Water supply companies a “depot for employment”, the administration staff increased by 71%

  • Shqip
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  • Starting from 2015, when the waterworks passed under the jurisdiction of the local government, the number of employees has increased by 71%. The Water Regulatory Authority itself asks the municipalities to put an end to nepotism or political employment in this sector.

    Author: Artin Halili

    Petrit Gjaci settled in the village of Shtyllas in Fier in 1990. At that time, it was a populated village, he was impressed that there was drinking water not only at home, but also in the village alleys. But for 25 years, the residents of Shtyllas have been running dry for drinking water.

    “In the years ’96 -’97, the warehouse was destroyed and since then we have had no more water”, – says
    Petrit Gjaci.

    Only a few kilometers from Fier, the remaining residents of this village have no water to drink or wash. Instead of drinking water, they received plenty of promises.

    “We have been drinking promises instead of water for almost 25 years. It will happen today, it will happen tomorriws, but the fact is that the village does not have a water supply system”, – he says, irritated.

    In these conditions, the residents obtain water for their daily needs from wells, but without knowing what quality it has.

    “We wash with that water, we drink that water, God knows what we drink, even the analyzes are not done”, – says Petriti, who adds that opening a well costs an average of 3 million old lek.

    Aware that the promises are just another dream sold to them every time there is a campaign, the residents of this area are weary if their demands.

    “At least we have water for 2-3 hours a day, 24 hours, we don’t even dream of it “, – concludes Gjaci.

    In the photo: Shtyllas village in Fier

    In the same absurd situation, 100 families are found in the village of Kështjellë in Elbasan. Its inhabitants have not been supplied with drinking water for 30 years. Agron Boja, a resident of the village, says that he no longer believes that one day they will have water in their taps.

    “Every 2 years they receive electoral promises that the water will come. During these years, we have not seen drinking water, but we have seen that the employees of the Waterworks are only increasing “, – says Agron Boja, who explains that he is personally interested in this issue.

    Agron Boja, resident of Kështjellë village, Elbasan

    Despite the promise of 24-hour drinking water, many areas have been facing drastic shortages for 3 decades. According to the Water Regulatory Authority (ERRU), for the first time, throughout 2021, Albanians were supplied with an average of 15.4 hours of water per day, or 1.6 hours more than a year before.

    According to the same institution, only 77.6% of the territory is covered with drinking water and only 52% is also covered with sewage services.

    The absurdity lies in the fact that 64.8% of the water produced by the waterworks is non-revenue water, that is, it is not billed. This is because a significant part is lost as a result of network loses and another part is “stolen” by illegal interventions or even inexact billing. Throughout 2021, 58 water supply companies produced a total of 311.2 million m3, of which only 35.2% were billed.


    Water Companies “oasis” of employment

    The high costs have not prevented the water supply companies from enlarging the administration by turning into oases of employment.

    From 2015, the number of employees in water supply and sewerage companies experienced a galloping increase of 71%. In other words, the number of employees in water supply has increased by 2500 people, compared to eight years ago.

    The total number of employees in Water and Sewerage companies over the years

    In its last report, ERRU that measures the performance of 58 water companies in the country, notes that the sector continued to be overloaded with staff even during 2021, adding 191 employees. The experts, as well as the institutions themselves, admit that employments are often made without the relevant education and based on politically driven criteria.

    “In this direction, a greater commitment is required from the relevant companies and municipalities to eliminate nepotism or political employment “, – ERRU emphasizes.

    Inflation of the water supply administration was considered a “criminal” practice that must also be put to an end by Prime Minister Rama himself. During a meeting with the mayors in Pogradec, during July 2022, he said that we have 6 times more employees in the water supply than we need.

    “Out of 6 people, only one works and the other five take care and the one who works will neglect his work, reducing the quality of the service”, – says Bardhyl Samarxhiu, a former employee of the Elbasan Waterworks.

    As a result of the swelling of the administration, during the year 2021 the cost of work increased by 5%, occupying a total of 33% of the operational costs of the company, or 221 million ALL more than 2020.

