The Transparency of European Funds in Romania

The project aims to:
– Make the EU funding process more transparent;
– Make the management institution responsible for the funding process more accountable;
– Raise the level of citizens’ involvement in the EU funding process.
Partners in the Group are: Media Monitoring Agency, Romanian Training Institute, Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism, Partners for Local Development Foundation, the Association for the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Speech, OSI, Pro Democracy Association

Assessment of FOIA compliance (2002/2005)

In November 2005 a financing contract was signed for a new project funded by the European Union through Phare program. The project started to be implemented at the end of 2005 and during 2006 we have conducted an evaluation of the respect of transparency laws by public authorities. According to the law each public institution is required to publish an annual report (activity and financial) but the rate of compliance with these procedures reached a feeble 4% of all public bodies (as presented by a quantitative evaluation conducted by the Romanian Government). Following an in-depth research, the project aims to identify best-practice models and to train representatives of the public bodies in how to collect data and to put them together in an annual report which will provide relevant and accurate information to the public.
This project is a follow-up of the advocacy campaign run by SAR in 2000 for the adoption of FOIA. A first assessment of its implementation was carried in 2002 and indicating unsatisfactory compliance with legal provision. For the current project we use the same methodology and sample as in 2002 allowing comparisons.

Regional initiative for an integrity-related message

This regional project aimed to acknowledge the value of efforts made by caricaturists and investigative journalists in promoting a public integrity (anti-corruption) message in South-Eastern European countries. The project involves investigative journalists and caricaturists from Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Moldova and Romania. The locales of the projects were Busteni and Bucharest, Romania. The following were partners in the project: Media Monitoring Agency – Catavencu Academy, Cartoonist Network Rights – Romania, Goethe Institute Bucharest.

Test Case for Performance and Transparency in the Local Public Admininistration: Property Restitution (2007-2008)

Beyond the legal details of the restitution process, two characteristics define Romania as an unique state in the Central and Eastern Europa:

  • indecision regarding compensations, in nature or equivalent, so that successive laws, produced and implemented for more than a decade, created confusion and overlapped rights
  • Large-scale abuse at local and central levels, favored by laws with loopholes and irregular judicial practice, visible through the huge discrepancies among restitution indicators, from one county to another

SAR initiated the first analysis with numeric indicators regarding the situation of restitutions, which shows who is at fault and why.

The scope of the project was the improvement of capacities for the local public administration towards implementing public policies.

The specific objective was to evaluate the situation for three indicators: performance, transparency and responsiveness by utilizing a test-case applied at a national level.

Starting from the evaluation, SAR identified and promoted the best modalities to increase the local capacity in relation to the three aspects, through consultation and advocacy.

Activities:

  1. Evaluating the local administration through a test-case. The activity included documentation and data collection, through interviews, data analysis and interpretation and publishing the report
  2. Round table for consulting stakeholders
  3. Advocacy activities for promoting the recommendations: preparing the activity, meetings with key decision factors, workshop, disseminating publications, disseminating results to mass media

Partners

APADOR-CH

Implementation period: December 2007 – September 2008

 

Responsibility through transparency – access to public information in Romania and Yugoslavia

The project aimed to accomplish an evaluation of the current situation regarding access to public information in Romania and Yugoslavia and to promote free access to information in a public campaign carried out in both countries. The project’s locales are Bucharest and Belgrade.Transparency International Romania is the main organization implementing this project, in partnership with the Centre for Policy Studies in Belgrade.

Nu Da Spaga! – DON’T ASK FOR BRIBE II

The project sought to:
– inform and raise the awareness of young adults, especially those that (will) activate in fields frequently associated with small corruption;
– involve the professional associations from justice, public administration fields in promoting the legal stipulations and the deontological codes, and in promoting their self-regulation role, in order to increase their responsibility;
– strengthen TIR image as an organization with expertise in providing applicable models for reducing the small corruption phenomenon and to strengthen the role of the professional associations as promoters of an ethic and responsible attitude towards beneficiaries.
This campaig is the follow-up of a similar one developed in 2003-2004.

