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The concessions progress report turns into a non-report

The concessions progress report turns into a non-report

A report on the progress of controversial public-private partnership contracts prepared by the Ministry of Finance aimed at public transparency of the costs and implementation of these contracts appears to dramatically fail to provide basic figures, such as the volume of investments made in these contract, if the investments are less than the contractual obligation or more, or the financial amounts paid by the taxpayer for these contracts. The report, which was prepared as a result of a legal obligation imposed by the International Monetary Fund in 2019, presents the progress of the concession contracts of 2023, without bothering to provide the details for which the report itself was conceived.

Thus, concessions such as Rruga e Kombit, Rinas Airport, Rruga e Arbri and others, carry descriptions of the type: "are in the construction phase", or "works continue", but the progress of the agreed investments is not determined and in no in this case, data are not presented, as happened in the reports of previous years, for the cases when the private contractor violated the contractual conditions.

In fact, not all concession contract profiles fall into the category where performance data is simply not reported. In at least one concession, which seems to have gone according to plan, the ministry has emphasized that everything is going well, while in one concession, that of the ferry pier in the Port of Durrës, it is emphasized that the concessionaire has realized only 23% of the investments planned.

Nation Road

The concession of a 60-kilometer highway segment, built with taxpayers' money, was granted by Prime Minister Edi Rama's government in 2017 to a consortium of Albanian companies, Kastrati and Salillari. Concession contracts in Albania are kept as a strict state secret and citizens do not have the right to be informed about what rights and obligations the parties have. What is known is that, according to the Ministry of Finance, the private party undertakes to spend 5.3 billion ALL in exchange for income, which is provided both by the state budget and the road toll. The report of the Ministry of Finance states: "According to the reports and confirmation of the Contracting Authority, during the year 2023 the project is in the construction and operation phase." The report fails to say whether the agreed investments were made or not, whether they were made on time or not made on time, nor does it say whether the private party's revenues are in line with concession planning, are lower or are higher. The Albanian Highway Concession Company, which is implementing the contract, according to the balance sheet data deposited at the National Business Center, has billed Albanians 12.2 billion lek (over 100 million euros) for the period from 2017 to 2022. The data of 2023 have not been published yet. The concession has a term of 30 years.

Arbri Street

The Arbri Road concession was signed by Prime Minister Edi Rama's government in 2018 with the expectation that a private investment of 26.5 billion lek would bring about the construction of the 54-kilometer road by March 2022. The taxpayer will repay the cost of the road along a term of 13 years with a total of over 40 billion ALL. The report of the Ministry of Finance on the progress of the concession does not say how much is the amount invested by the private party, but it says that, practically five years after the start of the works and with 15.7 billion lek paid by the taxpayer, 19 kilometers are reported by the Contracting Authority, so by the Ministry of Transport as "completed", while the rest is "in process". The problems encountered in the Murrizi Tunnel, the most expensive part of the whole work, are well known. The government reports that geological problems have caused the tunnel to "suspend work" for 17 months, while currently it is reported that "work is being done". The new deadline set by the government for the completion of the works is the year 2025. Despite the works, which did not proceed according to the contract, the taxpayer's payments for this road have in fact been realized, according to the Ministry of Finance, to the extent of 100%.

Orikum – Dukes according to plan

Unlike these two concessions, the report of the Ministry of Finance has more concise explanations regarding the concession for the construction of the Orikum - Dukat road, a 14.7 kilometer long two-lane road, which is expected to cost 10 billion ALL. According to the report, "during 2023, the implementation works have progressed according to the work schedule which has been monitored and certified by the independent contract engineer."

Rinas Airport

Similar to the road concession reports, the description given by the Ministry of Finance to the implementation of the Rinas International Airport concession contract has no substance. It does not say how much the private party's investment is, nor whether this investment has fulfilled the contractual obligation or not. However, the report seems to undertake to give good publicity to the contract, noting the increase in the number of passengers.

The airport concession contract was signed by the socialist government of former Prime Minister Fatos Nano in 2005 and since then has been one of the most profitable concessions in the country, providing net profits of 220 million euros for the period 2009-2022, for which data are available.

Controversially, the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama decided to extend the term of the contract, initially from 20 to 23 years and then to the current 35 years. The extension of the contract was done without competition and was approved by the socialist majority in the Parliament of Albania.

Incinerators in the air

The reporting with the least data from the annual concessions report seems to be that of the Tirana incinerator concession contract. The Ministry of Finance does not explain the amount invested so far by the concessionaire company, nor if this amount is smaller or larger than what was agreed in the contract. The incinerator, which became a symbol of widespread corruption in the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama, is currently under state administration since July of last year, when the Special Structure Against Organized Crime and Corruption, SPAK, after some dilemmas, decided to seize it her. The concession, which, according to BIRN's calculations, has cost Albanians at least 100 million euros, continues to be paid by taxpayers as if it had been realized, while a high number of officials, who had to protect the public interest against the private partner, are currently investigated, in the process of trial or convicted for criminal offenses of abuse of office, corruption and money laundering. Reporter.al

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