Endless Renovation Works throughout 15 Years at Two Kindergartens in the District of Criuleni

For more than 15 years, two kindergartens are being renovated in parallel in the village of Cruglic, district of Criuleni. The authorities do not know when the works will be completed, neither how much money was invested in the two buildings so far. Meanwhile, the children from the village bunch up in an adapted building which lacks the basic conditions for education.

Formally, there are three kindergartens in Cruglic. But in fact just one of them is operational, being located in the former house of the president of the kolkhoz. The two other buildings – the former kindergarten of the village and an annex to the school building, with a capacity of 75 places each, are being renovated for many years, millions of lei being constantly pumped for their renovation.

Ion Grecu, mayor of Cruglic during the period 1987 – 2007, considers that the authorities made a mistake when they decided to invest into two buildings in parallel. “It was useless to allocate resources for the repair of the old kindergarten, the money should have been invested into the annex until finishing it, then – into other buildings, if necessary”, Ion Grecu said. The annex to the village school – an imposing building – was built in the early 90s, when the institution had over 600 pupils, and it consists of two blocks, A and B. Annex A, a three-storeyed building with a basement, was intended as a learning area for 12 classes, and Annex B –  consisted of the sports and events hall.

Ion Grecu also stated that at the time when the plan was designed, this investment was fully justified, since many classes of pupils had lessons in the adapted areas of the former cloakrooms and of the corridors. “We decided to build an annex to the school in order to set up better conditions for the children. Being on a trip abroad, to the Czech Republic, we visited a school-kindergarten and we wished to do the same in Cruglic. We redesigned the first floor of the annex into a kindergarten, and classrooms were supposed to be built at the other two floors. During the first years, the allocated money was fully exploited, as costly works were performed”, Ion Grecu explains.

But the project was not carried through and the works at the annexes stopped for many years. In the early 2000s, when the old kindergarten could not operate anymore, the local authorities decided to redesign the first floor of the Annex A into three kindergarten rooms in order to respond to the pre-schoolers’ needs for education.

The officials blame each other

Ion Grecu says that after the expiry of his term of office in 2007, the succeeding administration of the local government missed allocations of more than 2.5 million lei for the kindergarten and the money was re-allocated for other purposes.

In her turn, Svetlana Cucu, mayor of the village during the period 2008-2015, said that the investments were not missed. She stated that, in one of the electoral years, the company “Crioconstrucţia”, which performed the largest amount of works at the annexes, received 1 million 600 thousand lei for further works, but the district council withdrew 800 thousand lei, arguing that the company would not be able to use all those financial resources during one year. While being asked why investments were made into two kindergartens of 75 seats each, instead of investing in the renovation of two storeys of Annex A, for example, Svetlana Cucu blamed her predecessor. “If Mr. Grecu redesigned in 2007 not one, but two storeys of Annex A, changing their destination from school into kindergarten, there would have been no need to invest money into the so-called “basic kindergarten”. In order to complete the renovation of the three classrooms of Annex A, 550 thousand lei from the district budget were allocated in 2014 and the rest of the amount – from the budget of the local government.

Svetlana Cucu also stated that just a few works are still to be performed – connecting the building to the village’s aqueduct and deciding upon the way how to use the school’s canteen for cooking food for the kindergarten. Once these things are decided upon, the operation of the heating system will have to be checked.

They left without finishing the works

The current mayor of the village, Gheorghe Druță explains that the works at the so-called annex are nearly over. Some finishing works are still to be done, such as installing the door handles, equipping the kitchens, connecting the illumination system separately from that of the school, building the playground and arranging the pavilions, connecting to the water supply system. In 2014, the kindergarten was provided the necessary furniture, beds and mattresses for 90 children, some of which are kept in the finished rooms and another part are stored in the house of culture. The provision with equipment was determined by the fact that the institution was supposed to start operating shortly, what did not happen.

The local government of Cruglic signed the last contract for construction and installation works at this building on 11th of July 2014. The value of the project amounts to 767 703 lei and the company in charge of the works – Odoregal Group LLC – was selected among four participants due to the fact that it had proposed the lowest price. According to the initially signed contract, the company undertook to perform all the works within 3 months, so that the kindergarten could start operating in October-November 2014. Even if the company had not honoured its commitments, an additional contract was signed on the 31st of December 2014 under which the deadline for the completion of works was extended to the 30th of May 2015. Almost 9 months passed since the closing date of the contract, but the works have not been finished yet.

The mayor Gheorghe Druţă says that 530 thousand lei have already been paid to the company, or nearly 80% of the initial contract value.

“They committed to perform the remaining works. They invoked the shortage of financial resources, saying that they were waiting for payments for the works executed on other sites. So, they promised to come and finish the remaining works as soon as they receive the due allocations”, the mayor stated. He hopes the company will honour its obligations and the kindergarten will be operational next autumn. In his opinion, signing of a new contract would delay the inauguration of the building for at least six months.

At the request of the Centre for Journalistic Investigations, Ion Bucur, deputy director of Odoregal Grup, explained that the works were stopped because of his health state, but assured that they will be completed in the shortest time. “I have spoken to the mayor today. I was sick for nearly half a year. In fact, there is nothing to be done – just to set up the pavilions and do some minor works, such as installing locksets or other. We have practically finished the works, so it’s wrong to say that the building is derelict and not finished. The basic work was done. We will finally honour our obligations”, Ion Bucur assured us.

