Debate: Transparency of public investment in road infrastructure

Gjilan, January 27, 2011 ” Today, Movement FOL has organized the next debate with citizens in the municipality of Gjilan, on “Transparency of public investment in road infrastructure.”In this debate were discussed about the trend of public investment in road infrastructure in the central and local level during 2008-2010 and those planned for 2011-2013, the level of transparency in these investments, the current situation and the steps to be taken in future.
Participants in this debate were the Mayor of Gjilan Municipality, Assembly members (Chairman and members of the Municipal Assembly of Gjilan), representatives from the procurement office, civil society, media and citizens of this municipality.

At the beginning, the project coordinator Mr. Fidan Kalaja, presented the report “Transparency of public investment in road infrastructure.” According to him, investments in road infrastructure were government”s priority during the last three years and this can be seen clearly in planning and budget allocation for this sector. “Only in the last three years (2008-2010), approximately 30% to 50% of the budget of the Republic of Kosovo for capital investments is allocated to road projects, and during the next three years (2011-2013) it is believed that this percentage will be up to 60%.” said Kalaja. According to him, focusing mainly on the largest infrastructure project ” Merdare-Morine highway”, after the war in Kosovo, this report has identified some weaknesses regarding the respect for principles of transparency, such as not informing the public about the planning of this project especially the financial cost, failing to provide information about sources of funding, denial of access to project documentation, without any grounded reason, and the tendency to leave aside the supervision function of Parliament in this process.

The debate continued with speech of the Mayor of Gjilan, Mr. Qemajl Mustafa, who stated that “the current problems in the implementation of public investments are as a consequence of the lack of long and medium term economic, fiscal and development planning.” According to him this makes unclear what the priorities of central and local investments should be supposed to be realized in five or 10 next years. One of the ways that this problem would be avoided, according to Mr. Mustafa, would be “a stable communication with community”, and this implies a higher level of transparency in the planning, implementation and completion of capital projects, particularly those in road infrastructure. He also pointed out a problem that has to do with central investments in municipalities. According to him “the share of government grants and realization of investments in the municipalities is not based on several parameters and specifications of each municipality, but these investments were based more on the preferences of ministers,” capabilities “of the mayors or perhaps prime minister himself “. Regarding the investments realized in road infrastructure during recent years “they were generally right investments and even absolutely necessary even though there were wrong investment among them as well” concludes Mr. Qemajl Mustafa.

The Chairman of the Municipal Assembly, Mr. Izmi Zeka said, “The road infrastructure investments made by the central level are a prerequisite for economic development of Republic of Kosovo”. In Gjilan, according to him, there was no project implemented without discussing it with citizens and that all investments made in this municipality are prioritized based on several parameters. According to Mr. Zeka “in Gjilan, the citizen is an essential part of decision making and the priorities of investments in road infrastructure are made based on debates and demands of citizens.” Regarding the transparency of these investments in the municipality of Gjilan, it is in the “proper level and maybe even exceeding the levels of transparency,” added the Chairman of the Municipal Assembly Mr. Izmi Zeka.

Municipal Assembly member of the LDK, Mr. Sadedin Berisha, stressed that the lack of appropriate legislation which directly affects non-promotion of the transparency of public investments. According to him, the level of transparency in the municipality of Gjilan regarding these investments is not on the satisfactory level, because “neither me as a municipal councillors don”t have the needed information about the contracts of these constructions of road projects.” Also according to him a special care should be paid to the quality of these investments.
This debate was organized within the project: “Transparency of public investment in road infrastructure,” which is supported by ISC / USAID.