As local elections are approaching, we should take a long view of the negligence of citizens’ needs and broken promises that have shadowed Kamenica’s governance in the past four years.
The governing of the Kamenica Municipality has been marked by many violations and flaws, while the Municipal Assembly has had a very limited influence and has been unable to install mechanisms to supervise executive powers. Kamenica has had a divided and passive opposition, which has rarely raised issues and has not provided any problem-solving alternatives.
Everyday, the people of Kamenica face poverty and unemployment, with the number of unemployed people increasing continuously. The few that have employment work for a few months and have unstable jobs. According to the Municipal Employment Office, the unemployment rate in Kamenica is at a worrisome 40 per cent. Municipality authorities claim that employment is not one of their responsibilities. Nevertheless, aren’t the municipalities competent to create better conditions for businesses? At the end of the day, it is businesses that should create more jobs.
The municipality of Kamenica, in fact, has contributed to a decrease of employment.
The local government hired 230 civil servants, yet this has a negative effect because it decreases the budget for capital investments by spending it on wages for civil servants. Employment of family and party members during this mandate has made the administration of Kamenica bloated, with over 100 employees. The accommodation of party militants in the administration and the illegal firing of some workers (and the subsequent court fines), have damaged the municipal budget by thousands of euros. The firing of the head of firefighters, Riza Bunjaku, the transfer of the Center for Social Work official Rifat Hajdari, and the illegal firing of education workers – all confirmed as such by the court – resulted in damages to the budget of the municipality in an approximate value of 25 thousand euros as a result the retroactive payment of wages.
Water, infrastructure and education
Drinking water supply has turned out to be an unresolvable problem in Kamenica, especially during the summer, when the city and its neighbourhoods face great scarcity. Even though hundreds of thousands of euros have been invested in the water supply system, this problem has remained unresolved for the past 17 years.
Villages like Korentin, Shipanice e Eperme, and Kopernice still suffer from the lack of drinking water. While water line construction began five years ago, it is not finished in the villages of Hondoc, Muciverce, Rogane and Dajkoc. All of these places have problems with drinking water.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the degraded state of education, the greatest complaints come from teachers. There have been cases when a teacher with 30 years of experience was kicked out of the education system, while five teachers teach the same subject in the same school. There were also instances when a geography teacher would teach civic education, while teachers who had a background in that subject were rejected for the position. At the same time, there were cases of teachers who were paid full time while only teaching a half-load of classes, and then when elections were coming up, too many people would be hired and schools became overloaded with part-time contracts.
When it comes to schools, Kamenica has many problems. The students of the Berivojice village walk six kilometers on foot to go to the Fan S. Noli school in Kamenica. In Gjyrishec, students attended classes outdoors; meanwhile the conditions of the school in Lisocke are so poor that the building is on the verge of collapse. Schools in other areas need to be restored as well.
The Department of Urbanism is not in a better condition either. Regardless of the constant calls for action, the municipal inspectorate allows Kamenica to be degraded and disfigured by illegal constructions. There are more than 100 buildings in Kamenica without construction permits, 80 of them in the town itself. For the past 17 years, the inspectorate has not demolished a single one of these buildings without permits.
Most of the recent investments in infrastructure have been in road construction. Yet the poor quality of roads is evident. Despite intensions to invest in roads, sewage and water supply, most of the time these plans were implemented poorly or partially. For example, half a kilometer of paved road between Kamenica and Ruboc was damaged only two weeks after it was opened. A second intervention was then immediately necessary to repair the pits and cracks on the road. Meanwhile in Busavate, pedestrians are at risk and accidents occur frequently due to the poor quality of the main road’s asphalt.
There have been investments in parks and green spaces, but they are not maintained. Decorative trees were planted, but then were never watered and now are left to decay. The municipality is responsible for park maintenance and repair. It is also supposed to check if contractors do not fulfill their obligations. Furthermore, it is the obligation of the municipality to initiate court procedures towards contractors if they do not fulfill their obligations. Sometimes, for example, when companies are working on the the sewage under the road, they can damage the road or cut telephone cables and never repair them.
The opposition and the broken promises
It is important to note that there is a lack of gynecology clinics. Until three years ago, there was only one gynecologist in town, but since his retirement, there have been no doctors working in this field. In cooperation with the Gjilan Regional Hospital, the municipality managed to bring three gynecologists from Gjilan to work in Kamenica on a rotational basis, but due to their run-ins with justice they were forced to quit and since then no single birth has been registered in Kamenica.
The environment has been degraded. The inhabitants of Shipashnice e Eperme and Desivojce village are worried about the machines used for extracting gravel from the riverbed. Despite multiple complaints to both local and central level institutions, the degradation of the environment has continually increased.
In general there has been a lack of interest in coping with the demands and problems of citizens. There was a lack of of inquiry from the municipal assembly, especially on issues of general interest such as budget, accountability, as well as the enforcement of laws and municipal policies. One can also say that members of the Assembly have been vocal only about issues which impact their interest directly or indirectly.
The mayor, Begzad Sinani, did hold public hearings according to the Law on Local Self-Governance, and the same can be said for the Finance Directorate. Yet they have been merely gestures. Most of citizens’ demands expressed in these meetings have not been incorporated into the budget planning or the list of capital investments. This has made citizens lose their trust in the decision-makers, resulting in a drastic fall in the number of citizens interested in hearings.
Mayor Sinani also did not manage to fulfill several promises: he failed to establish the municipality of Hogosht; build schools in Berivojce and Krileve and a bridge in Topanica; expand street lighting in villages; build gyms in schools and a sidewalk in Ruboc; offer a tax-cut for businesses with five or more employees; re-functionalize family healthcare centers in villages; develop mountain tourism; and the list goes on.
The author is a civil society activist in Kamenica.
The opinions expressed in the opinion section are those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect the views of BIRN.
25 September 2017 - 11:32
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