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Albania-World Bank Spar Over Demolished Village
Posted on Friday, February 20 @ 15:35:27 PST by classiclady
World Bank violated policies and misinformed Board in Albania project
Albania's lustration law: pros and cons
World Bank and Albanian government officials give conflicting statements on who ordered the
demolishing of buildings in an Albanian village that left many families homeless.
The World Bank Board of Executive Directors acknowledged in a meeting on Tuesday that a project meant to safeguard Albania’s coastal zones was used to selectively demolish parts of the village of Jale.
An inspection report by the International Development Association, IDA, published by Balkan Insight on January 31, revealed that a project on coastal zones management had contributed to the demolition of several informal settlements in the village, contravening the bank’s policies on forced displacement.
In a press conference on Thursday Albanian Minister of Finance Ridvan Bode, said that the Albanian government had done nothing wrong and the mistakes were with the project designed by the Bank.
“It has been a request of the bank to demolish the informal buildings in the village,” said Bode.
However, in an interview for the BBC, the head of the World Bank Inspection Panel Werner Kiene said that there was no agreement between the Bank and the Albanian government over the demolishment of building in the village and elsewhere.
Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha has accused the inspection panel of being corrupt and tied to an unnamed Albanian construction mafia.
“The inspection panel has been corrupted on its Albanian side… they put some money in its pockets,” said Berisha in a press conference on Wednesday.
“The inspection panel was in collusion with the construction mafia,” he added, asking the bank to investigate the panel.
Contacted by Balkan Insight the World Bank did not comment on Berisha's allegations.
A Bank management report and action plan acknowledged serious errors in project preparation and supervision, along with errors in communication.
“From basic project management to interactions with the Board and the Inspection Panel, the Bank’s record with this project is appalling,” said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick.
Zoellick has requested the Bank’s Acting General Counsel investigate matters, and has separately referred matters to the Bank’s Department of Institutional Integrity.
“We take very seriously the concerns raised by the Inspection Panel and we are moving promptly to strengthen oversight, improve procedures, and help the families who had their buildings demolished. The Bank cannot let this happen again.”
Under the Action Plan, a series of measures will be undertaken with support by the Bank, including a case-by-case legal review of the April 2007 demolitions in the project area, the appointment of an Independent Observer to monitor the legal review and report back to the Bank, and the payment of legal aid for the review of each of the claimants' cases.
Bank management will also supervise the completion of a social and vulnerability assessment, and the retroactive application of an assistance packages for those affected by the demolitions.
The investigation by the inspection panel found that World Bank management failed to comply with its policies with respect to the design, appraisal and implementation of the project, harming the local people affected by it. The probe also found that WB assisted the demolition by pressuring local construction police to take action and by supplying them with equipment and aerial photos.
In addition to the project's failure to comply with World Bank policies, the investigators noted allegations of corruption and complaints that the demolition of the Jale settlements was part of a bigger scheme to develop the area as a tourist resort. While the panel does not evaluate these allegations, it concludes that the selective demolition carried out by construction police supports the intention to clear the area.
The investigative panel also accused World Bank management of misrepresenting facts during the probe and hampering the investigation by withholding access to data, while it notes the unusual lack of recollection of facts and crucial events by staff. Investigators say that several WB staff members both in headquarters and on the field were “coached” to provide unusually consistent but factually incorrect or misleading information.
World Bank violated policies and misinformed Board in Albania project
Panel finds policy violations, provision of false information, and direct support for controversial demolition of homes in an Albanian village.
In a leaked report, the World Bank Inspection Panel has found significant policy violations by Bank management in preparing and supervising a coastal zone management project in Albania. The Panel found that Bank staff members made false claims to the Bank’s Board and failed to correct them. In what the Panel called “one of the most difficult investigations in its 14 years of operation,” it encountered significant lack of cooperation among Bank staff during the investigation.
In June 2005, the World Bank officially approved a $17.5 million loan to be disbursed by the International Development Association (IDA), an arm of the World Bank Group, for the Coastal Zones Integrated Management and Clean-Up Project in Albania. The project, which totaled $38.56 million, was also directly financed by donors such as the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and the governments of Albania, the Netherlands, Austria and Japan.
