The absurdity of the government “stealing” teachers’ social security contributions, endangering their pensions

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  • The government has “stolen” about two years of social security contributions from hundreds of teachers in the city of Durrës. Interviews and collected testimonies show that every month 15,000-22,000 lek were withheld from their salary for pension purposes, but this money has “evaporated”. They do not appear to have been delivered into the scheme of social contributions. A report of the Supreme State Audit reveals that about 103 thousand subjects, among which a dozen budget institutions, have not paid the social security of their employees even in 2021.

    Author: Mark Brunga

    Namik Zhuleku has worked for 32 years as a teacher in different areas of Durrës recorded in his work book, but only 30 years appear in the pension system. He realized that 2 years of work had disappeared from the social security scheme while he was preparing the documentation to retire. As a result, the old age payment was calculated over 30 years of work, despite the fact that he has paid contributions to the social security scheme for 32 years of work.

    “I do not receive my full pension, according to the years I have worked in education,” – the retired teacher Namik Zhuleku tells Investigative Network Albania. “I have been told that the data has been sent in a form that cannot be deciphered by the system itself”, – says Zhuleku disappointedly, who has been receiving pension payments for 2.5 years.

    Zhulek’s old age pension is 21,700 ALL. With the additions made in the increases of this period, he receives 23,500 ALL per month as an old-age pension. If the missing years were also counted, he would have about 2,000 additional ALL every month. So, he would have received about 25,500 ALL per month.

    As soon as he found out the inaccuracy, the former teacher turned to several institutions, starting with the Tax Directorate. This institution has billed the error to the Education Directorate of Durrës.

    “I worked and was paid by this Educational Directorate, I even have documented receipts, but surprisingly the social security payments do not appear to have been inputted into the system”, says Zhuleku, still unclear as to what happened to the money that was withheld from his salary every month.

    The former teacher is not the only one whose pension contributions have “disappeared”. Dozens of other teachers also complain that, after the verifications, they are missing several months up to several years of social insurance payments.

    The director of the “Njazi Mastori” school in Sukth, who continues to perform this function, says that the state has “put its hands” into the social security payments of his colleagues.

    “In the generation that is coming back, there are hundreds of teachers who do not have all the years provided by the state. The money was kept with the payroll, but it is not recognized for years of work”, – explains Zhuleku.

    The missing years coincide with the time he worked as a teacher in Sukth. The retired teacher’s 1977 insurance is clocked in; so does that of the 90s, when he worked in Ishem, while those of the 2000s have problems.


    The state works in the black

    The socialists called 2015 the year against informality, since in 2014 they undertook a deep reform of the pension scheme. According to them, during the 8 years of the democrats’ government, “it has become a mess, with a financial bill of 109.5 million dollars”, which refers to unpaid social and health insurance.

    The former Minister of Social Welfare, Erion Veliaj, stated at the time that 1,600 institutions worked in the black and 250,000 Albanians, doctors, teachers, soldiers, etc., who worked for the government and in the private sector, were in danger of being left without pensions. At that time, it was declared that a part of these contributions began to be repaid for the employees.

    “Some gaps are maybe only a month, a month of late payment. Some gaps are a few months, some gaps are a few years, while some spectacular institutions have not paid them for 8 years, during the previous government”, – Veliaj declared at the time, who explained that the files were being prepared for the prosecutor’s office, and those who have responsibility for this economic crime would be held accountable before the law.

    In a written response to INA MEDIA, the Tirana Prosecutor’s Office states that this denunciation has never reached the prosecution body.

    “From the verification carried out in the indexes of reports for the period 2015-2016, it turns out that no criminal report has been registered for what you are looking for”, – explains the Prosecutor’s Office, which asks for the specific names of those who may have been reported for the crimes.

    “Given that in your request, it is mentioned that the report was made against the abuses in the social insurance scheme, please make available to us the names of the persons reported in order to carry out the verification”, – says the Tirana Prosecutor’s Office, requesting from the media the names that in fact high officials have publicly declared that they have facts and will follow with prosecutions.

    However, the evidence provided by Investigative Network Albania shows that the pitfall of non-payment of social insurance has occurred, both from the right and from the left, the latter of which declared a “war” on this phenomenon.

    More specifically, Namik Zhulek was specified with a lack of contributions: the period from January 2002 to September 2002; April 9, 2013 to June 30, 2013; September 25, 2013 to November 25, 2013; as well as January 9, 2014 to November 30, 2014.