    Costs incurred by wages and social security in Waterworks companies for 2021

    At the top of the list of water supply companies that have significantly increased the number of employees, is that of Tirana with 69 employees, due to the restructuring of the company. Elbasan Waterworks increased the administration during 2021 with 93 employees, of which 50 employees in the position of Task Force and lawyers and 43 subcontracted employees for the security service. Kamëz Waterworksalso increased the number of employees by 51 people due to the expansion of the service area with 5,000 new subscribers.


    Elbasan Waterworks, doubles the employees

    The Elbasan waterworks holds the record, doubling the number of employees in eight years, when the waterworks also came under the administration of the local government.

    Employees at Elbasan Waterworks in 2015-2021, source ERRU

    From the 224 employees it had in 2015, almost 2 times more, a total of 427 people, have become part of the 2021 payroll. This high increase has been described by ERRU as the biggest negative performance.

    On the other hand, the data made available by the Elbasan Waterworks provide different figures.

    Employees at Elbasan Waterworks in 2015-2021, source ELBASAN Waterworks

    The Elbasan water supply company claims that there is no artificial increase in staff, but that the increase occurred in 2018 when the city’s water supply company joined the villages.

    However, in the data served by the Elbasan water supply company, employees are “missing” during all the declared years, even though the data at ERRU are reported by the Water Supply companies themselves.

    Bardhyl Samarxhiu, who worked at Elbasan Waterworks, was fired twice. He so far has received 15 months in wages as compensation for unfair dismissal.

    “I worked twice at Elbasan Waterworks. 2002-2004 when it was managed by Berlin Wasser and 2011-2013, when I was fired. The first time I left on my own, since with the change that was made to the managerial staff, I did not see myself as part of that hypocrisy”, – he confessed to Investigative Network Albania.

    “The second time they fired me, without any inherent motive. The motive was purely political. The court gave me the right and the water company paid the costs for 15 salaries to me”, – he confessed.

    The employment practices in this company have also been the subject of the Supreme State Audit, which in one the report of June 2022  points out that there are serious violations in the recruitment procedure of new employees.

    In many cases, a very short time is evident from the moment of the declaration of the vacant job position to the moment of the appointment of the winner“, – it is quoted in the KLSH report.

    Through requests for information, INA MEDIA learned that there is a large imbalance between the money that goes for investments and that for employee salaries. Specifically, in 2015 (according to the table), the budget of UK Elbasan was 382 million ALL, about 20% of this budget went to salaries and social security contributions; in 2016, 26% of the budget went to salaries and social security contributions; in 2017, 27% of the budget went to salaries and social security contributions; in 2018, 44% of the budget went to salaries and social security contributions; in 2019, 44.5% of the budget went to salaries and social security contributions, while in 2020 and 2021, respectively, 49 and 48% went to salaries and social security contributions.

    Total budget and budget for wages and social security contributions of Elbasan Waterworks in the years 2015-2021, (editorial note, for the year 2022, the budget for wages and social security contributions is not yet known)

    As a result of the high costs of the administration, the water supply company has had a negative impact on investments.

    Total budget and investment budget of Elbasan Waterworks in 2015-2021, source ELBASAN Waterworks (ornage – investments in millions of ALL, blue – Budget in millions of ALL)

    Referring to the official data that the Waterworks of Elbasan made available to INA Media in 2015, only 3.4% of the budget went for reconstruction. In 2016, only 7.2% of the total budget went to investments; in 2017-2018 there were zero new investments; in 2019, only 5.3% of the total sum of the budget was invested; in 2020, 33% of the budget and in 2021, 40.9% of the budget. The increase in investments also coincides with the 2021 parliamentary elections.

    Summing up the total of investments in eight years, compared to the budget of Elbasan Waterworks, it results that 25% of the total budget went towards investments. While salaries have taken about 40% of the annual budget, or 15% more per year than investments.