The project, meant to last through March of 2010, sought to address a number of social, environmental
and economic issues of the southern and central coast of Albania. Some of the specific components of the coastal project included the mitigation of soil and water contamination around the chemical plant in Porto Romano, the development of legal and regulatory framework for coastal resource management and the improvement of infrastructure serving the Butrint National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Argita and Jamarber Malltezi
The coastal community of Jale (also known as Jal), part of the village of Vuno, in the Vlorë district of southwestern Albania, was directly affected by the IDA project on April 17, 2007, when a number of its houses were demolished by Albania’s Construction Police. Although the structures in question were illegally built, the residents’ applications for legalization during prior years were answered inconclusively and the authorities did not allow for the villagers’ appeal to go to court after announcing the houses’ demolition a month earlier. During and after the demolition process, residents of Jale were repeatedly told that the World Bank project was the driving force behind the demolitions; prompting an official request in July of 2007 from the residents to the Bank’s complaint investigative body, the Inspection Panel, to review their claim of having “suffered as a result of the World Bank’s failures and oversights.”
In November 2007, the Bank’s Executive Board authorized the Inspection Panel investigation and the completed report was delivered to IDA executives on November 24, 2008. The Panel obtained documents that misrepresented critical project facts on the part of the Bank, and its involvement in indirectly assisting in the demolition of Jale houses, in violation of many of its own policies and criteria. One of the most glaring discoveries by the Inspection Panel concerned the Project Appraisal Document (PAD), which claimed that agreements had been reached with the government of Albania regarding postponing Jale demolitions until proper reimbursement of the residents and other criteria were met – in reality no such agreements were made. Furthermore, the Panel discovered that a statement from the project staff meant to correct the above error within a speech at the IDA project’s approval meeting was removed.
In addition of failing to comply with its own regulations, such as the Involuntary Resettlement Policy and concealing important facts, the Inspection Panel discovered that the project actually aided the destruction of Jale houses by pressuring the Construction Police and supplying equipment and aerial photography of houses to be demolished to the authorities. Bank management incorrectly claimed that the Bank’s involuntary resettlement policy did not apply to this phase of the project.
On the national level the controversy has also involved prominent Albanian politicians such as Prime Minister Sali Berisha, his son-in-law Jamarber Malltezi (who directed the project coordination unit) and the then Minister of Transportation (now Minister of Foreign Affairs), Lulzim Basha, who, in conjunction with the World Bank have been accused of pressuring the local authorities to demolish Jale houses. The political figures have denied making any special deals with the Bank or having a hand in any lucrative future commercial development projects in the region. After the Inspection Panel report was circulated to the Bank's Board, the Bank officially suspended IDA loan disbursement for the coastal project on January 9, 2009.
The Inspection Panel’s revelations raise a number of critical issues about the Bank’s standards of transparency and accountability and should trigger policy changes in the World Bank Group’s procedures for project financing and monitoring in addition to its relationships with local governments and loan recipients.
Albania's lustration law: pros and cons
Albania is still coming to terms with communist-era crimes. But some warn against committing new injustices in the process.
By Balkanblogs for Southeast European Times -- 20/02/09
Under a law passed in December, all government officials must undergo an investigation to determine whether they co-operated with the communist-era secret service. Opposition parties, led by the Socialists, criticised the measure and accused Prime Minister Sali Berisha of seeking to use it as a pretext for removing judicial officials working on corruption cases.
The EU, United States and United Kingdom have also criticised the lustration legislation. During a recent visit to Shkodra, British Ambassador Fraser Wilson described it as an obstacle to Albania's EU accession. Debate among Albanian bloggers has been sharp, with each side questioning the other's motives.
Vasili nga Vlora, writing at shekulli, thinks it's strange such a law has been so long in coming. "If Sali [Berisha] was so interested in the punishment of former communist persecutors, he would have opened the files immediately after the transition, but he didn't …This issue of the files comes up whenever he is in difficulty."
"They had time to change all the files as they wished," adds Zamira, following up on his comment.
Mark, however, thinks the Socialists have their own reasons for blocking the lustration process. "It is clear why the left is against opening of the files," he writes. "We cannot go forward unless this political class can be cleared of its old mentalities and crimes."
Neni55, a blogger at Iliriada, objects to the criticism from international organisations. "The international people have no right to interfere. Better let them pay a visit to the victims of communism before they express their regrets concerning the executioners," he writes angrily.
Writing at Zeri i Amerikes, Artan is fed up with both sides. The lustration issue, he writes, is "turning into a political instrument that isn't related enough to the truth of communism and the suffering of persecuted people".
"Everybody screams 'open, open, open the files' and all as a choir scream 'war against corruption'," writes Aleksi, voicing his disillusionment. "For 20 years people have been screaming for opening the files and waging war against corruption. So far, we have only screams."
Published By ACLIS Feb.20, 2009
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