The amount of 4 million lei, allocated 3 years ago by the National Ecological Fund (NEF) to the local government of Bubuieci for the purchase of two mobile stations for construction waste processing, has become a matter of prosecutorial investigation. The General Prosecutor’s Office (GP) has initiated a penal case for embezzlement, by virtue of art. 191 of the Penal Code, and the prosecution is now underway. The GP’s Office informed us about it in the response to an inquiry. In fact, nobody knows who exactly is prosecuted – the former members of NEF Board of Directors who disbursed the money, or the decision-makers of the local government of Bubuieci who appropriated it. Invoking the confidentiality of the investigation, the GP’s Office did not disclose any other information, while the persons who have been directly involved in the project – the former Minister of Environment and the mayor of Bubuieci – either stated that they were not aware of such an action at law or that they had never been invited to hearings. Meanwhile, the procurements funded by the purse of the NEF have not borne fruit yet, even if this was to happen 3 years ago.
With the 3,9 million dollars allocated by NEF Board of Directors in 2012, the local government of Bubuieci bought in 2012 and in 2013 two stations for dry sorting of construction waste, which it intended to locate near the dump of Purcel mine. The two machines for processing of concrete, gravel and demolition debris and transforming them into material for temporary repair of roads are still stored in a warehouse. The reason: the local government of Bubuieci did not succeed to get the permission of the local officials of Chișinău mayoralty to locate the stations on a plot owned by the municipality, despite the fact that initially (in July 2012), the mayoralty expressed its support for the project in a letter signed by the deputy mayor, Nistor Grozavu. Afterwards, being contacted by the Centre for Journalistic Investigations (CJI), Grozavu alluded to the fact that the mayoralty does not want the «dirt from Bubuieci» to be located on the territory of Chișinău, therefore it does not authorize the use of its land…
After the Centre for Journalistic Investigations wrote in 2013 that the project under consideration began to stagnate, the inspectors of the Court of Accounts found out that the money had been inappropriately managed and the procurements proved to be inefficient. Based on the findings of the audit mission, the prosecutors initiated a penal case. According to the Court of Accounts, the amount of money was allocated despite the fact that the project’s feasibility could have been questioned since the very beginning. Or, the total value of the project was estimated at 7 million lei, nevertheless, the local government of Bubuieci did not specify in the grand request the source for filling the gap of 3,1 million lei. In addition to it, the inspectors also established that the machines had not been directly purchased from the importers, but from business entities which, in their turn, had purchased them on the domestic market, therefore, the price paid by the local government of Bubuieci was exaggerated.
The data published on the website of the Public Procurement Agency show that the tender for the purchase of the two stations was held on 9th of July 2012 and three bidders took part in it. The construction company “Delmar Construction” was the winner. Subsequently, according to the above-mentioned website, the deadline for delivery of the machines was several times extended.
«Some councilors had personal interests in obstructing the project»
Mayor Ion Șaranuț says he did not participate in the selection of the winning bid and is ready to give evidence for the prosecutors, but he has not been invited to any hearing yet. In his opinion, the problem actually consists in the fact that the two machines have not started yet to operate. This is because of the refusal of Chișinău municipality to collaborate in the framework of this project and to allow the usage of the land.
Chisinau municipality was originally supposed to open a waste-sorting polygon in Ghidighici and we were supposed to be there, but some municipal councilors with interests involved and we blocked the project. I’m not ashamed to say that it was councilor Oleg Cernei who blocked our project because he, alongside with another person, had interests. We wrote a demarche, proving that we have the required equipment and asked for the permission to install the stations. », mayor Ion Șaranuț said.
On the other hand, Oleg Cernei, ex-municipal councilor and former adviser to the mayor of the capital, says the municipality put up resistance because of the fact that mayor Șaranuț did not coordinate anything with «people at the centre». «It is not true to say that the municipality refused to give them the plot. We found out post-factum that the local government of Bubuieci had applied for a project to the Ecological Fund. We asked then the Minister Gheorghe Şalaru how he could accept the project, without having any guarantee that the mayor of Bubuieci would have access to the dump at Purcel mine. Or, there was need for a guarantee that the project would be viable. Now, he blames the advisers. While being a general mayor’s adviser, I have just once discussed this issue with Ion Șaranuț. If he wanted to succeed, he needed a draft decision of the Municipal Council», he former mayor’s adviser Oleg Cernei says. He denies that he had any personal interests in blocking the project of the mayor of Bubuieci.
