Construction of a US$134m waste-to-energy plant stalls

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THE tender adjudication process for the construction of a US$134 million waste-to-energy plant at the Pomona dumpsite on the outskirts of Harare has stalled.

BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA

City of Harare corporate communications manager Michael Chideme told the Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday that there has not been any progress on the tender adjudication process for the project for which the local authority invited bids last November.

“There has been no progress. It is the same as before. What we told you before is what it still is now,” Chideme said.

This comes as a Netherlands-based company Integrated Energy BV (IEBV), which was brought into the process through the back door, wrote on June 19, a letter through their lawyers Samkange Hungwe Attorneys contesting three issues: that they are not in any way linked to Albanian businessman Klodian Zoto; that he is not a Dutch national; and that they had not secured the tender.

Investigations have, however, revealed that Zoto is a Dutch citizen of Albanian nationality and is indeed linked to IEBV.
Checks also indicated that Zoto is listed among the company’s founding directors.

IEBV registration documents obtained by the Independent indicate that the company was registered in the Netherlands on December 12, 2016, with Zoto — born on April 24, 1976, in Tirana, Albania — listed as one of the company’s directors.

The original story does not state that the company had secured the tender, but highlights that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the City of Harare for the construction of the incinerator despite not being part of the ongoing formal tendering process.

The article also correctly stated that the MoU was discussed at a joint Joint Environment Management, and Finance and Development Committee meeting held in April this year. Minutes of the meeting were then adopted by a full council meeting which was held on May 2.

“Your article on the 7th to the 13th of June 2019 titled Minister in US$134m tender scam, written by Andrew Kunambura and Chipa Gonditii falsely alleges that that our client, Integrated Energy BV is a mere Dutch postbox company with no contacts whatsoever.

It further alleges that the company is owned by a Dutch national called Klodian Zoto. Mr Zoto is not in any way connected to the company and is not of Dutch nationality. In fact, our client has not been awarded any tender as your article suggests,” the lawyers wrote. “Your article further falsely alleges that our client, through corrupt means, secured a contract for the construction of a waste incinerator in Tirana Albania in 2017. Your report casts aspersions on our client’s reputation and integrity as a trading corporation and it is without doubt defamatory. It is clear that you did not verify the authenticity and/or correctness of the numerous allegations you make in your malicious article which has been widely publicised and circulated to cause harm.”

Efforts to contact IEBV this week failed once more as the company’s contact details could not be secured.
It also emerged, from a number of previously published reports in Albania that IEBV was registered as postbox company in 2016 and it is difficult to contact them.

For instance, an article published in an Albanian newspaper called Exit, dated October 2 2017, stated that IEBV controversially won a tender for the construction of a third incinerator outside the country’s capital that year.

“Integrated Energy BV, a company established last year (2016) in Amsterdam, was declared a winner in a race without completion and backed by an eight point bonus. Vincent Van Gerven Oei, an independent Dutch journalist and publicist discovered that Klodian Zoto, owner of Integrated Technology Service (SHPK), was one of the founders.

“We called the company Intergrated Energy BV in Amsterdam and talked to Hans Wallage Werner (one of the listed directors) who explained that although the company had no experience in waste management, Tirana’s tender was seen as an opportunity by the company’s shareholders. He did not answer the question as who was the real owner of this company, but he confirmed that he knew Klodian Zoto. Dutch law allows concealment of company owners,” the story reads.

The Independent this week checked with the concerned Dutch journalist, Van Gerven Oei, who further clarified the nature of IEBV.

“I do not have the contact details of Zoto and he has shied away from any media appearance in Albania. He is one of the least known players in Albania, hiding behind shell companies. I tried to call IEBV in the past. But they are a shell company whose offices do not really exist. Their address in Netherlands is a so-called postbox office managed by an administration company. They cannot be contacted directly. Their office address is Hoogoorddreef 15, 1101BA Amsterdam, but no one actually works there,” Van Gerven Oei said.

Investigations also showed that IEBV was controversially awarded a tender to construct a waste incinerator in the country’s capital city, Tirana, in 2017, in a deal in which it would have managed the project for 30 years. The deal was entered into without following tender procedures.

According to the Albanian press, IEBV was the only company which took part in the tender, making an offer of around €128 million (US$143,4 million). The Albanian press also reported that its proposal to build the incinerator in Tirana was sent to that country’s ministry of environment just three months before it officially existed as company.

After reviewing the unrequested offer, the council of ministers decided to open a tender procedure on December 7, 2016, making sure that IEBV received a bonus of 8%, basically guaranteeing that it would receive the concession.

The deal led to huge street protests in Verri, a suburb adjacent to the waste incinerator outside the Balkan nation’s capital, Tirana in January last year. The protesters were brutally assaulted by police. Protesters wanted the deal to be cancelled, arguing that the company was being paid huge amounts of money despite doing a shoddy job, according to the Albanian Daily News.

Just on December 27 last year, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama sacked half his cabinet (14 ministers) in response to the massive protests. They included the country’s former finance minister Arben Ahmetaj, who was identified by the press as having influenced the deal because he was Zoto’s friend.

The deal has since become a huge political issue in the country, with its opposition party leader, Jorida Tabaku, releasing documents indicating that IEBV was paid 33 billion Albanian lakes, an equivalent of US$291 million, despite the fact that the incinerator is yet to be completed.

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