By: Kristina Fidhi –
Tepelena – A counselor in Krahës Commune, Tepelena, receives financial aid from the state for almost a year now. Lame Jaupi is part of the commune social aid list among other 90 (ninety) families, added to the list only during last year. Even though this clear violation was revealed by the SHSSH (State Social Service) as of December, and his immediate removal from the list was subsequently required, Mr. Jaupi is still in that list, due to a decision of the council to include him in the scheme for February and March 2013. The Commune Council has easily taken a decision to include one of its own members in such a list, while many poor families wander for months from one institution door to another, to prove their misery.
Facsimile of the document proving the economic aid abuses
E.Sh. is a beneficiary of the state financial aid for a family composed of 8 (eight) members. He has told us about his endless efforts to be included in the financial aid scheme. The above citizen affirms that the law is in fact in the hands of counselors. “You should have a connection or an acquaintance who works in the commune council, but even if you do, they tend to help their close family and friends first. A Krahës 2 inhabitant who prefers to remain unidentified, said, “Everybody is receiving the aid, even those who have returned from Greece with a lot of money. Everyone in our village knows that P.N. has a job. His family is not in need for money, but the council has deemed he enjoys our same status. Counselors have included also themselves in the list as beneficiaries. They have even divided their families to profit more. No one knows the exact number; we have never seen the list.”
Krahës is a small commune of Tepelena with around 4700 inhabitants. Land and farming are the two main sources of income in this area. Remittances, or money coming from emigrants, which has played an important role in the economy for nearly 20 years, are in the third place. However, for those not possessing land and with no persons emigrated outside the country, the state financial aid has been for years the only opportunity to keep going.
Until 2011, the Krahës Commune granted financial aid to 87 families, whereas in 2013, the list of social aid included 171 families. Asked about the reasons for such a drastic increase of the number, the head of commune, Astrit Dervishi said, “It is true that the figure is quite high, but we have been obliged to increase it. 89 is the number of families coming back to the country from emigration only during the 2012-2013 period and they are still jobless. This is why some of these families have been included in the list, because not only have they no job, but also no land in their possession. Some of them have even found their houses almost destroyed, so they don’t even have a place to live.
Asked whether the commune and the financial aid administrator have verified the economic situation and the income of the families recently included in the scheme, Dervishi said it is a procedure followed in every case, but according to him, “even the remittances are insufficient to buy a house in Krahës, since it currently costs 35-40 million of the old lek”.
“I don’t think the criteria I mentioned above are sufficient to be eligible for social assistance, however, we had to find a way around to help these
Astrit Dervishi, Head of Krahës Commune in Tepelena
people”, Dervishi added.
He affirmed that there are other families living in poverty and very bad conditions, which, due to the distribution of the social fund to an increasing number of families, receive now only symbolic amounts of help. “There is nothing we can do to help them. We will try to engage some heads of these families in community work, to exclude them from the list so that at least those who have no income at all receive the assistance”, added Astrit Dervishi.
An Inspection Act prepared by the Regional Office of State Social Service, dated on 04/12/2012, has revealed that the unit in question handled 144 files of cases to receive financial aid, but the figure increased to 171 in January 2013. Based on the verification, the page 2 of this inspection act reveals that: 15 families received financial aid based on a decision of the commune council, even though they did not meet the criteria to benefit from the scheme. Among these there were: 7 heads of family receiving already a pension, 5 families fictitiously divided, 1 family in emigration, another one with the head of family employed (thus receiving a salary), and Mr. Lame Jaupi, as a member of the commune council.
The verification of how the financial aid rate was calculated showed that it did not follow the rules specified in DCM no. 787, dated on 14/12/2005, “On the determination of criteria and procedures for the financial assistance rate”. It was found that the calculated rate was lower, which is against the law.
Due to the violation of the law in granting economic aid, there has been a damage of ALL 38.000. In addition, the economic aid administrator has been assigned the duty of removing the illegally inserted families from the list. However, except for the month of January, in February and March 2013, counselor Lame Jaupi has reappeared in the list as a receiver of the financial aid worth ALL 2.000 each month. The same for persons found to have undergone fictitious division of families, or for already employed persons.
In these cases, the commune council has decided arbitrarily, thus violating the law. Furthermore, the counselors have decided in some cases to treat different families with different amounts of social assistance. Even in Qesarat, a small commune close to Krahës, the situation is similar. The commune composed of 7 (seven) villages and nearly 2.500 inhabitants gives economic aid to 94 families.
Sh. M., a divorced mother of two children says she is trying to get in the list for the last two years, but she has never been accepted in. “I wasn’t accepted, because I collect cans for a living. Well, we have to do something to survive”, the woman tells us while dragging a sack of cans along the national road. “I have no income and I cannot even work the land”, she explains.
Lefter Goga, administrator in the Qesarat Commune, Tepelena
Lefter Goga, social assistance administrator in Qesarat Commune tells us that the last two years, the number of families going in and out the list does not exceed 7-8 families. Goga explains that, together with the previous administrator, Mrs. Antoneta Pasha, they have tried to accurately manage the list, following a set of criteria, but often the council has ignored their efforts. “My colleague and I have faced a lot of difficulties when it comes to the Council’s decisions. The latter has included in the list families that own land or undeclared businesses, persons who do not deserve such an aid. It should be mentioned that many of the families included in the list by the council, have lived in Greece as emigrants. The same council took a decision to increase the amount of financial aid for 30-40 families, therefore completely infringing the law, and illegally taking over our competences as administrators, as well.
