From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
The Ministry of Sound

Everywhere Prime Minister Edi Rama or one of his ministers goes to speak, whether in official capacity or at a Socialist Party event, you will find microphones and speakers. Chances are considerable that these will have been rented or acquired from a single company, Prosound shpk.

Since its foundation in 2006, Prosound, a company managed and owned by Kliton Gjika, has established itself as a monopolist in the field of sound engineering, becoming an integral part of Prime Minister Rama’s political propaganda machine.

Public funds paid to Prosound 2012–2017.
Public funds paid to Prosound.

Looking at the amount of government contracts won since 2012, we can see a significant increase after 2013, with a strong peak in 2015. Although there are only data for half of 2017, it looks as if the company is on track to gather the same amount of public funds as in 2016.

What is curious, is that all government contracts won by Prosound before 2017 do not appear in the public procurement system. This was perhaps also not necessary in all cases, as the individual contract amounts were sometimes rather small. In other cases, however, the government didn’t open a public tender, opting for “procurement with negotiation without preliminary declaration.” Over time these contracts add up to a serious stream of public money to what in fact is becoming a monopoly. By consistently using the negotiation procedure, the government has effectively insulated Prosound from any competitors in the market and created a monopoly.

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Data from Open Spending Albania show that the first big “break” of Prosound same in September 2013, only a few days after the installation of the new Rama Government: a contract for events at the Prime Ministry.

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This upward trend continued in 2014, with a big contract of the Ministry of Culture for the visit of the Pope, without a public tender procedure, and again substantial support from the Prime Ministry.

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In 2015 more than half of Prosound’s government income came from a single event, the organization of the concert for the 70th anniversary of the liberation in 2014. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Youth, back then still headed by Minister Erion Veliaj, paid the company 27,720,000 lekë (~€210,000), again without a public tender procedure.

As in 2013 and later years, the government contracts with Prosound came from the Municipality of Tirana, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Interior Affairs, the State Police, the National Territorial Planning Agency (AKPT), and the Center for Openness and Dialogue (COD), among several others. All of these state institutions were at that moment in the hands of the Socialist Party, and all of these contracts were “negotiated” without public announcement.

The consistent big spender, however, was the Prime Ministry (the Office of the Council of Ministers), which falls directly under Prime Minister Rama: nearly 30% of Prosound’s 2016 income from public funds, or 7,836,300 lekë, came from this institution. This fact becomes more problematic once we take into account that one current employee of Prosound is also employed as public servant at the Directorate of Information of the Prime Ministry, while a former employee of Prosound has been appointed to the Cabinet of the Prime Minister himself.

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Also in 2017, the big money came from the Prime Ministry as well as the state funeral for author Dritëro Agolli, a staunch supporter of the Socialist Party and Edi Rama. In neither case, a public procurement procedure could be found.

Since 2017, the Municipality of Tirana started granting tenders to Prosound through the public procurement system, which in itself would be an improvement. Data from Open Procurement Albania show three tenders in 2017 at a total of value of 15,091,720 lekë (~€114,000) for “various activities,” “other expenses,” and “renting audio and video equipment.” But in all three tenders, Prosound was the only bidder. This fits a pattern of government tenders in which only a single bidder shows up or is “qualified.” Another of such “preferred” companies is Fusha shpk, which won all three tenders for the Skënderbeg Square renovation without any serious competition.

It may well be that all of these contracts and transactions are within the limits of the law, but as with other “preferred” companies we find the same pattern: a sudden increase in government contracts since election year 2013; the frequent usage of the”procurement with negotiation without preliminary declaration”; public procurement procedures in which the winner appears to be predetermined; public funds flowing from ministries and state institutions held by the PS, with barely any public funds coming from ministries held by the LSI; and current and former employees of the company working at the Prime Ministry, which also is clearly the largest client of Prosound on a state level.

And then we didn’t talk about the event managed by Prosound for the Socialist Party itself.

None of this is proof for clientelism, but it definitely sounds like it.