The Coalition for Clean Government

The initiative continued the work of the successful Coalition for a Clean Parliament. The members of the CCP decided to continue the monitoring of the public arena creating a Coalition for a Clean Government bringing up new issues and new approaches:

  • Declarations of wealth and interests – In the spring of 2005, SAR together with other members of the coalition argued for the improvement of the declarations of wealth and interest especially for high-level civil servants and dignitaries. SAR participated in several discussions and got involved in a working group created for drafting of new forms for the declarations of wealth and interest that would enable the public scrutiny of the wealth and interests of politicians and public servants. The effects of the new legislation were visible. Journalists used these instruments as means to monitor, identify and signaled existing irregularities in the 2005-2006 declarations. Furthermore the Prosecutors Office has also started investigations on these issues. All these indicate a better fit of this format and transformed it into an effective instrument. However six members of Parliament have initiated a new law attempting to replace again the established format with a vague and less detailed one. Unfortunately the law received tacit approval in the Senat in mid February 2006 but due to the critical stance taken by SAR representatives in the media, the Social-Democratic Party expressed their opposition to the project and the initiators (members of SDP) have spoken about the withdrawal of their proposal.
  • Increase transparency in public acquisitions – the coalition has addressed the issues of transparentization of public contracts. In October 2005 sixteen organizations made a public appeal for the legal endorsement of the principle that any contract of public acquisition, public-private partnership, concession, privatization etc should become automatically public from the moment of its signature, excluding thus any confidentiality clauses. The Government was opened to NGOs proposal and formed a working group, inviting SAR and other NGOs to participate. The working group has already drafted changes of the legislation that not only complies with the European acquis, but set even higher standards and it might become a model of transparency in public acquisitions. The project is now on the table of the Government to decide on the most appropriate procedure for approval.
  • Support anti-corruption policies – the efficiency of the anti-corruption fight was one of the most critical issues for the European integration of Romania. In December 2004, the Brussels European Council decided the conclusion of the accession negotiations with Romania but included specific safeguard clauses that would allow the postponement of the date of accession with a year. anti-corruption fight was one of the red-flagged areas and significant improvement of its efficiency is needed in a very short time. Although significant steps had been taken in the right direction, the reforms were still on the edge as they were facing the (open or hidden) opposition from people in decision positions feeling threatened by recent developments. Therefore a close public scrutiny of the whole process was needed to early signal and to prevent any potential derailment from the right track as it had been seen in the rejection of the law approving the OUG 134/2005.

Coalition for FOIA

In 2001, a coalition of Romanian NGOs led by SAR successfully acted as a catalyst in building consensus for the adoption of a Law on Access to Public Information (also known as FOIA). In a context where legislative initiatives from the Government and the Opposition had been submitted to the Parliament, and a Law on Classified Information was also envisaged, in March 2001 a civil society coalition was forged, which effectively facilitated consultations between the Government (Ministry of Public Information) and the Opposition (National Liberal Party). The result of this process was a common agreement by all parties to a draft law that was subsequently adopted by the Parliament in September 2001. The final version of the FOIA incorporated articles and concepts developed by the Romanian civil society organizations based on the Slovak and Bulgarian experience.

Romanian Judge Accused of Selling Verdicts

Romanian Supreme Court judge Gabriela Barsan has been investigated by prosecutors under the suspicion of receiving gifts such as jewelry and vacations in return for favorable verdicts. Last weekend investigators conducted a search a her home and confiscated a computer and some documents.

Following the search, her husband, Corneliu Barsan, who is a judge at the European Court of Human Rights, attempted to use his position to hinder the investigation against his wife, in that he claimed that the search violated the Vienna Convention, applicable to international officials. However, his argument was not successful at the Romanian Supreme Court, which decided yesterday to reject his claims and maintain that the search was legal.

Corruption is one of the issues that keeps Romania under close monitoring from European Union institutions, and has also been a main reason behind Romania’s denied admission to the European Schengen agreement.

Read the full article Romanian Judge Denied Immunity on reportingproject.net. The picture shown above is from freedomsphoenix.com.

Former Romanian Labor Minister and Mp Acquitted of Corruption Charges

A former Romanian Labor Minister, Paul Pacuraru (pictured here) – who was in office between April 2007 and September 2008 – and a former Romanian MP, Dan Ilie Morega, were acquitted of accusations of corruption stemming back to December 2008 on Wednesday.

Prosecutors had accused Mr. Morega of offering to help Mr. Pacuraru’s son win public contracts in exchange for Mr. Pacuraru appointing a specific person as the Chief Inspector of the Gorj County Labor Inspectorate.

For the original article from Mediafax, please click here.

Please note that the photo of Mr. Pacuraru is from a previous article by Mediafax and is copyrighted by the Romanian Press.