    The costs of this bloated administration and trickle-down investments make the residents suffer. The water company says it supplies drinking water 14 hours a day, but the residents themselves say that water comes to Elbasan only six hours a day: two hours in the morning, two hours at lunch and two hours in the afternoon.

    On the other hand, the water company admits that losses in the network are at a very high level. Throughout 2021, unbilled water reached 74.20% of the total water produced by this water supply.

    “Illegal intervention in the water supply network, mainly in informal areas, creates high losses of drinking water, but also the risk of contamination of the water supply. The lack of water meters for all customers, so that the consumption of subscribers is not calculated correctly “, – says Elbasan Waterworks for INA Media.


    Fieri Waterworks employment practices

    Unlike Elbasan, the water supply of Fier is one of the companies that has reduced the number of employees for 2021. However, two different reports of the Supreme State Audit (SSA) have revealed that the water supply company of Fier has constantly played “games” with employment practices. Under the justification of the restructuring of the company, in the same year when it declared the lowest number of workers, SSA has revealed that throughout 2021 it has carried out recruitments on the approved structure.

    “The number of the workforce has been exceeded in total by 38 employees for the months of June-September 2021 as a result of the restructuring of the Company ”, – says the KLS report, published in July 2022.

    For these employees over the administrative structure limit of employees, the amount of 1.2 million ALL has been paid, causing two employees to be paid for the same job position.

    Table 7: Employees in Fier Waterworks in the years 2015-2021, source ERRU

    However, the employment curve has undergone drastic changes year after year, during the period 2015-2021. The biggest increase in the number of employees in the Fier Waterworks took place in 2016 from 320 employees to 421 employees.

    However, this year it turns out that the new employees were not only 100, but 420, as 320 employees were dismissed at once. This is revealed by a report of SSA for the Fier Waterworks, where it is stated that in the framework of the restructuring of the company, no criteria have been applied, both for the selection of dismissed employees and for the recruitment of new employees. There are no traces in any case in human resources, for the needs of sectors or directorates.

    “With the decision of the General Assembly, on 15.07.2016, the notice of collective dismissal was announced for 320 employees. After the collective dismissal and the new restructuring, it was found that 74 employees who were in employment with FW Sh.a (UKF), were no longer employed, while 103 new employees were hired in the ranks of UKF, 64 of whom came from the municipal water supply companies”, – it is stated in the SSA report.

    The collective dismissals as a result of the restructuring of the company continued in 2018 with the firing of 28 employees. At the same time, this institution announced 26 new open positions for the Task Force, of which 12 employees were reinstated, while 9 employees due to age criteria (age ≤ 50 years) were not selected to be part of the new structure.

    “The non-recruitment of employees as a result of the collective dismissal based on the age criterion is considered discriminatory”,is stated in the SSA report published in July 2022.

    This is not the only violation that was caught during the audit in this company. In this report, the SSA finds that there are no clearly defined rules for the recruitment of employees.

    “In 67 cases, employees with the profession of pumper and electric pumper are without proof of technical insurance qualification, which can cause accidents at work”, – criticizes the report.

    Even in Fier, apart from the year 2015 where the investments reached 35% of the budget, the investments have been worth much less than the fund for salaries and social security contributions. The worst year for investments in the Fier Waterworks is 2016, with only 2% of the total budget.

    The total budget of the Fier Waterworks in the years 2015-2022 (grey) and the budget allocated for salaries and social security contributions (blue) and investments (orange), source Fier Waterworks


    Residents pay more than they consume

    The village of Peshtan, which is only 7 km away from the city of Fier, suffers from a lack of drinking water. The remaining residents of the village say that it has been abandoned precisely because of the lack of drinking water. Once this village counted about 165 families, today there are not even 30 of them.

    Like Peshtani, many other villages suffer from the lack of drinking water due to losses in the network, which currently amount to 67%. Residents complain that the problem is the high bills and water quality.

    “From December 2021, the monthly fee increased from 2350 ALL to 3130 ALL per month. The lack of a clock in my house is not my responsibility, but the responsibility of the state that does not put it, moreover, I cannot drink the water because it is not clean “, – complains a resident of the neighborhood “1 Maji”, who does not agree to be identified.

