Ina Allkanjari

The reconstruction program of the consequences of the earthquake of November 26, 2019 is extended to the 11 affected municipalities should have been characterized by transparency and accountability. In order to unify the information and convey it with transparency to the public it was decided to create a unique government portal “rindertimit.gov.al”.

Faktoje noted that the portal does not fulfill the criteria provided by law to transparency. The later is also lagging behind due to lack of periodic publications and reports regarding the implementation of the reconstruction program.

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“Referring to transparency the unique government portal on reconstruction, the reconstruction website (which you can use to check, teach or criticize us and show us what we have to improve), is updated at least twice a day” – stated on July 22, 2020 the Minister of State on Reconstruction, Arben Ahmetaj during a press release regarding transparency on the reconstruction process.

Normative Act No. 9, dated 16.12.2019 “On addressing of the consequences of the natural disaster”, article 10 which focuses on the information and transparency principle defines:  The public authorities make public every revenue, donation or expense carried out with the aim to address the consequences of natural disasters. Meanwhile article 38 of the same act defines the establishment of a unique government portal in regard to the transparency of the reconstruction process and criteria that it should fulfill.

Article 38, normative act no.9 dated 16.12.2019

The unique government portal should have implemented the abovementioned articles two years ago in order to fulfill transparency objectives.

Reconstruction portal, dated November 18, 2021

On the fourth meeting of the Nation Reconstruction Committee, which was held on February 12, Ahmetaj emphasized that this portal is to provide all the information on reconstruction: “The unique portal to which the Prime Minister referred to is now active, but it is also a work in process. Basically there you will find all the information on reconstruction, area by area, process by process, house by house, donation by donation, activity by activity.”

While checking the reconstruction platform, dated November 11, 2021, Faktoje noticed the categories which appear in this portal to check the transparency and reports on the process. They are listed as follows:

The Legal Package which includes Laws, Normative Acts and Decisions which make it difficult to find the required information, since they are only accompanied by the respective dates in the absence of a reference writing of the decision. “Reconstruction Programs”, which according to article 38 should provide data on the reconstruction fund, its source, completed projects, grants or beneficiaries of this project, which have been affected by the earthquake of November 26, 2019 etc. In the meanwhile these categories do not include specific data, lack information on the reconstruction, number of sites etc. What is being emphasized are the subcategories which include the following programs:

Screenshot, unique government portal rindertimi.gov.al

“Construction of new objects” This subcategory displays overall data on the way how the reconstruction process works. The normative act no. 9 dated 16.12.2019  “On addressing of the consequences of the natural disaster” is also attached in this subcategory, but there are no leads on the newly constructed objects, completed objects or those under process.

“Public and critical infrastructure” also mainly includes general information and the normative act no.9 dated 16.12.2019 is attached in this subcategory as well.

“Establishment of the residence fund” is another subcategory which is included in the Reconstruction Program. “On the housing needs of the families affected by natural disaster, the National Housing Authority, according to the definitions in the Decision of the Council of Ministers and/or local self-governance units, establishes the necessary residence fund to address the consequences of natural disasters which consists in residences purchased with funds from the reconstruction fund in the free market, as well as residences donated by third parties in favor of the state with the purpose of addressing natural disasters”, this is the only information published under this subcategory.

In this process transparency on “Reconstruction grants” is of utmost importance, but we have to note that this space displays the information on the categories which benefit from the reconstruction grants, but there are no data on the beneficiaries, the value of the grants or how the process is going.

Screenshot, unique government portal “rindertimi.gov.al”, category reconstruction programs

In the last category of the Reconstruction Program “Social and economic recovery”, we are presented with a short description on damage compensation for the families that should benefit from the natural disaster.

Procurement

One of the categories included in this platform is Procurement. According to article 38 of the transparency, this category should include data on the procurement procedures in function of the reconstruction process.  In this category you come across so much information which does not dispose of a time or topic search tools, which makes it hard to find the required information. This category does not fulfil the principles of Open Data.

Regarding the abovementioned, approximately two years ago while informing on the progress of the reconstruction process, Ahmetaj spoke about programs which based on the law are active in this platform by showing the specifics of each program.

Screenshot, Ahmetaj’s communication on the reconstruction process dated 22.07.2020

Since 2020 these programs which are included in the “Reconstruction Program” have not been updated and there are no progress reports published in the implementation of the reconstruction program.

“My home” category

If we continue exploring the platform, in the end of the page we will notice the “My home” app. At first sight everyone would think that by clicking this section we would generate data related to residences or following processes related to them. But, every time you click on the “My home” platform it simply brings you back to the Home Page and only displays activities and photos of the Prime Minister and the government which are related to the earthquake.

Screenshot, “My home” app, Unique government portal

“Follow the projects” category

In the end of the page you will also find the “Follow the projects” category. If you click on it, the button takes you on an Albanian map that shows data from the General Local Plans (GLP) and Detailed Local Plans (DLP) of the municipalities.  It is hard to tell if the map includes reconstruction projects and the stage they are currently at.

Screenshot implemented map in the “Follow the projects” option, the reconstruction page

The Eu4schools platform is also part of this portal, which can serve as a concrete example on how to report clearly and understandably on the progress of the projects.

Screenshot, portal Eu4schools

The “Eu4schools” portal provides detailed and real time information on 63 education objects which were damaged in November 2019. During the fact-checking of the portal we notice the inclusion of various categories which were updated and provide transparency in this process.

Screenshot, portal Eu4schools

After checking this platform, going back to the statement from February by minister Ahmetaj on the importance of transparency as one of the main reconstruction principles, we can say that many of the criteria provided by law on transparency have not been fulfilled.

Regarding the reconstruction process in Albania, Faktoje found that there isn’t a category to make periodic or annual reports and that the last report is from 2020, on the use of budget funds on reconstruction.

The Minister of State for Reconstruction, Arben Ahmetaj, gave a report on September 16, 2021 in the framework of the “Albania 2030” program in which he introduced some data on the progress of the reconstruction process until September, but he did not report on the number of individual residences, completed apartments and those under process, the number of completed education objects and those under process, as well as data regarding public infrastructure etc.

The State Supreme Audit and International Monetary Fund demand transparency regarding the number of completed residences, apartments, schools or public facilities, those under reconstruction and those to be commenced by the end of this year. The same information is also required about reconstruction grants. On the other hand, in its latest report, the State Supreme Audit clearly states that a lack of documentation has been noted in this process and that there is a lack of periodic monitoring of the reconstruction process by not providing transparency in the process’ performance.