5 million when similar schools that are built with EU funds cost EUR 700,000?
- Why did [Arrben] Ahmetaj and Veliaj lie when they said that the school would be built with EU funds while the EU confirms the opposite?
- Which are the companies behind the construction of the Sami Frasheri school?
Exit asked the EU Delegation whether they were funding or even part-funding the reconstruction of the Sami Frasheri school.
They confirmed that the school is not a part of the EU4Schools programme and will not benefit from EU financial support for earthquake recovery.
“The school is not among the finalised and published list of the first phase of the programme. Equally, it is not foreseen among the educational establishments to be included in the second phase.”