Opposition Member Accuses Government of Corruption in Highway Project

Former Democratic Party MP Agron Shehaj denounced the concession contract for the construction and maintenance of the Milot-Balldre highway as fraudulent and potentially corrupt.

The government awarded the contract to ANK shpk company, which has pledged to invest an initial capital of € 52 million for construction works. However, the company’s declared capital is 13 times smaller than the pledged capital.

In a Facebook status Agron Shehaj wrote:

“Milot-Balldre road concession contract is a fraudulent contract. The ANK shpk company has pledged to pay [invest] 52 million of its capital, when its capital is only 4 million. The company has pledged that through this minimal [initial] capital it will also receive another 70 million in bank loans and 19.5 million in funds from suppliers (!).”

Shehaj called on the prosecution to investigate into the said contract:

“Either ANK shpk has inflated costs, in a typical corruption scheme, or it will launder dirty money through this project – or both. One thing is for sure: the company does not own the capital it has fraudulently stated in the contract, and this fraud must be immediately investigated.”

A day earlier, BalkanWeb published the contract between the government and ANK shpk, according to which the construction cost for the 17.2 km-long highway will cost the state budget € 260 million, or € 15.1 million per kilometer.

The figure becomes even more suspicious when one looks back at the procedures followed by the government, as well as the fact that the Milot – Balldre highway will be built in a flat terrain and over an already existing road – not from scratch and involving less earthwork.

In December 2017, the government estimated the cost for the construction and maintenance of the 17.2 km long highway at € 114 million. One year later, in November 2018, the government announced that it would actually cost Albanian taxpayers more than twice – approximately € 216 million.

During the first few months of 2018, the company ANK shpk, owned by Agim Kola, made the government an unsolicited proposal for the construction of this highway. On June 28, 2018, the government approved the request and granted the company a 8.5 per cent bonus points. It also announced that it would soon begin concession procedures, in which other companies could also compete for the tender.

On July 23, 2018, the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure opened the tender for the 13-year long construction and maintenance of the highway. In the tender’s official announcement, the limit fund had increased to 120.8 billion lekë (€162 million), a €50 million hike from the initial state budget figure. The reason given for this increase was the need for road signs and a lighting system for the road.

Following negotiations between the government and ANK shpk on the interest rate the company will earn during the 13-years, the total cost of the project hiked to €216 million, or €260 million including VAT.

The company will build a 6-lane, 17.2 km–long highway, including a 850m–long tunnel, and two bridges. Following the construction, ANK shpk will be responsible for its the maintenance for 13 years.