Prishtinë, 27 September 2012
He was elected as head of the institution as a member of Municipal Assembly of Malisheva by LDK when Lutfi Zharku was Minister of Trade and Industry, but left the post when Mimoza-Kusari came to power. Ramadan Buzhala, ex-head of the Office for Licensing and Regulation of the oil sector says that he did not come in this post politically, but he was suspended with political motivations. He persists claiming that the decision to dismiss him from the post is political and without facts.
But according to current leaders of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) from AKR, Buzhala, but also Valdee Halimaj as member of this body, were dismissed due to a series of violations, a good part of which is identified also by an internal audit Report carried out by MTI in this office.
In this report, obtained by Preportr, six legal violations have been evidenced, each of which is repeated in more than one occasion.
Internal auditors of MTI state that these violations were committed only during a two-year period, the period for which the Unit of Internal Auditing (UIA).
Ramadan Buzhala, in a statement for Preportr claims the report is biased. He is now suspended with a final decision by MTI, while he still has one window for appealing in the Independent Council for the Supervision of Civil Servants. (ICSCS).
While he is waiting for this body to take a final decision which would eventually bring him back to the post of the head of the body issuing licenses for oil businesses, Valdete Halimaj, suspended at the same time as Buzhala has received a negative response by this commission.
Prosecution on the move, or not?
While LDK’s man was heading the oil sector, the financial turnover only from import, according to data by Kosovo Customs was over 960 million euros. This is the amount of over 2 billion liters of oil imported during 2008-2011. Only during the previous year, over 320 million euro worth of oil was imported in Kosovo.
Buzhala claims that scandals, like the one on concrete in MTI, will soon burst as regards oil as well.
“Similarly to ‘SharrCem’, adventures are happening also in the oil sector with some of the companies, but it will take some time for things to surface”, says Ramadan Buzhala for Preportr.
Similarly to ‘SharrCem’, adventures are happening also in the oil sector with some of the companies, but it will take some time for things to surface.Ramadan Buzhala
It has been a practice in the Ministry of Trade and Industry to appoint the person in charge of issuing licenses in the oil sector politically. This was begun by Lutfi Zharku’s predecessor, Bujar Dugolli, at the time minister from the Alliance for Future of Kosovo (AAK) of Ramush Haradinaj.
Minister Dugolli had appointed his father-in-law in the sector for supervising and control of quality of oil. He was dismissed after an increasing public pressure.
The clashes between people of LDK and officials of MTI from AKR continue as regards the body of licensing of oil businesses, and the latter have taken to the prosecution.
“On date 18.01.2012, the unit on economic crimes and corruption has been notified. In the meeting held with representatives of the crime unit, present were the following:: Shaip Havolli, Shemsi Igrisha, Fidaim Berbatovci and Isak Ejupi, who also obtained a copy of the audit report”, Arta Istrefi, political advisor to Mimoza Kusari said for Preportr.
Preportr has inquired in the State Prosecution, and they have confirmed that they are dealing with this case.
This report has been delivered to the district prosecutor, who deals with cases against corruption and the prosecutor is now reviewing the report.Liridona Kozmaqi
“The District Prosecution in Prishtina, the Economic Crime and Corruption Directorate in the Kosovo Police has received the final internal audit report – Management of licenses, regulation and supervision of the oil sector in the office for the management of licenses. This report has been delivered to the district prosecutor, who deals with cases against corruption and the prosecutor is now reviewing the report”, Liridona Kozmaqi from the State Prosecution confirmed for Preportr.
Ramadan Buzhala, who is continuing his battle with MTI in order to win back his work position, says that he is not aware that the prosecution is dealing with the report which found violations in the institution he was leading.
“Concerning the possible questioning by any of the investigating bodies, I can tell you none has happened so far, but I also do not have any information that something like that will happen. However, I am ready...to face with those who were pleased with me being dismissed from work”, said Buzhala for Preportr.
Receiving of unverified documents
Receiving of unverified documents, decisions without a commission, commissions without protocol, delay of protocol of documents in months, work decisions without work license, exceeding od competences, etc. These are some of the violations found by the Internal Audit Unit of MTI regarding the Office for Licensing, Regulation and Supervision of the Oil Sector during the time when it was lead by Ramadan Buzhala.
At the start of the two-year auditing of documents of the office lead by Buzhala for three years, MTI’s auditors found that at least regarding 7 businesses, this office had received unverified documents by the court or other respective bodies. The auditors have concluded that most of the documents in this office were received in this manner, but they have also mentioned these seven company names: “Standard Benz”, “Biz-Oil-Tim”, Prishtinë-Zona Industriale, “La-Ol” –Prishtinë”, “Pagarusha-EuroPetrol-Gas”-Prizren, NTP “Flamuri” based in Suharekë, NTP “Nera Petrol” – Sojevë of Ferizaj and “Esnaf Petrol”-Mamushë.
I often say that Kosovo is a small country and most of us know each other, but this is under responsible relationships.Ramadan Buzhala
Although the auditors published these company names, Ramadan Buzhala says that he has had correct relations with all companies working in the oil sector, but he did not deny being close with any of the heads of these companies.
“I often say that Kosovo is a small country and most of us know each other, but this is under responsible relationships”, said Ramadan Buzhala.
They issued decisions prior to licenses
Auditors further found that the Office for Licensing, Regulation and Supervision of the Oil Sector, under the leadership of Ramadan Buzhala did not issue decisions for establishing commissions for the overseeing of license requests, but despite this fact, the commission worked in this direction.
The auditors explain that these commissions consisting of three members used to review requests for licenses which were later signed by the head of this office, Ramadan Buzhala, but oddly enough, the commissions never kept records for their work.