«I’ve learnt from you that there is a penal case on this issue »
Gheorghe Șalaru, ex-Minister of Environment, a position which mandatorily implies the chairmanship of the Board of Directors of the National Ecological Fund, says he was not called by prosecutors at any hearings and even has not been informed that the legality of the management of the nearly 4 million lei is investigated within a penal case. He stated that the Board members cannot be faulted for the way how the money was managed after they reached the beneficiaries’ accounts. The former minister insists that the institutions which receive any grant should be held to account and that the NEF cannot check the accuracy of the applications submitted by the applicants or the project feasibility, because of the lack of specific skills and of time. «As a minister, I thought that no other project focused on the recovery of construction waste existed in this country before the one submitted by the local government of Bubuieci. I would ask the Court of Accounts: for example, the National Hotel which is in the centre of the city will be one day demolished. My question as the Minister of Environment is: what shall we do with the construction waste? With this project, we hoped to solve an environmental problem and we thought that the most appropriate solution would be to have such a sorting factory near Chisinau, where every day something is demolished. Further, it was the mission of the local government to conclude contracts and obtain the required permits», Gheorghe Şalaru declared.
A new deadline – spring of the year 2016
Nevertheless, after a delay of almost three years, the two stations could start operating in a few months, next spring. At least, that is what the mayor Ion Șaranuț believes, who told us that he had finally reached an agreement with Chisinau municipality to collaborate within the project for construction waste recycling and even showed us a letter from the general mayor. According to Șaranuț, the two local governments are working on a draft contract which is supposed to be ready by the end of January. According to it, the administration of the capital will become a partner in the project, contributing with a plot of land on Uzinelor street, where the stations will be located, while the local government of Bubuieci will incur the other expenses and ensure their operation.
The administrator of Bubuieci municipal enterprise who will manage the project is somehow less is optimistic. He says the two machines would have been purchased together with some additional equipment. «Our hands are tied, we were given the machines, but we cannot work. The whole set would include a loader, scissors, a hammer and some other things, as it was initially planned, and in fact they promised us to allocate money for this additional equipment. But we have not received anything. It’s like having a plate with food and being asked to eat without a spoon », Alexandru Donica explains.
On the other hand, Ion Șaranuț does not see any serious problem, even he says that the local government needs about 2 million lei more for the additional equipment. «The most important things we need are an excavator to load the waste, scissors and a hammer to break the concrete pieces and separate the metal. But for now we can work with what we have. We try to establish a partnership with a company which owns such equipment. Later, we will submit a new application to the NEF. If no money will be allocated, we will search elsewhere. The important thing now is to clean, as we committed originally, the 7 hectares of land on the hill in Bubuieci, which is now full of stone and other construction waste», Ion Șaranuț added.
The Minister of Environment: «We drew up a list of projects that we consider as failed. This project is one of them.»
The current administration of the Ministry of Environment, after having made an inventory of the largest projects financed by the NEF over the past years, informs that all the resources intended for this project have been allocated. «When I came to the ministry, we drew up a list of projects that we consider as failed and we try to see how they could be recovered. This project is one of them. For now, there is no clarity about it, but we try to find a way to achieve sustainability», Valeriu Munteanu, the acting Minister of Environment, declared for the CJI.
Based on the audit report of the Court of Accounts, approved on 25th of November 2013, the General Prosecutor’s Office initiated seven penal cases concerning the management of the grants awarded in 2012 by the National Ecological Fund. Gheorghe Şalaru was the Minister of Environment at that time. The penal cases were initiated in January and February 2015 by virtue of the articles that incriminate embezzlement, abuse of power, ultra vires and neglect of duty. None prosecution has been completed so far.
The investigation has been done in the framework of the Campaign „Public Money Is My Money Too”, conducted by the Centre for Journalistic Investigations (CJI) and the Association for Efficient and Responsible Governance (AGER), within a project funded by the European Union and the National Endowment for Democracy.