Nobody knows how much money was invested

The mayor in office of Cruglic, elected in June 2015, does not know where to find data about the total amount of investments made over the years in the two buildings. According to a judgment issued by the Court of Accounts, 1.6 million lei were envisaged for this purpose in 2010, but not more than half of the expenditures were financed. The Court’s auditors found out that neither the district administration, nor the local government had a feasibility study on the amount of resources needed to finish the works. The report also shows that the project documentation was repeatedly modified, with a last update in 2007. Then, the estimated value was of 13.7 million lei.

The auditors also pointed out that until the year 2002, the expenditures were cleared based on the increase of the school’s balance value, being later accumulated on the balance account “Budgetary expenditures for capital investments”. By the end of 2010, they amounted to more than 5, 1 million lei.

The delay of the works also generated another kind of problems, such as the impossibility of having one common boiler for both the school, and the future kindergarten. This problem was caused by the fact that in the meantime the two institutions came into the ownership of two different authorities – the District Council and the local government. Each of them has its own maintenance budget and it is not clear, as the mayor says, how they could share the costs of heating: “The school operates until noon and they established a heating supply schedule that is appropriate for them: they intensify the heating by four in the morning, lower it by 11.00 a.m., maintaining a certain temperature. On the other hand, the kindergarten needs heating all the day”, the mayor says.

The second building requires at least 2 million lei more

Only five minutes away from the school’s annex is located the “basic kindergarten” where funds from the State budget were invested in 2014. “1 million 900 thousand lei were used there, we still need some two million lei more to put it into use, but the prices shown in the estimates of costs are outdated and all the contractors request the review of the contracts and prices”, the mayor states. In 2008, a new roof was laid on the building. Now the walls are thermo-insulated from outside and we have to perform now land arrangement works, but no money has been allocated for them yet. If no new allocations are made throughout the year 2016, the works at the building will stop again, the mayor George Druţă says.

Svetlana Cucu states that money from the State budget was allocated for the basic kindergarten. The project is worth 4 million 400 thousand lei, an amount which covers the total reconstruction works and the provision of equipment. She also added that the first instalment for the renovation works came to the account of the local government quite late – in October 2014, after the rectification of the State budget. “The company that won the bidding contest in September 2014 was Polistil LLC. It seemed to be a very serious company, they worked hard to honour their contractual obligations in time. Now, to finish this kindergarten intended for children aged 3-5, the local government has to send to the Government letters and requests for the allocation of the remaining amount of money – 2.4 million lei”, Svetlana Cucu mentioned.

The conditions in the kindergarten – less than one square meter per child

While the State is doing endless construction works at the two buildings in Cruglic, several generations of children grew up without having the appropriate conditions in the kindergarten. For 15 years, children attend the kindergarten located in the so-called kolkhoz house.

There are 203 children in the village, and 160 of them need to be enrolled in a kindergarten. “Now only the pre-schoolers attend it, the ones aged 5-7 who need to be prepared for schooling”, the director Tamara Verdeș says.

The kindergarten is located just in the centre of the village, but nothing of its aspect suggests that it is an institution for children. The garage – a room of no more than 12 square meters serves as the cloakroom, the laundry and the bathroom. Here three makeshift washbasins are hung on the wall – one for each class. Children have to wait their turn for minutes while the employees bring water from another room. On the shelves, in the same room, are stored the dishes for children.

The director invited us for an excursion through the kindergarten. The classrooms are located on the second floor and they are so small, that it seems impossible to accommodate such a large number of children in them. The tables are crammed and when the children are seated, the teacher cannot pass between the aisles. Children eat and play in the same room.

“This is the superior class – 28 children in a room of 18 square meters. Less than one meter per child, although we must have four meters, according to the regulations”, Tamara Verdeș says.

The few entertainment options are limited to logic games. As for the physical activities, there is simply no space for them. The building does not have area for a gym room, a canteen or dormitories. Children may be in the kindergarten till 13.00, then someone has to take them home.

In the next room, even smaller, the educator Elizaveta Trocin greeted us. “Sometimes, I feel so sorry that we do not have time after lunch to read a story to the children. Or, parents cannot always spend enough time with them at home. The matinees are held either in the house of culture or in the school building that are not far from here or even outside, if weather is good. The kindergarten closes in summer time, because the sanitary conditions do not allow its operation. Some of the children who were educated in this adapted kindergarten have already married”, remarked the educator.

In his turn, the director says that this situation is the result of the fact that funding of costly projects is often done based on political criteria. “By mischance, we had a “blue” local government, when the district administration was “red”. Then, when the “reds” came to power in our village, the “greens” ruled the district. But why it should matter when it comes to children?”, Tamara Verdeș asks.

The employees of the institution and the parents live in hope that at least one of the two institutions under renovation for many years will soon open.

 “I have three sons, all of them are in the village, with their families. It’s true, they go to work in Russia, but their wives raise their children at home. My grand-children need this kindergarten”, the building’s watchman told us. An employee of the village’s post office said that her four year-old son attends the kindergarten in the neighbouring village of Izbişte and some other parents who work in Criuleni enrolled their children in kindergartens of this town (10 km away).

Expert: “The useless and costly investments might be avoided, if the authorities planned in advance the public procurements”

Olesea Stamate, president of the Association for Efficient and Responsible Governance (AGER) argues that the costly and inefficient investments could be avoided as a result of a good planning. “This investigation confirms the importance of planning the public procurements. Unfortunately, this step is ignored by most of the contracting authorities”, Olesea Stamate states.

According to the expert, planning should not be limited to a review of the procurements expected in the coming year, but it should take into account the local development plans. “If such a plan is missing, it needs to be drafted in a participatory way, obviously, through a dialogue with the citizens. It would help to avoid the costly, but unnecessary investments, and to save millions of lei that can be efficiently used for other purposes”, Olesea Stamate concluded.

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.