Apart from not keeping records as regards the work process, such as records on reviewing requests by businesses, this office did not pay much attention to protocol of the documents they issues either.
According to the report obtained by Preportr, the auditors found that there were decisions by director Buzhala which were not recorded at all, but also a series of decisions which were recorded with 3-4 months of delay. The report mentions 8 such decisions.
“Such a practice leaves space for suspicion and manipulation” the auditors have concluded in the report.
While the records of documents were delayed in months regarding the issue of decisions for businesses, the Office for Licensing, Regulation and Supervision of the Oil Sector issued decisions even before these businesses were given work licenses.
“We have concluded that the management has issued decisions to Business Subjects before issuing the License and these decisions have enabled these subjects to undertake their activities”, concludes this report.
Auditors have found that the staff of the Office for Licensing, Regulation and Supervision of the Oil Sector are exceeding their competences. While according to the Law on Oil, this mechanism has competences to issue, extend, suspend or revoke licenses in accordance with the dispositions of this law, the auditors have found that members of this mechanism were undertaking visits in the field and were obtaining samples, something which is competence of market inspectors of MTI.
“The management of this Office, from time to time has ordered officials to undertake field visits in order to obtain samples of oil and other derivatives from tanks of business entities with the purpose of quality assessment”, says the report.
The auditors have concluded that this act is in violation of the mandate that the Office for Licensing, Regulation and Supervision of the Oil Sector has.
Ramadan Buzhala does not deny this act, but says that the field visits of the staff of this Body should not indimidate anyone.
“In the time of Minister Lutfi Zharku, we have had pressure to be more active, since this is the only way to regulate and supervise the fuel market. In this Body, unlike any other place (even the inspectorate which is the source of the conflict), there are Officials in charge of fuel quality, as well as Officials responsible with the regulation of the market who necessarily need to be present in the field because sitting in the office they cannot verify all those irregularities which are happening in this sector”, Buzhala says in defense.
Tanks are licensed without stamps
In order to acquire licenses, businesses entering the oil sector should, among other things, present information regarding the volume of their tanks to the Office for Licensing.
The auditors have found that, in some cases regarding some licenses, the businesses did not fulfill the necessary conditions. Some the violations found, which do not figure in the audit report as company names show that the tanks did not have a verification date, expiry date, and in some cases they did not even have a stamp of the verifying officer.
The auditors explain that this information should be part of the documentation, since they play a role in ensuring safety for the client, especially when we talk about the oil price.
“The specific evidence for the tanks and their volume determines the scale of ensuring safety towards third parties in 1 €/ liter of the tank capacity of oil and other derivatives for retail or deposition”, says the report.
Ramadan Buzhala from LDK, who is continuing his battle in the Independent Commission for the Supervision of Civil Servants against MTI lead by Mimoza Kusari of AKR who dismissed him, as well Valdete Halimaj, the other member of the Office for Licensing, Regulation and Supervision of the Oil Sector as a result of an internal audit report, confirming voluminous violations. However, Buzhala has decided to challenge this report.
“I want to right away say that my dismissal in reality has nothing to do with the internal audit report. Because, my suspension was confirmed to me on November 5th by Minister Kusari-Lila in her cabinet and in the presence of the Permanent Secretary of MTI, Eljana Naka. The same person later on ordered the audit”, says Buzhala.
He says that the auditors were working in auditing the documents in the Procurement Office in MTI and suddenly were moved to the Office for Licensing, Regulation and Supervision of the Oil Sector, lead at that time by Buzhala.
Buzhala says that during the audit, he was not given the chance to be present during the audit, which according to him shows that this process was dictated, and the result was a biased report consistent with the decision for his suspension.
According to him, the report in question is not substantial. “Almost none of the conclusions were based on meaningful facts, no conclusion leaves the least mark that something was done with the purpose of embezzling or something similar, but since there was no other version to create free space for action in this sector, the IAU was used with the conviction that there would be no further requests by our side for clarifications”, says Buzhala.
Buzhala, despite being suspended, says that these internal audit conclusions of MTI do not stand, since they were carried out through orders. Similar conclusions regarding the office he lead for four years were also confirmed by the Office of the Audit General (ZAP).
“We have concluded that the identified weaknesses during the issue of licenses, such as: delays in signing of licenses, equipment of business entities with licenses without fulfilling the legal criteria such as lack of proper functioning of internal control, and this creates space for favoritism of some business entities”, says the report of 2011 published in mid 2012.
Irregularities were also found in 2010 in the registration of income from licenses by this sector, at an amount of half a million euros. The erroneous recording of the income for the oil sector, in budget lines of MTI were identified by auditors also in 2008, while ZAP did not say a word for this sector in its report for MTI in 2009.
The Oil Clan in MTI
Ramadan Buzhala, suspended from the position of Director where he was in charge of issuing licenses to oil businesses says that there is an oil clan in MTI. The annual financial turnover only from import reaches 300 million euros..
To put it bluntly, neither the report by IAU nor anything else justifies the removal of me and my colleague (Valdete Halimaj) from work, but these are only attempts at justifying this suspension, which was really meant in order to create space for illegal acts by a clan, which unfortunately, still operates in MTI.Ramadan Buzhala
He also sees the internal audit report which was used to remove him from the position as a justification so that he is out of the way of this clan.
“To put it bluntly, neither the report by IAU nor anything else justifies the removal of me and my colleague (Valdete Halimaj) from work, but these are only attempts at justifying this suspension, which was really meant in order to create space for illegal acts by a clan, which unfortunately, still operates in MTI”, said Buzhala for Preportr.