Goga added that from May to November 2012, none of the families that should receive financial aid as approved beneficiaries has failed to do so, due to the disagreements among the councilors who refused to approve their cases. Asked whether the counselors have followed political criteria in selecting the beneficiaries, Mr. Goga prefers to give unclear comments, saying though that it is an argument not to be excluded.
Even in the inspection act carried out for the commune by the SSHSH and dated on 23/11/2012, the rubric with the title “Documentation related to the economic aid beneficiaries”, reads, “The council has taken unjust decisions, which fail to meet the established criteria. The council has decided to insert in the list 4 (four) families, which didn’t meet the criteria, while increasing the amount of economic assistance for the families Muka, Gërbi, Saka, Shehu, Beqiri, Kapa, Alimeta, Mersini, Dovle, Kasa, Çela, Muçobega, Kreku, Jaupi, Kola and Haxhiraj. All these families were illegally granted amounts, which differed from one another.
The same inspection act maintains the commune responsible for such illegal decisions and compels it to recollect all the funds illegally granted to the above-mentioned families, due to its illegal decisions. The amount reaches to ALL 186.280.
Some of the Krahës and Qesarat Communes’ council decisions have been returned to the councils as unconfirmed by the Prefect of the Gjirokastra District, but only due to the irregular procedure followed by the councils. Thus, through the draft-decisions 8 and 9, dated on 19/03/2013, many families not meeting the criteria to receive financial aid reappeared in the list for February and March 2013, including the same counselor Jaupi. These lists still include the families specified by the act inspection as families to be removed from the social aid scheme. However, at the end the two draft decisions were confirmed by the Gjirokastra Prefecture, even though not legally grounded.
The Prefect of the Gjirokastra District, Mrs. Mimoza Çomo, informs that the heads of the two local units in question, respectively of Krahës and
Mimoza Çomo, Prefect of Gjirokastra District
Qesarat communes, are responsible for the accuracy of the beneficiaries’ data and for the legitimacy of their admission in the scheme. She said, “Any time we receive a complaint from a citizen, we examine the case thoroughly. Following the same logic, when we have received the communes’ draft decisions, but no contestation from the citizens, we have deemed it appropriate to confirm them.”
The Gjirokastra District Prefect explains that “The legal time limit of 10 (ten) days to confirm or return a draft decision bask as unconfirmed, has been always observed”. On the other hand, Silva Shehu, the institution’s lawyer adds, “The legal office specialist cannot analytically examine the nominative list enclosed with the draft decision. We do not have access to the files of beneficiaries of social aid. Under these conditions, we can only assess the legitimacy of the documents, to ensure that they are in line with the law no. 8927, “On the prefect”. Therefore, we cannot be in charge of assessing which families are entitled to be included in the social aid list”, Mrs. Shehu adds.
However, the SHSSH has forwarded the detailed acts of inspection for these two communes to the Gjirokastra District Prefect, with the objective of preventing the confirmation of such illegal decisions.
Regarding the fact that these decisions are confirmed by the prefect institution, Mrs. Shehu explains that, “The commune administrators’ ‘trick’ is their “playing” with the nominative list of beneficiaries. They initially remove the families specified in the inspection act, but reinsert them again in the following months. In this situation, it happens that we as an institution confirm also the decisions that are in fact against the law. However, it is worth saying that the main responsibility rests with the communes and administrators.”
Mr. Dhimitraq Mejdi, director of SHSSH, Gjirokastra, informs that in Tepelena, there have been a high number of abuses with the social aid lists. “The State Social Service’s inspectors have carried out a total of 46 inspections in the entire district and most of the violations were observed in Tepelena and Përmet, which distribute approximately 85% of the entire financial aid fund, in a district level. The number of families receiving such assistance in Gjirokastra is 383, whereas in Tepelena the number is 1373, or 52% of families in a district level.
Mr. Mejdi said that, “It is unacceptable how members of commune councils think that they can “rule” in their communities. From our inspection visits in Krahës and Qesarat Communes, it results that not only did the councilors take illegal decisions, but also ridiculous ones. Such a case is one in Qesarat, where the council decided to grant the assistance to families that were abusively included in the list”.
Dhimitraq Mejdi, Director of State Social Service in Gjirokastra
He informed us that there have even been some proposals to take measures for the identified violations, but at the end, nothing was done. “We have proposed administrative measures for the two mentioned communes, respectively in Krahës against the administrator and in Qesarati against the Council. According to the law, we are entitled to propose fines up to ALL 100.000 or dismissal from duty, and in particular or repetitive cases, we can forward these cases to the prosecution. It is often easy to prove counselors’ family relations with persons recently included in the list; however, it is difficult for the financial aid administrators to verify the economic situation of families”, the head of the State Social Service added.
He goes on explaining that last year there have been cases in which the communes’ councils have completely blocked the distribution of financial aid to families, only due to the counselors’ disagreements among each other. “We have removed from the lists persons that have unjustly benefited from the social aid scheme; however, further verification is needed. Currently, in the entire Gjirokastra district, there are around 2623 families receiving financial aid, but Mr. Mejdi admits this number is exaggerated due to the fictitious division of families just for the sake of benefiting such assistance. In the meantime, the scheme unfairly excludes families in real need, but with no friends in the council or political support”, Mr. Thimitraq Mjedi stated.
Another paradox in this situation lays also in the fact that “les miserables” of economic aid have no way to complain. They have no voice. The number of complaints filed with the Gjirokastra district prefect, related to the issue of financial aid, is only 1 or 2. The same is the number of complaints to the SHSSH. However, at the end, their complaints are dealt by these “ruling” counselors, the ones deciding for the fate of needy persons.
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