President Returns €67 mln Road Concession Contract to Parliament – Government Procedures ‘Completely Illegal’

On Friday, President Ilir Meta returned to Parliament the law on the controversial €67 million concession contract for the construction of the 15 km-long Orikum–Dukat road.

Similarly to his previous refusal to sign the law on the concession contract for the Milot–Balldre highway, President Meta argued that while the government had already signed a concession contract with the company through an “illegal process”, it was now attempting to pass this “unconstitutional” draft-law in order to “pass the responsibility to Parliament, with the aim of granting an amnesty to the whole process done under complete illegality.”

He stated in his decision that the procedures and contract between the government and Gjikuria company violated the Constitution, principles of rule of law, transparency, and free competition, and undermined the public interest.

Below are the main points made by the President in refusing to sign the draft-law:

– There is no feasibility study for the project.

– Without a feasibility study, the government announced the cost of the project at €50 million including VAT. However, after negotiations with the company, the government awarded the concession contract for €67 million, excluding VAT. The company got about €18 million more in the contract compared to the initial government estimation.

This has violated the principle of fair competition, as other companies with possible lower offers than the awarded contract have not participated in the tender.

– Negotiating an offer is in “flagrant violation of competition rules” and laws, which prescribe that a bid offer is final and unnegotiable.

– The government made no comparative analysis whatsoever to determine if a private-public partnership was necessary at all, and why it could not use a regular public procurement procedure. A comparative analysis to determine the economically most favorable procedure is required by law.

– The government changed one of its previous decisions on concession contracts, demanding the Parliament’s approval for the Orikum–Dukat road. According to the President, this unusual move was done with the purpose of taking off of the government the responsibility for numerous legal violations, and make institutions and officials involved unaccountable.

– The government violated legal requirements by not getting an approval from the Ministry of Finance for the concession contract project.

– The draft-law was not reviewed by the parliamentary committee of Legal Affairs and that on Production Activities, both reviews required by law. The review by the committee of Economy and Finance was “superficial” and “it could not have been objective”, according to Meta.

The President also brought to the attention of Parliament the repeated criticism by international institutions regarding the government use of unsolicited proposals and PPPs.

The World BankEuropean Bank for Reconstruction and DevelopmentInternational Monetary FundEuropean Union have all criticized the government use of unsolicited proposals and PPPs.

President Meta requested the Parliament to review this draft-law after October 1, when the government cannot accept more unsolicited proposals. This request would mean for the Parliament to practically cancel the €67 million government concession contract for the 15 km–long Orikum–Dukat road.

Three concession contracts in particular have been denounced as potentially corrupt during the last months – Milot-Ballre highway, Dukat-Orikum road, and Thumane-Kashar highway. The government cancelled the latter, claiming it needed to invest the money in education. The other two contracts passed the parliament but were returned to it by President Meta.