    In June 2013, the socialists came to power, which means that the lack of social contributions for the former teacher, dating from September 2013 to November 2014, i.e., for more than a year, happened exactly at the time when the socialists undertook the pension reform. These dates are specified in the response sent by the Regional Directorate of Social Security of Durrës through an official letter.

    “We inform the complainant that for the year 2013 until November 2014, no monthly contributions have been paid in his name”, – says this letter signed by the head of the institution, Miranda Koka.

    The answer from Social Securit Directorate Durrës, for the years of the unpaid insurance period

    However, the documents of the school, where he worked, prove that the money was withheld from his salary every month. In the letter with protocol number 485, dated 07.02.2020, which bears the signature of Luan Vora, the Headmaster of the secondary school “Njazi Mastori”, a part of the gross salaries from March 2014 to March 2015, together with the insurances, have reflected social and health contributions. These payments noted on the payroll do not result in payments that should have been made to the social security scheme.

    The payment of Social and Health Insurance is performed with the monthly salary list of teachers from the finance sector of the District’s Education Directorate. This money is then deposited for the subject’s account in the Treasury Branch of the Tax Authority.

    Even the director of the Sukthi school, Luan Vora, has a deficiency of 2 years in the payment of social security contributions. He found the same problem, when his colleague Zhuleku asked him for an official certificate for insurance contributions for the period he worked as a contract teacher in this educational institution.

    Certificate issued by the school, showing the amounts of social security contributions paid each month

    The problems with the social security contributions scheme are also acknowledged by the former lawyer of Regional Education Directorate, Durrës, Elida Pecnikaj, who held this position from 2007 to 2019. According to her, starting from 2012 and during 2013 the state worked in the dark and part of the teachers’ contributions in Durrës were not paid, even the lawyer Pecnikaj herself, who is also missing 2 years of work, was a “victim” of these non-payments.

    “Of course, the teachers did not know about this problem, because they did not guess that the state would not pay them. The problem became known, when the teachers started to retire and the confrontation of years with unpaid insurance created this “abys” in their seniority at work. Some are now turning to the courts”, – explains the former lawyer of DAR, Durrës, Elida Pecnikaj.

    “Initially, the contributions were paid in parts only for a few months of 2012-2013 and then, from the second part of the year they were not paid at all. In 2014, almost the entire year was unpaid”, – Pecnikaj goes further.

    According to her, there are about 1800 teachers in Durrës, whose contributions have been stolen by the state.

    They began to understand this shortcoming in insurance contributions, only when they applied to e- Albania, where these reports were reflected.

    The head of Support Services in the Regional Directorate of Taxes, Durrës (DRT), Albana Dizdari, says that the responsibility for this situation lies with the DAR, as it depends on how they put these values into the system.

    “There have been several cases,” – said Dizdari, – “that certain people have been paid recently for the purpose of pension, when they understood and intervened”, – Dizdari specifies.

    INA MEDIA learnt that Amarilda Thërmia, director of the Local Education Office, has officially received an answer from Tax Authority, dated 15.08.2022, where it is stated that: “given that we have intervened several times in the payment list according to your requests for specific employees, please submit the final payroll for the periods January 2012-November 2014. We inform you that after submitting these payrolls, none of your requests for systematization of these periods will be considered “.

    However, the requested list has not yet reached its destination, leaving the issue of Durrës teachers’ pensions at a crossroads.

    To the request of Investigative Network Albania for a meeting
    regarding this issue, the director of the Regional Education office in Durrës, Amarilda Thërmia, replied that there was a lot of work in this period and that she would create opportunities for a meeting at another time.

    The State Labor Inspectorate says that this is a very old issue for them, so they should go to court.

    “This complaint cannot be handled by us, since the claims raised have passed over 3 years and it is the court that confirms or not this fact”, – is the answer returned to one of the complainants, by Ardit Shabanaj. chief inspector at the Directorate of the State Inspectorate of Labor and Social Services, Tirana.

    According to the State Labor Inspectorate, before digitization the lists were sent to the Tax Authority branch. According to the Chief Inspector, Bledar Voka, the Inspectorate follows the problems of non-payment of insurances only after complaints are made about these problems by different people. Until last December, there were about 72 complaints against various entities in the whole district, while there were 55 complaints for Durrës. There was no complaint about missing insurance contributions.


