investigation 22 Nov 12

Kosovo PM Installs Ally to Head Privatisation Body

Back in October, Hashim Thaci vowed to keep politics out of the agency – only to nominate a political ally as chairman of the board.

By Parim Olluri

When Prime Minister Hashim Thaci addressed lawmakers on the Kosovo Privatisation Agency in October, he vowed to keep politics out of the entity that oversees the sale of state enterprises.

“As Prime Minister, I have decided to avoid political influence and not propose ministers of the board of the Kosovo Privatisation Agency,” Thaci said in the October 2 parliamentary session.

It took less than a month for Thaci to renege on that pledge. On October 29, during a cabinet meeting, Thaci proposed Blerim Rexha to head the Privatisation Agency as chairman of the board. The cabinet assented.

The former chairman of the board, Dino Asanaj, died in June. According to authorities, Asanaj stabbed himself 11 times for reasons unknown.

Party member:

Rexha is a member of Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and formerly ran for assembly. He also served as minister in the PDK’s shadow cabinet when the party was in opposition. Once the PDK came to power, Rexha became deputy minister for Energy and Mines.

The Office of the Prime Minister did not respond to Prishtina Insight’s questions about Rexha’s nomination and connections to the PDK. Rexha also did not respond.

The Assembly still must approve Rexha’s nomination. As part of the process, Rexha submitted an obligatory biography to the Office of the Secretariat at the Government of Kosovo.

Rexha listed his educational qualifications, including a doctorate from the Technical University of Vienna, and his stint as deputy minister for Energy and Mines from 2008 to 2011.

He did not mention that he served in the PDK’s shadow cabinet as the director of the Department of Technology.

Rexha has not explained why he omitted his post in the shadow government.

The four other candidates nominated to the Agency board do not have any known political ties to Thaci.

They are: Haxhi Arifi, head of the Alliance of Independent Unions of Kosovo; Skender Komoni, chief inspector of Kosovo Customs; Maja Milanovic, an economist who worked in the privatisation agency from 2007 to 2009; and Dardane Peja, a project manager for the US Agency for International Development, USAID.

Strange death:

More than four years ago, in 2008, the Kosovo government named New York businessman Dino Asanaj to chair the Privatisation Agency board.

He became the agency head in 2010 under a new mandate that placed the chairman of the board in charge of the agency as a whole.

Asanaj had close ties to Thaci. He told Prishtina Insight in 2008: “The government nominated me… However, I do not deny that the Prime Minister is a good friend.”

On June 14, Asanaj was found wounded in his office at the International Village in Prishtina. He died two hours later.

An autopsy ruled that he had committed suicide by stabbing himself 11 times. The Kosovo Public Prosecutor’s Office affirmed the finding in October. But the office is still investigating why Asanaj took his own life.

Asanaj’s death and the expiry of the terms of the board’s four Kosovar members in July have left the Kosovar Privatisation Agency without an oversight body for months.

The board has three international members whose terms last until 2014, but lacks a quorum.

Andrea Capussela, who served on the board as an official in the International Civilian Office, said the Privatisation Agency cannot function properly without a working board.

“The board must approve all tenders and all sales and many other things, and without a board PAK can only administer itself, not do its job,” he said.

Capussela added it would be a mistake to appoint someone with connections to Thaci as the head of the agency shouldn’t be seen to be acting “thanks to political or personal influence”.

PM’s right questioned:

It is also unclear whether the Prime Minister or cabinet has the legal right to nominate members of the Privatisation Agency’s board.

The 2011 Law of the Kosovo Privatisation Agency gives that right to the Assembly under Article 12.2.

Daut Beqiri, head of Assembly’s legal office, could not point to a section in the law that granted the Prime Minister or the cabinet the right to nominate agency board members but said it was established practice.

Zenun Pajaziti, a PDK member who heads the Assembly’s commission for Economic Development, Infrastructure, Trade and Industry, said his commission had asked cabinet to nominate the board members.  

 “The Assembly Legal Office hasn’t objected to this practice and I have acted in compliance to this practice,” he said.

“Since the Legal Office gave no objection, we have the right to continue this way,” Pajaziti added.

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