Monica Iacob Ridzi Indicted for Youth Day Event Corruption

Anti-corruption investigators in Romania have indicted Monica Iacob Ridzi (pictured here), the former Romanian Youth Minister, for abuse of service against the public interest and intellectual fraud with events related to the 2009 Youth Day celebrations in Romania.

The investgation against Ms. Ridzi was launched after reports by a daily sports magazine surfaced shortly after the Youth Day events stating that Ms. Ridzi had awarded contracts to private companies from the 600,000-euro budget without a public tender.

For more information on the story, please see Hotnews.ro and Mediafax‘s website(s).

Please note that the picture of Ms. Ridzi comes from the Hotnews.ro site.

Romanian Businessman Arrested in Hungary

Romanian businessman Dinel Nutu (formerly known as Staicu, pictured here) was handed over to Romanian authorities today by Hungarian police officers after having fled Romania after being convicted for being an accessory to the abuse of office and being sentenced to a prison sentence of seven years.

Mr. Nutu was apprehended by the Hungarian authorities on April 19th on the basis of a European Arrrest Warrant that was issued by a Bucharest court. Mr. Nutu was convicted in connection with his role in the bankrupty of the Bank of Religions (BIR).

For the original story from Mediafax.ro (also in Romanian), please click here.

Please note that the photo of Mr. Nutu also comes from the Mediafax site.

62 Romanian Border Police Officers Indicted for Corruption

62 Romanian Border Patrol Officers and 4 Customs Officials were indicted by Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors from a northern border crossing on Wednesday. The 66 officials are accused of soliciting and/or accepting bribes amount to approximately 893,740 euros between September 2010 and January 2011.

A total of 49 of the 66 indicted persons are currently in custody, with the other 17 still at large.

For the original articles, please see the sites of Mediafax.ro and Hotnews.ro.

Please note that the photo from this article comes from Mediafax’s version of the article.

Romania’s Anti-Corruption Department to Investigate Mep Adrian Severin

Romania’s Anti-Corruption Department has announced that it will take all possible legal steps in order to investigate the corruption scandal involving MEP Adrian Severin, including stripping him of immunity.

Responding to a MEDIAFAX inquiry, the DNA has announced that the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice are both looking into the case of Mr. Severin. The initial inquiry into the corruption charges brought about against Mr. Severin first began on March 21st, after national and international media brought the corruption scandal to light.

For the original article from Mediafax, please click here.

The picture of Mr. Severin above also comes from the same story from Mediafax.

Six Romanians in Airport Management Indicted for Fraud

Six employees of Bucharest’s Baneasa Airport, including four managers, were indicted last Friday by Romanian prosecutors for fraud in dealing with a contract to repair the airport’s runways, inducing losses of approximately 5.8 million euros.

The contract for the repairs dates back to 2007 but was amended with a new formula to calculate compensation – one that was incompatible with the legal provisions for this type of work – resulting in losses to both the airport and the state budget (taxpayers).

The accused include Florin Paul Fulger, the airport company’s general manager (and later technical manager), Luliana Pop, the economic manager, and Dorian Vlasceanu, legal counsel, along with three others for related crimes.

Please click the appropriate links for the original article from Mediafax.ro (English) or EVZ.RO (Romanian)

Romanian Media Mogul Threatens Tv Board Members With Death

In a disagreement with the Board of Asesoft (owners of Realitatea TV in Romania) over additions to a management contract, media mogul Sorin Ovidiu Vantu (pictured here) and some of his associates threatened to kill Sebastian Ghita and other members of the Asesoft Board.

Ghita went on to tell Hotnews.ro that negotiations over the contract had not yet been concluded. Mr. Vantu, however, told Pagina de media that Ghita would no longer be the manager of Realitatea TV, that he had decided to end the contract, and that he would make this official in due time.

For the original story from Hotnews.ro, please see the link above.

Contest: Severin/out

The Alliance for Clean Romania (ACR) launched a contest for the best sketch of the monument commemorating Adrian Severin, author of the realkoruption doctrine and victim of a anti-European, anti-Romanian and anti-Severin conspiracy.

Starting today ACR will publish the drawings or models from the readers. An international jury will select the best, which will be sent to the European Parliament. A delegation will travel to Place Luxembourg in Brussels to discuss details related to where the monument should be placed exactly.