    “They have a lot of employees, but they can’t set a meter“, – he concludes.

    The high payments of the residents due to afro-religious billing have “unjustly” inflated the coffers of the Fier Waterworks.

    This fact has also been recorded by KLSH, which has established that the water supply company of Fier receives more money from consumers than the water, which the latter have consumed.

    “At least in three years, 32.2% of consumers are not equipped with meters, making the sale of water supply not calculated on the basis of real consumption estimated through measuring devices”, – evidences the SSA.

    The overbilling came about because this water supply company did not balance the water, did not do an analysis of technical or managerial losses, nor did it have a detailed plan for the number of consumers without a meter.


    Unqualified persons and political appointments

    Not only the experts, but also the institutions themselves admit that the Waterworks are filled with appointments that come because of political connections.

    “Unfortunately, the sector is still overloaded with unjustified staff who in many cases are employed without relevant education and qualifications and based on party criteria. This part of the staff, in addition to being inefficient, also discourages the rest of the staff as a negative example of performance at work”, – declares ERRU, one of the controlling institutions of this sector.

    For engineer Pirro Ndreu, former director of Fier Waterworks, now retired, the trend for political appointments in this sector has been increasing from year to year.

    “Employments in the UK have come with a growing political tendency, simple formal competitions, which are not necessarily going to attract the relevant specialists. But unfortunately, when specialists are replaced by militants, the service to the citizens falls,” – he says.

    “I note with regret that in Fier, the hours of water supply for citizens have dropped significantly”, he adds further, explaining how politics affects when it gets its hands wrongly.

    The layoffs have caused a loss of nearly 5 million ALL.

    “Regarding dismissal suits in total, since 2015 there are 11 executed cases that have an average cost of ALL 4,880,000”, – says Fier Waterworks for INA MEDIA.

    However, UK Elbasan admits that there has been a high financial cost from the loss of the trials.

    “In total, there are 7 lost trials due to dismissals with a total cost of approximately 6 million ALL” says UK Elbasan.

    Nertila Qafzezi, former president of the association of those who left the UK, explains that the phenomena of unfair dismissal occur in all water supply companies. She brings to attention the case of Tirana, when 400 employees were fired. Only during the years 2015 – 2016, 280 court proceedings were opened with the object “Compensation”.

    “Unjustified dismissals and appointments in the administration, not legally justified, have often brought damage to the state budget, as the courts in most cases have argued the dismissals as illegal. Also, a big cost is the beginning of the training of every newly hired employee”, – explains Qafzezi.

    Economic expert Pano Soko goes even further, linking mass employment to electoral campaigns. According to him, the failure of this sector is predetermined as long as it is seen as a vote barn.

    “Obviously, the water supply companies have always been seen as employment barns, all PLCs double and triple the lists of employees. It is a form of vote buying, so in this case too, whatever form this service is designed to take is bound to fail. The inflated recruitment of organics will continue, the non-recruitment will also continue as long as these components will continue”, – Soko argues.

    According to him, currently the waterworks are on the verge of bankruptcy due to the high debts they have towards OSHEE (Electricity Distribution Operator of Albania).

    “These must either be properly and efficiently managed, or they will fail. Over 80% of water companies are debtors to OSHEE at catastrophic levels. A good part of the water supply companies goes bankrupt if the law is strictly enforced, but they are kept afloat by the transfers from the municipalities”, – Soko concludes.

    Ky shkrim është pjesë e projektit që mbështetet financiarisht nga Zyra e Mardhënieve me Publikun e Ambasadës së SH.B.A. në Tiranë. Opinionet, gjetjet, konkluzionet dhe rekomandimet e shprehura janë te autor-it/ve dhe nuk përfaqesojnë domosdoshmërisht ato të Departamentit të Shtetit. / This article is part of a project that is financially supported by the Public Relations Office of the US Embassy in Tirana. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of State.