Following the decision of the Administrative Court, “Faktoje” was able to obtain the documentation by the Ministry of Interior regarding the expenditures for official travels abroad of the two former ministers Fatmir Xhafaj and Sandër Lleshaj. The data on the invoices provided were censored, however, despite it concerning the same Ministry, the difference in the standard of both ministers is evident, although, legally, this DCM of 2011  does not prohibit them from opting for luxury accommodation.

A few weeks ago (late 2020), the Ministry of Interior provided the required documentation following “Faktoje’s” win of the legal battle against 8 of the highest institutions in the country, regarding the invoices of officials’ expenditures for travels abroad.

The invoices that “Faktoje” received are those covering the period from January 2018 to June 2019, a period during which Fatmir Xhafaj and Sandër Lleshaj, respectively, held the position of Minister of Interior.

While initiating the fact-checking of the requested invoices, the first thing we noted was the difference in the standard of information provision. The Ministry of Interior, unlike the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Education, had censored part of the data.

1- On the travel invoices of the Ministry of Interior’s official, the names of the hotels where the ministers stayed at were concealed.

2 – The names of the minister’s escorts during the trips were concealed.

3- The Orders on Service Abroad for the minister bear no date or protocol number.

Minister Etilda Gjonaj’s invoice

*Travel invoice of Minister Gjonaj, provided in July 2019 (the travel agency is ‘Odisea Travel and Tours’)

Former Minister Fatmir Xhafaj’s invoice

*The names of the Former Minister Xhafaj’s escorts have been concealed

As regards the expenditures shown on the invoices obtained by the Ministry of Interior, we noted that Former Minister of Interior Fatmir Xhafaj (who held the position from  March 24th, 2017 until  October 27th, 2018), partook in 9 official trips abroad during the January 2018-October 2018 period, one trip per month on average.

The total expenditures covered by the State Budget amount to ALL 5,615,421.597 (five million six hundred fifteen thousand four hundred twenty-one point five hundred ninety-seven).

“Faktoje” noted that several of the invoices from the said institution showed that the accommodation prices of the hotels where Former Minister Xhafaj stayed at exceeded 400 Euros/night, while the travel ticket prices were all above ALL 50,000.

*Summary table of the expenditures of Former Minister Xhafaj (January 2018-October 2018, based on the invoices provided by the MoI).

The most expensive travel ticket amounts to ALL 340,478 for the Tirana-Berlin-Washington-Tirana flight from 18 to 24 March 2018. The accommodation at the hotels in Germany and the USA cost 3,679 Euros.

*Tirana-Berlin-Washington-Tirana flight ticket price, 18-24 March 2018.

*Copy of the Order on Service Abroad for Former Minister Xhafaj, without a protocol number

From 7 to 11 July 2018, Former Minister Xhafaj attended the London Summit, upon invitation of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, according to the description of the Order on Service Abroad provided by the Ministry of Interior.

The Tirana-London-Tirana flight ticket cost ALL 56,133, whereas the 4-night accommodation cost 2,756 Euros.

*The Order on Service Abroad for Mr. Xhafaj for the visit to London, without a protocol number

*Copy of Former Minister Xhafaj’s flight ticket to London

*Copy of the bill issued by the hotel in London where Former Minister Xhafaj stayed at, 7-11 July 2018.

Although the hotel name in the documentation provided has been censored, “Faktoje” managed to identify it as the 4-star luxury hotel “The Goring”, the accommodation price of which is nearly 700 Euros per night.

Mr. Xhafaj’s successor, Mr. Sandër Lleshaj, appears to be more ‘sparing’ in regards to travels and hotels

According to the obtained invoices corresponding to the period from his appointment in November 2018 until June 2019, Minister Sandër Lleshaj has traveled abroad 7 times, one trip per month on average. In the reported period, Mr. Lleshaj’s expenditures during official visits have been more modest in regards to travel ticket and accommodation prices, although we have to note that his ‘travel list’ does not include destinations such as London or Washington, which have significantly impacted the expenditure items of the official.

Regardless, the ‘difference’ between the expenditures of the two former ministers is evident. The total expenditures for flight tickets, accommodations and per diems of Mr. Xhafaj are nearly 6 times greater than Mr. Lleshaj’s, i.e a difference of ALL 4.614.452.136. The reporting periods provided (based on the invoices we obtained) showcase the expenditures of 9 months for Mr. Xhafaj and 7 months for Mr. Lleshaj while in position.

From December 3rd, 2018 until June 10th, 2019, in seven reported official travels abroad, Former Minister Lleshaj spent ALL 969,461 (for flight tickets, accommodation and per diems).

In the frame of holding political meetings for opening accession negotiations, (based on the Order on Service Abroad provided by the Ministry of Interior), Former Minister Sandër Lleshaj traveled to Berlin during 3-7 June 2019. The flight ticket cost was ALL 108,333, while the accommodation for 3 nights cost 1269 Euros, or 430 Euros/night. This is notably the most costly trip of Mr. Lleshaj.

*Copy of the Order on Service Abroad for Mr. Lleshaj to visit Berlin on 3-7 June 2019, without a protocol number.

*Copy of Former Minister Lleshaj’s invoice for the flight ticket to Berlin

From 25 to 27 March 2019, Former Minister Lleshaj participated in the bilateral meeting held in Paris. The flight ticket cost for this trip was ALL 53,750, while accommodation cost 390 Euros/night.

*Copy of the Order on Service Abroad for Mr. Lleshaj’s visit to Paris, 25-27 March 2019

*Copy of the flight ticket purchase invoice; note the concealed names of Mr. Lleshaj’s five escorts

As regards the other five trips, Mr. Lleshaj’s official visit destinations included Zagreb, Ankara, Brussels, etc., the hotel accommodation costs for which vary from 80 Euros to 400 Euros per night.

Based on the verifications of the invoices provided by the Ministry of Interior, it should be noted that, unlike his predecessor’s, Mr. Lleshaj’s trips were shorter, thus the per diem total is lower. In the majority of trips, Mr. Lleshaj’s per diem amounted to 160 Euros (80 Euros/day), whereas Former Minister Xhafaj’s per diems in several trips amounted to 400 Euros.

*Clarification: In the article published on 26/01/2021 “1.       Former Minister Xhafaj’s 700 Euros/night standard, while Minister Lleshaj appears more sparing”, the summary table showing the travel expenditures of Former Minister Xhafaj did not include the accommodation cost in Washington (20-24 March 2018, as evidenced in the document shown).

The cost amount is now reflected and the expenditure total has been corrected.