The Informative Edition of the Voice of America broadcast on Friday, June 9, a chronicle on the Albanian Government’s Position on Corruption in Public Tenders. After several arrests of senior officials, Prime Minister Rama in a meeting with mayors raised the issue of Local Government performance in relation to tenders as problematic for corruption. VOA asked the director of Open Data Albania for a comment. Since 2015, this organization provides well-structured data and risk assessment for clientelism and corruption with tenders of important public sectors.
In Tirana, Prime Minister Edi Rama called on mayors to end corrupt practices with tenders and procurement, so that they do not become subject to SPAK investigations, as the mayor of Lushnja. While the monitoring organization Open Data Albania told VOA that the government and its agencies are on the top as the most suspected of corruption and clientelism, especially in the sectors of Health, Roads, and Reconstruction.
A few days after the arrest of the mayor of Lushnja and other employees from SPAK for abuse of tenders, Prime Minister Edi Rama held a meeting with mayors and called on them to comply with the law, so that they do not become subject to investigations by the special anti-corruption office.
Mr. Rama said that the criteria introduced purposefully in tenders as “customized suits for the winners” and the lack of competition are a phenomenon that must come to an end along with bribery and corruption in local government.
He said that the municipalities have been indifferent to requests to improve their work, even when they have had advice from the procurement agency.
“88.5% of the procedures have resulted in problems with how the criteria are drafted, and the relevant municipalities have been given precise recommendations by the Public Procurement Agency. 52.5% of the municipalities did not react and did not any reflection any of such technical recommendations in their procurement processes. The ‘hand-made sewing of the tender procedure’ directly affects the degree of participation, competition, and fairness of public operators. It is a predatory, ugly, and exclusion technique” – said Mr. Rama.
Prime Minister Rama said that there is a red line between personal and party acquaintances and lawbreakers, so mayors should rather not interfere with public procurement, and not play with a fire that will become more and more scorching.
But the monitoring organization Open Data Albania told VOA that municipalities are not the most problematic when it comes to abusive tenders, compared to others.
The head of the organization Open Data Albania, Aranita Brahaj, asked by VOA, stated that central government tenders are much more problematic than those of the municipalities in terms of lack of competition, repeated cancellations, negotiations, and non-compliance with deadlines.
It is true that municipalities have a 30% level of tenders with risk of corruption and abuse, but municipalities are not the most problematic sector. According to Open Data, the same methodology indicates that 40% of tenders in the Health sector are found to be exposed to a high risk of corruption and clientelism.
“These tenders include disqualification of operators that offer lower values, leading to high bids winners” – states Open Data.
Problems and major defects are also identified with the earthquake reconstruction fund , where in the second year, after the disaster, billions of Albanian leke were used by signing contracts through limited procedures, without bidding, and within deadlines of only 10 days for operators to express their interest.
“Although this involves high values, no foreign companies come on the scene, money is concentrated in a few hands and the lack of competition is established by law, as the government applies the Normative Act of December 2019, bypassing the procurement legislation” – says Ms. Brahaj. the director of Open Data.
The State of Natural Disaster has ended as a status quo, but the Normative Act continues to be used, she stressed. The values of tenders are concentrated in a few businesses, foreign companies are reluctant to participate in competitions, notes the organization Open Data Albania.