The USAID Planning and Local Governance Project in Albania (PLGP) has worked at both the national policy level and at the local level since 2012 to promote acceptance of the principles of decentralized governance, and to disseminate and institutionalize practical and effective methods and techniques for municipal management. In September 2017, PLGP was extended to continue our work to reinforce decentralization gains and assist local governments to better provide municipal services and economic development opportunities and to become more involved in addressing factors that can lead to violent extremism.

1 – Greater Predictability, Transparency and Revenue Potential of Local Government Finances

PLGP builds upon the accomplishments to date to strengthen Albania’s legal framework for decentralization and increase local government resources while strengthening local governments’ implementing capacities. PLGP works with the Ministry of Finance & Economy (MoFE) to advance fiscal decentralization reforms by increasing LGUs’ revenues, stabilizing intergovernmental transfers, and drafting the bylaws and implementing the Law on Local Self-Government Finance provisions related to local taxation policy, tax sharing, and accountable public financial management. PLGP continues to support the Central/Local Government Consultative Council (CC), to improve decentralization policies, legislation, processes and intergovernmental dialogue and consultations. PLGP supports partner municipalities in using ICT tools to increase own source revenue generation by improving tax collection and administration, emphasizing property tax and by developing specific action plans related to property taxation, utilizing GIS techniques to map taxpayers, conduct public outreach to increase tax awareness.

Key achievements:

  • White Paper on Fiscal Decentralization in Albania
  • National Cross-Cutting Strategy for Decentralization and Local Governance
  • New Organic Law on Local Self-Government
  • New Unconditional Grant Allocation Formula
  • Central/Local Government Consultative Council
  • The first-ever comprehensive Law on Local Self-Government Finance (LGFL)

Ongoing:

  • Support to GoA on financial reform on preschool education – including 5 case studies to identify and analyze administrative, legal and financial issues;
  • Implementing the sharing of the revenues from the national Personal Income Tax with local governments (one of the improvements introduced by the LGFL).
  • Improving intergovernmental dialogue and consultation through the organization of budgetary hearings with all local governments before the approval of the State Budget Law;
  • The development – for the first time – of a regular publication of Local Finance Indicators as a complement to the Fiscal Indicators published for the central and general government. The regular publication of consolidated information on local finance indicators will support effective decision making, increase transparency and accountability.
  • Supporting the MoFE and local governments in implementing the recently adopted methodology on value-based building tax including: training newly recruited staff at the MoFE’s General Directorate on Property Tax; training municipal staff on the new methodology and relevant technological innovative instruments; and providing technical assistance and contributions on the soon to be created Property Tax Fiscal cadaster as a participant in the Property Tax Steering Committee established by MoFE.

2 – Improve Local Government Service Delivery

PLGP provides technical assistance and on-the-job training to staff in our partner municipalities on a variety of management and governance issues. Special focus has been given to establish building blocks to address systemic weaknesses and improve local tax collection, strengthen financial management and control to ensure the transparent, accountable and sustainable use of local public financial resources, build e-government solutions through information and communication technology (ICT) tools, improve quality of local services by creating/strengthening the culture of service delivery and by developing systems and capacities (skills) for water management in particular,  and increase citizen awareness and participation in decision-making.

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Ongoing:

  • Quality Service Improvement Program (QSIP) is being implemented in an additional three municipalities to improve service delivery in key areas including irrigation and drainage.
  • Support to Citizen Advisory Panels (CAPs) to regularly consult with municipal officials on issues such as taxes, annual budgets and city development.
  • Demand-driven support to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy in developing the National Approach and Methodology to Reduce Non-Revenue Water in Albania.
  • Assisting the biggest utility in Albania (Tirana Water) in developing a Structured Methodology and Approach for the future Asset Management and Maintenance, a crucial step forward for the improvement of water services with all municipalities.
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Key achievements:

  • Provided Information and Communication Technology (ICT) improvements to address systemic weaknesses and substantially improve local tax collection.
  • As a result of the above systems and coupled with action plans, tax awareness programs, and training of local officials, PLGP partner municipalities have improved tax collection by 10-30% annually. Between 2012 and 2017, our partner LGUs increased their own source revenues by 83%, whereas the remaining non-partner LGUs increased by 47%.
  • The last two years, the assisted municipalities increased their revenues from the collection of property tax and service fees by 58% and spending for public investments increased by 56% and over 29% for the improvement of basic local public services.
  • Established 5 One-Stop Shops in Korca, Fier, Berat, Saranda, and Roskovec to deliver substantially more efficient and responsive administrative services.
  • Established and institutionalized 15 Citizen Advisory Panels (CAPs) to regularly consult with municipal officials on issues such as taxes, annual budgets and city development.
  • Assisted 6 local governments to develop and implement Five-Year Water Utility Business Plans (2016-2020), aimed at improving commercial performance and the quality of water service.
  • Tirana Water Utility Five-Year Business Plan served as basis for negotiating an ~$37 million Capital Investment Program recently approved by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
  • Action plans to improve the irrigation and drainage service delivery in three partner municipalities were prepared as part of the PLGP Quality Service Improvement Program (QSIP).
  • Community Based Scorecards – Feedback from around 2,000 citizens in 16 Albanian local government units influenced the substantial improvement of community resources including upgraded rural roads in Elbasan, Berat, and Patos; construction of social housing for vulnerable women in Patos; and cleaning and maintenance of irrigation channels in Fier, Berat, Roskovec, and Shkodra.