Right Click below and download the posters received so far on your computer at full size:

As Adrian Severin chooses to resist longer to the unanimous requests for resignation, the more time you have to practice your creativity and solidarity. Thanks to Dan Flores in Predeal who sent the first proposal. We look forward to receiving yours at contact@romaniacurata.ro, Please, mark the message subject line as ‘Monument for Adrian Severin’.

A Tale of Two Villages. Coerced Modernization in the East European Countryside

A non-fiction book about the social engineering operated in rural Eastern Europe by the Communist regime, based on the history of two villages in Romania. One of the two villages is the birthplace of Nicolae Ceausescu, the former Communist dictator, Scornicesti, which received massive investment during communist years and was turned into a mixture of underdeveloped village and industrial town. The other is Nucsoara, the Carpathian cradle of peasants’ resistance against Communism, where half the village was executed or imprisoned and their lands divided between the other half. The state intervention failed in both villages to attain the planned objectives, but it nevertheless changed fundamentally the life of villagers. This book is mostly about the consequences of unlimited state power over people and communities.

More information can be founds here. You can purchase your copy of the book here.

Reviews for this publication

This is a dramatic, thought-provoking and sometimes savagely funny account of one of the toughest problems in Europe: the ingrained poverty of the Romanian countryside. It deals with two villages, Scorniceşti and Nucşoaru. One was celebrated under communism as the birthplace of the dicatator Nicolae Ceauşescu. The other was a hotbed of armed anti-communist resistance. Both have been trampled by history into an unrecognisable, depopulated mush. The stories Ms Mungiu Pippidi unearths are mostly forgotten or misremembered by the people she is writing about. The European integration that has so boosted the lives of Romania ‘s urban elites is just a tinny echo. Of the billions in EU programme money she writes:

‘nobody seems competent enough to fill in one of those complex application forms with many rubrics, seemingly designed to exclude the semi-literate farmers of the underdeveloped, rural areas for which those programme were in fact intended.’

This book is an exemplary work of social history, mixing evocative anecdote with sharp analysis. The accounts of the destructive ultra-individualism spawned by the reaction against communist-era collectivism are particularly memorable (in one place, a villager saws up a bit of the railway track to use as a ceiling beam, cutting the only rail link between the village and the outside world). It deserves to be read by anyone who wonders where EU money is going and why the rural inhabitants of Romania so doggedly vote for the people and parties responsible for their misery.

Review in The Economist

The book is positioned at the disciplinary intersection between social anthoropology, oral history, and political sciences – a rara avis in today’s climate of academic over-specialization. The story of the two post-socialist villages Nucşoara and Scornicesti in Walachia, southern Romania, follows the American tradition of exploring peasant politics and power in the manner of James Scott and Timothy Mitchell, among others.
The book has strong points. One is the multilevel approach combining the local level of analysis with the national one. The author effectively applies both ethnographic information gatherring and political science tools, such as analysis based on national data pools. Furthermore, she offers a theoretical model that can foster a better understanding of the post-socialist world.
… extremely useful for those interested in post-socialist transformation processes. It merits the attention of social scientists studyin eastern Europe“.

in Südosteuropa

Alina Mungiu-Pippidi is one of the most outspoken and courageous public figures in Romania. She is a trenchant yet constructive critic of Romanian politics and society and as a university professor has initiated and secured funding for numerous research projects into which she has drawn her students. This volume is the product of one such project and is based on fieldwork carried out in Romania with a group of her students in political anthropology. The book provides a rich and varied discussion of collectivization and its continuing effects. Twenty years after its fall, the Communist Party still casts a long shadow in the region.

H-net online

Is East-Central Europe Backsliding? EU Accession Is No “End of History”

In the textbooks on democratic transition, Central and Eastern Europe provides the model of success. Yet in Brussels concern over the politics of the new EU members has been mounting. The day after accession, when conditionality has faded, the influence of the EU vanished like a short-term anesthetic. Political parties needed to behave during accession in order to reach this highly popular objective, but once freed from these constraints, they returned to their usual ways. Now we see Central and Eastern Europe as it really is—a region that has come far but still has a way to go.

Corruption: Diagnosis and Treatment

Political corruption poses a serious threat to democracy and its consolidation. Many anticorruption initiatives fail because they are nonpolitical in nature, while most of the corruption in developing and postcommunist countries is inherently political. Successfully fighting this kind of corruption requires far more than instituting best practices from advanced democracies. Electoral revolutions can lead to consolidated democracies only if they are followed by revolutions against particularism. Nothing short of such a revolution will succeed in curbing corruption in countries where particularism prevails.