    Pensions, the “bubble” that endangers the budget

    In the city of Durrës, there are about 1,800 teachers who have approximately 2-year gaps in social security payments, payments that according to them range from 15,000 to 22,000 ALL a month. The Ministry of Education itself declares that they have diverted the funds.

    In the answer dated April 7, 2022, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Sports and Education, Alqi Kushi, clarifies: “… every year the distribution of budget funds has been made, at the level of article 600-601, according to the budget programs for all units of public spending under the responsibility of the ministry responsible for education”.

    After these sums, which the minister’s secretary Kushi says have been diverted, it is unclear where they have ended up, since on average they are about 200,000 ALL paid per person per year, which means that they have not been poured into the Social Security coffers. about 720 million lek, which have been withheld from 1800 teachers of Durrës.

    The Law on Social Security, based on which funds are kept for the pension scheme, has changed 22 times, but the state and private individuals continue to work in the dark.

    An audit conducted by the Supreme State Audit (SSA) at the Institute of Social Insurance, concluded that the pension reform, undertaken by the government in 2014, not only did not solve the problems of the social insurance scheme in the country, but thousands of subjects continue to not pay social security contributions.

    SSA gives the alarm that there are over 103,000 entities, mostly private, that do not pay the contributions, but even more worrying is that among these institutions that do not pay, there are also 384 budgetary entities that risk leaving their employees without pension. The value of arrears is calculated to be 15.8 billion ALL, while the number of debtor entities has increased by about 6 thousand in 2021.

    “Until 31.12.2021, for obligations in social security contributions unpaid on time for budgetary, non-budgetary entities, legal entities – small business, it is established that: a very large number of 103,628 entities are debtors, which number has been increasing year by year. It is worth noting that there are also many budgetary and non-budgetary entities, which are financed by the state budget for salary and social security payments, that continue to be debtors”, – it is stated in the SSA report.

    Referring to private entities, the SSA suggests that “there may be about 77,891, but even more people, who have problems with social security contributions, but also cannot benefit from the social security scheme”.

    The number of institutions that have not paid Social Security Contributions on time

    In the same unpleasant situation are also 8 teachers of the Children’s Cultural Center, who have deficiencies in the payment of contributions for the period January 2008-December 2014. The head of this institution, Avni Çuni, since 2021 has started a long correspondence with a number of institutions, notifying the Local Education Office and the Regional Directorate of Pre-University Education several times that the KKF has deficiencies in the social and health contributions from DAR, Durrës for the years 2010-2014.

    After the silence of these institutions, the National Children’s Center, Durrës, requested the intervention of the Ministry of Education.

    “We request your intervention with the authority given to you by the law for the immediate solution of this problem, because some employees have either retired, or are on the verge of retirement and have received partial retirement benefits, and for this fact they are forced to ask the court to complete the years of work. This is unacceptable and illegal”, – states, among other things, in the letter that this center has sent to the General Director of Pre-university Education, Selman Hodo, as well as the number one of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth, Evis Kushi.

    The ministry has given a dry answer to this concern, but without offering a solution. While explaining that she prepares the salary budget every year, she explains that she has asked the institutions to account for the situation.

    “We are awaiting information on the measures taken to resolve the situation created in order to prevent the creation of arrears, which directly burden the teaching staff and the state budget, and the issuing of those responsible/concrete responsibilities for the situation created up to this moment”, – says the answer of the Ministry of Education.

    “But no one has given an answer to the KKF yet!” – says the disappointed director, Avni Çuni.

    Despite Minister Kushi’s “threat” to bring out those responsible, the situation has not changed, with the exception of some clientelist patching done by the DAR, to fill in the payments of any person who caused a headache.


    Railways with no pensions

    In April last year, the Albanian Railway Company also had social security problems. At that time, the employees protested, as they had not been paid their contributions for 8 months. The union stated that around 1,100 employees had been left at the mercy of fate, while warning for protests if the situation is not resolved.

    The chief trade unionist of the Albanian Railways, Osman Meta, declared a few days ago that the problem was solved with the new organization in this sector and the cuts made by the new administrator who came. About 300 redundant positions were cut, and a number of employees, who were on the verge of retirement, went on social contributions. With these savings in the salary fund, it was possible to cover the missing pension fund payments.

    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.