JOEL ÇELA

The Information and Data Protection Commissioner fails to obtain answers for ensuring transparency regarding the documentation that evidences the trip of several high officials caught on camera while dining at the “Nusr-Et Steakhouse Dubai” restaurant in January of this year. Prime Minister Rama stated that the entire cost of the trip to Dubai, excluding the flight ticket, was covered by the hosting party. In order to fact-check this statement, “Faktoje” officially requested the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of State for Reconstruction, the Ministry of Infrastructure  and Energy, and Tirana Municipality to provide the official invitation and the order on service abroad for the visit in question. The request for information received no reply despite “Faktoje” filing a complaint with the Commissioner, who simply addressed a ‘copy-paste’ reply to the four institutions. The Municipality of Tirana was the only one that replied, stating that it did not possess the invitation.


On January 9, 2021, a video was published showing several high government officials dining at the “Nusr-Et Steakhouse Dubai” restaurant, notorious for its high prices.

Following the sharing of the video across social media and the Albanian news outlets, Prime Minister Rama appeared on “Open” on Top Channel in response to the high interest of public opinion on the matter.

The hosting party invited a large delegation, as this is their way of working with everyone, all expenses covered, including hotels, restaurants, everything. We only paid for the economy class flight tickets, which is the only flight ticket class used by governmental cabinet members for travels, including myself, since I became Prime Minister, until we entered into an agreement with Air Albania to obtain a dedicated flight due to the OSCE and other reasons.” – stated the Prime Minister on “Open” on January 15.

However, the travels of high officials for service abroad are regulated by the relevant legal acts.  Pursuant to paragraph 3 of DCM No. 870, dated 14.12.2011, “On the Financial Treatment of Employees on Duty Abroad”, the assignment of employees on duty abroad is done upon order of the central institution’s head. The covering of expenses by the hosting party should be documented to also ensure the independence of public officials in exercising their duty, and to comply with the requirements of the law on financial management and control.”

On January 21 and 22, 2021, “Faktoje” addressed official requests for information to each of the following institutions: Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of State for Reconstruction, Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy and the Municipality of Tirana, the representatives of which were present at the infamous dinner in Dubai. The requested documentation is detailed at the official document level. The following are the respective communications of “Faktoje” to each institution.

1. Prime Minister’s Office

Request for information addressed to the Prime Minister’s Office

On January 28, the Prime Minister’s Office replied electronically, suggesting that we look for the requested information on the official website of the Prime Minister’s Office, wherein the Prime Minister’s activities are published.

This e-mail failed to reply to any of the requests submitted by “Faktoje” on January 21.

On February 23, we filed a complaint on the matter with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner.

Following our complaint, the Commissioner replied by providing the Prime Minister’s Office with a deadline until March 5, 2021 to respond to the claim of the complainant and to explain regarding the possession of the requested documentation.

On March 4, 2021, the Prime Minister’s Office replied, stating that it did not possess the documents requested by “Faktoje”.

Following the Prime Minister’s Office’s reply, the Information and Data Protection Commissioner sent an e-mail stating that he considered the reviewing of our complaint completed.

2. Ministry of State for Reconstruction

“Faktoje” addressed the same request for information to the Ministry of State for Reconstruction, the head of which, Mr. Ahmetaj, was present at the dinner in Dubai.

Request for information addressed to the Ministry of State for Reconstruction

The Ministry of State for Reconstruction did not reply either; therefore, another complaint was filed with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner on February 23, 2021.

The Commissioner proceeded in the same way, requesting the Ministry of State for Reconstruction to respond to the claim of the complainant (Faktoje).

As of the publication of this article, we have yet to receive a reply by the Ministry of State for Reconstruction regarding the event in Dubai.

3. Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy

Request for information addressed to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy responded on February 3, requesting additional time to provide the information.

On February 16, we inquired at the Ministry again regarding the reply to our request submitted on January 21.

Due to the lack of reply, we filed yet another complaint with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner on February 23.

The Commissioner’s reply was identical to the one concerning the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of State for Reconstruction.

Although the deadline imposed by the Commissioner is long expired, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy has yet to reply.

4. Municipality of Tirana

Request for information addressed to the Municipality of Tirana

On January 22, 2021, we addressed the same request for information to the Municipality of Tirana, requesting the provision of the relevant documentation. Following the expiration of the deadline to reply within 10 business days, we filed another complaint with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner on February 26, 2021.

The Commissioner’s reply was the same in the case of the Municipality of Tirana, requesting that the institution respond to the claim of the complainant within March 10, 2021.

Subsequently to the complaint filed with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner, the Municipality of Tirana replied electronically. In addition to explaining that the invitation addressed to the Albanian delegation to visit the Arab Emirates was first delivered by the hosting party to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy and to the Ministry of State for Reconstruction, the Municipality of Tirana noted that all the expenses for the visit were covered by the hosting party, thus having zero financial impact on the Municipality’s budget.

The Municipality of Tirana also attached Memo No. 461. This document was signed by the respective officials, including Mayor Erion Veliaj, just one day before the commencement of the project presentation as per the agenda, which, according to the document, was to be held from January 7 to January 11. This information is clarified in the Memo, in the request addressed to the Mayor of Tirana for the working visit to the United Arab Emirates. The protocol date of the request is 06.01.2021, exactly one day prior to the working visit commencement.

Although the Municipality of Tirana replied, unlike the other 3 institutions, the invitation by the hosting party to the high officials to travel to Dubai and the Order on Service Abroad were nonetheless not provided.