3 – Strengthen Civic Engagement to Prevent Violent Extremism

PLGP is focused on increasing awareness of and resilience to the socioeconomic, political, and cultural drivers of radicalization in Albania. PLGP supports the GoA’s National Coordinator on CVE in implementing the National Strategy-Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) promoting civic participation and empowering civil society to build community resilience in the municipalities of Bulqiza and Cerrik.

Ongoing activities:

  • Continue support with capacity building activities and training to empower youth boards in Cerrik and Bulqiza
  • Cooperating with private and public stakeholders that support economic growth and development, including facilitating dialogue and action planning between municipalities and private sector related to job creation and workforce development.
  • Support community-based activities through materials and commodity support (sporting events/equipment, computers/internet access, etc.).
  • Preparation of a CVE guide for local officials.

Key achievements:

  • PVE Mapping Assessments of both communities of Bulqiza and Cerrik
  • Conducted the first-ever P/CVE awareness training to local officials and municipal leaders, focused on the role of the municipality in CVE, in Cerrik and Bulqiza, and will be expanded to the remaining 59 municipalities in 2019.
  • Strengthened Civic Engagement to Build Resiliency and Community Cohesion through the creation and formalization of two Youth Boards in the municipalities of Cerrik and Bulqiza and a Local Security Council (LSC) in Bulqiza.
  • Supporting the empowerment of youth to equip them with knowledge and life skills, while also preventing adoption of a path of crime or radicalization, including continuous mentoring and training for the established youth groups on youth advocacy and lobbying, open sessions on volunteerism and safe spaces and after school extra curriculum team building activities, participation in local governance and community policing, and in organizing activities at the local level including sports matches/competitions, critical thinking sessions, clean up days, etc.
  • In cooperation with AlbChrome, Elbasan’s “Ali Myftiu” Vocational School established, for the first time after many years, a metallurgy/foundry class with 27 students owing to the support provided by the USAID’s the Planning and Local Governance Project.

4 – Promote Economic Development Planning and Implementation in Partner Municipalities

Building on previous years of work on urban planning, PLGP provides technical assistance in developing the skills and knowledge needed to implement territorial plans and design and implement local detailed plans. PLGP assists partner municipalities to engage with the private sector in a mutually beneficial way to promote competitiveness and job creation. PLGP is working with our partner municipalities to identify appropriate businesses, associations, and local private sector individuals that play an important role in creating local economic development potential.

Ongoing Activities:

  • Supporting 6 partner municipalities in preparing Local Detailed Plans (Berat, Lushnje, Fier, Kucove, Elbasan and Tirana).
  • Preparation of a benchmarking report on the implementation of GLTPs and their impact on sustainable local economic development in Albania.
  • Support to the municipalities of Lushnje and Kuçova in establishing Economic Development Advisory Councils and related departments;
  • Support to the Municipalities of Fier, Berat, and Korça to access $70M loan from the EU-European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
  • Support to the Municipalities of Berat and Saranda to access $75M loan from the World Bank Project.
  • Supporting partner LGUs in preparing Asset Management Action Plans for all publicly owned land and buildings and preparing “Guides to Doing Business” in each LGU.

Key achievements:

  • Provided expertise to the Ministry of Urban Development (MUD) in drafting and approving the National General Territory Plan and in drafting the Territory Planning Law.
  • Preparation of Toolkits and Manuals including: Inclusive Planning Manual for Citizens and Authorities, 2013; Manual on Territorial Planning and Development, 2016; Policy brief on land development and financial instruments of land development, 2015;
  • Support to National Planning Activities including support to the National Territorial Planning Agency in the preparation of the Integrated Cross-sectorial Plan (ICSP) for the Coast and ICSP for the Tiranë-Durrës Area.
  • PLGP has supported the Ministry of Urban Development and the NTPA in the preparation of the Policy for Territorial Planning and Development for the period 2014-2020.
  • Prepared Albania’s first five General Local Territorial Plans (GLTPs) that address the environmental, social, economic, demographic and infrastructural issues municipalities will face in the coming years. The GLTPs have, among others, helped the five partner municipalities raise their revenues from the Tax on the Infrastructure Impact of New Buildings.
  • Supported the establishing of Local Economic Development Departments and Economic Development Advisory Councils (EDAC) in the Municipalities of Elbasan, Fier, and Berat, to encourage the development of both existing and new economic enterprises and strengthen private sector engagement in local economic development.
  • Designed in cooperation with the Municipalities of Fier and Berat infrastructure projects to be funded by the Trans Adriatic Pipeline ($850.000).