Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev and his government have announced since 2009 over 6 billion manat (about $3.5 billion in 2018 dollars) in spending for health care, including the construction or rehabilitation of over 600 hospitals and clinics.
But some of these projects are slow to be completed, despite multi-million dollar tenders.
In addition to the large sums included each year in the national budget, Aliyev announces special grants — about $24.7 million to the Ministry of Health so far in 2018.
According to national statistics the number of hospitals and clinics dropped from 756 in 2010 to 569 in 2017. According to the Ministry of Health, the decline is due to health care reforms that include centralization.
iFact.ge looked at three big-money projects that have stalled.
Drug addiction clinic
On March 2, 25 drug rehabilitation patients died when fire broke out at a state-run treatment center in Baku. The one-floor wooden structure was built in 1978, and had been used as a drug treatment center since 1986. There were metal bars on the windows.
The Ministry of Health allocated about $28,500 in 2011 for preliminary work to build a new center northeast of Baku. A second allocation in 2013 was for about $2.7 million. iFact.ge has been unable to find any allocations since 2013.
The new building was unfinished at the time of the fatal fire. It finally opened on June 14. Now the Ministry has announced additional tenders, although no money figures are listed.
Buzovna Rehabilitation Center
The Ministry of Health allocated about $11 million in 2010 to build a medical center in this town located northeast of Baku on the Caspian Sea. Another $7.1 million was allocated in 2012.
A company called “Best LTD” won both tenders. According to registration documents, it has received tenders only from the Ministry of Health since 2010. A new tender that has recently been announced includes this building, although the amount is not reported.
Not much else is known about the company. According to the media outlet Qafqazinfo.az, in 2015 electric cables were stolen from the unfinished building and the company reported it to the police.
Regional government reports refer to the construction as “ongoing”. A handful of men were working when a reporter checked. They said it was going to be a sanitarium.
Gindes Tuberculosis Center
According to the official construction notice board on the outside wall, construction of the Yevsey Gindes Tuberculosis Center began in 2012 and would be completed in 2014.
But the building for teenagers suffering from tuberculosis, named for Yevsey Gindes, Minister of Health in 1918-19 and considered to be the father of pediatric medicine in Azerbaijan, is only half-finished — despite allocations totaling at least $12.4 million.
President Aliyev allocated about $2.4 million in 2011, with a company called Attila KM receiving a $300,000 job.
The Azeragrar Construction company was awarded a tender for about $12.1 million from the Ministry of Health in 2012. Parliament member Agalar Valiyev is a founder of the company, which has more than 40 branches in Azerbaijan. According to the Azerbaijan constitution, parliamentarians cannot hold any other paying jobs.
Valiyev does not think he violates the rules. “My activity is completely lawful,” he told journalists in 2015. There is nothing illegal. I am the founder of the company. It is a private organization. I am not a director; there is an executive director, and a business manager. I am just doing my work (in Parliament).”
According to the Azerbaijan business registry, Valiyev was appointed chief of Azeragrar Construction in 1996 when it was still government owned. In 1997, governmental construction companies including “Azeragrar” were cancelled by presidential decree. After one year, the company was privatized and registered under Agalarov Valiyev’s name. Now it is registered under Bayram Heydarov’s name.
A private company called R-Servis LTD was registered under Heydarov’s name. in 1997. Now it is registered under the name of Emil Hajiyev. Hajiyev is also director of an Azeragrar Construction company branch in Barda region
Also receiving a tender from the Ministry of Health in 2012 for about $3.1 million was a company called Texnoklima LTD. The only other public record for the company states it won two tenders for about $12.4 million in 2013 for a health center in Baku.
The 2013 national budget allocated about $231 million for health facility construction. The Gindes building was listed in a budget report, but no figures are available on how much might have been spent that year.
According to a Khazar region report dated July 12, 2017, construction work was stopped. A report in January 2018 stated work would begin again.
Construction appears to be halted this spring and there were no workers at the site when a reporter visited.
#7 Tuberculosis Hospital
Built over 100 years ago, it became a tuberculosis hospital during Soviet times. There is no public record of who received tenders to construct a replacement building next to it or when construction began.
Azerbaijan law allows no-tender construction contracts if the government considers a project urgent. But nothing looked urgent when a reporter visited. The building was half-done and there only two workers installing some windows.
The same Khazar region reports stated this construction was halted in 2017 and work was resuming in 2018.