The lightning-fast approval to convert a crucial state reserve facility into a recreational complex has now fueled suspicions of corruption and conspiracy among the citizenry. Critics argue that the hastened decision, carried out within a day without thorough scrutiny, jeopardizes national emergency preparedness, especially as the state reserves of grain and fuel were reported to be depleted by December 31, 2022, despite legal mandates to maintain 300 tons of grain and 100,000 liters of fuel to tackle various emergencies.
The plan to erect a recreational and sports complex practically puts the largest state reserve base located in Lundër, Tirana at stake. This base is not only the largest and most important, but also the sole facility housing food supplies for civil populace during adverse weather conditions, natural disasters like floods or earthquakes, and even wartime scenarios. Additionally, these warehouses serve for the preservation of electoral materials.
According to the Supreme State Audit (KLSH), the Lundër base spans an area of 95,320 square meters of land and holds a favorable position for activities, being situated near the Tirana-Elbasan highway. The request for this transfer originated from the Albanian Development Fund, which approached the Ministry of Defense to seek approval from the Prime Minister for project realization. The fund argues that the area planned for investment is in a degraded state, having lost its primary function of state reserves, and the transformation of this space is highly necessary to make it more accessible to all, especially as an integral part of the residential areas recently established near this zone.
The impact expected from this project, as per the Albanian Development Fund, lies in creating an entertaining space accessible to both visitors and nearby residents, aiming to secure infrastructure in this area… Although not entirely akin to the case of the Elbasan incinerator where some decisions were made within a day, the transfer of the state reserve base in Lundër from the Ministry of Defense to the Albanian Development Fund also saw involved institutions responding positively within the same day.
On October 6, 2022, the Ministry of Defense sought a statement regarding the transfer of this public asset from the General Directorate of State Material Reserves. On the same day, this directorate addressed the Tirana branch, which in turn returned a positive response in principle on October 6. The High State Control notes that the institutions did not require time for situation assessment and response return, regardless of the importance this decision entailed. Only 6 days later, the General Directorate of State Reserves re-qualified the response, expressing “principally agreeable” for the property transfer to the Albanian Development Fund, albeit with the condition that the latter constructs storage spaces and offices for the administrative activity within the premises where the Lundër Agency currently operates.
Subsequently, on December 12, 2022, a Council of Ministers decision was approved for the change of administration responsibility, from the Ministry of Defense to the Albanian Development Fund, of the state reserve base in Lundër, to be used for the establishment of a recreational and sports complex. On February 8, 2023, Defense Minister Niko Peleshi issued an order for the issuance of relevant acts for commission handover and for the transfer of the property in question, by February 15, 2023, to the Albanian Development Fund. Five days later, on February 13, a commission was established, and the state reserve was put on hold awaiting the signing of the act-agreement with the Albanian Development Fund. Until May 12 of this year, KLSH states that the Ministry of Defense did not have an agreed agreement with the Albanian Development Fund.
The situation calls for a transparent investigation to ensure public funds and resources are judiciously utilized for the collective good, amidst growing distrust towards the institutional decision-making process. The episode not only raises eyebrows on the readiness and transparency of state institutions but also fuels skepticism about the actual beneficiaries of this project, especially in light of the proximity of affluent residential villas. The saga underlines a glaring need for a more transparent, accountable governance to ensure that public assets and funds are utilized wisely and in the best interest of the Albanian populace.