On August 9 2008, a government press release informed people that Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanii offered the keys “for new houses to five hard-hit families from the Briceni district.” The same press release also mentioned that a total of 35 houses had been bought, but frankly speaking this was due to the help of donors. Already at the beginning of the week the MCDT announced that the number of properties bought by donors had reached 53. Respectively, the number of damaged houses which have to be completely rebuilt decreased to 230, and the authorities haven’t yet had to spend any money from their own pockets. At the same time, the MCDT opened “a special account for the rapid gathering of money for humanitarian aid, designed for the urgent reconstruction of houses.” Rodica Vasiliev, responsible for mass-media relations within the MCDT couldn’t tell us why it was necessary to open a bank account with this institution, as one account had already been opened by the MF. Vasiliev was also unable to tell us the sum gathered so far.
Sergiu Gaibu, an economic expert at IDIS Viitorul, said that there is no risk if they opened more than one account when the is money destined for the same place, especially if this is known and controlling bodies can monitor the way that the finances are spent. On the other hand, he mentioned the fact that a clear delimitation of the destination of this money should be released, otherwise, when its aims are general, it is difficult to find out where the money was spent and what is was spent on. Gaibu also said that, in general, the account is not at risk of being misused, but this can happen in cases where there is no transparency on where the money is going, for example, when it is not clear what kind of services the money was spent on.
Millions ‘frozen’ for the moment
Even if 10 days have already passed since Deputy Prime Minister Victor Stepaniuc declared within a briefing that the humanitarian aid collected was nearly all alloted, ‘the target’ for the financial aid in the MF and MCDT accounts has not yet been fixed. We would like to mention that in the MF’s account, on August 18 there was more than 14.9 million lei, and in the MCDT’s account on August 12 there was 1.15 million lei. Angela Voronin, the Head of the State Treasury – a subdivision of the MF, told us she didn’t know what criteria would be used regarding how the donated money would be spent, but she added that this decision would be made by the government, which had yet to be approved. As for the MCDT, the person responsible within this institution told us that all the available information is on their press release, which does not mention anything about the way the money has been distributed.
Lilia Carasciuc, the chief executive of Transparency International-Moldova, considers that, in this case, the only excuse of the authorities is the haste with which they try to undertake more measures, which, in turn, results in a mess. Even if normally transparency should be everywhere where money is, Carasciuc said that, at the moment, the authorities can’t be accused of not having a plan for distributing the money. “To tell them to post all the information on a web page to have total transparency and not to build houses is not a good decision,” the chief mentioned. At the same time, Carasciuc is concerned with the fact the authorities could fund an electoral campaign from the donated money.
But before the prime minister went on holiday, the government managed to pass a law stating that donors who contribute to repairing and rebuilding damaged houses will be exempt from paying income tax on the money they have donated. Greceanii mentioned that this bill was to support donors, and that it would urgently be sent to parliament after the ministers return from holiday.
Some people buy, others build
According to a list published on the website of the MCDT, JSC Moldtelecom is one of the companies that has bought houses for the affected people. Iurie Ungureanu, councillor of the general director, confirmed to us the fact that Moldtelecom had bought eight houses (three in Lipcani and five in Sirauti, both in the Briceni district). “Everything is coordinated with the local authorities. We ask who needs a house, and they choose families and, later on, the houses for sale are determined,” the councillor explained to us, referring to the purchasing process.
Even if Ungureani didn’t tell us what the sum of money spent by the company on purchasing houses was, he told us that one million lei donated by the institution’s employees had already been spent. The councillor of the general director explained very simply why Moldtelecom preferred to buy houses rather than to put money into the MF’s account: “the money was not given because we don’t trust the MF, no! We just wanted to see what we had bought, to know where it was, to meet the people who would live in these houses. We wanted to do something real, which could be touched, not just to put some money in an account.”
At the same time, according to some controversial declarations made in the past by Vladimir Baldovici from the MCDT, at the end of last week or at the beginning of this week, the building of houses for people from Briceni district should be started. Vasiliev, from the press service of the MCDT, couldn’t give us more information this time too, both about selected companies which will build the houses and about the day when this work will start. She told us that since there is no official information about this problem at the moment; it means the work hadn’t started yet.
We mention here the fact that, at the beginning of the current week, after opening a bank account for building the houses urgently, the MCDT has already opted “for the purchase of houses as the most operative possibility examined by the experts.”
Selected companies and interrupted work
As Maria Panfili, chief engineer within this institution told us, the design of the houses which will be build for the people from Briceni district was issued by the State Designing Institute’s ‘Ruralproject’ in 1985, yet mentioned that the plan has been modernised and adjusted to suit the region better. According to Panfil, the houses will have a steel basement, the walls will be made of limestone and the ceiling will have metallic tiles. At the same time, sources from the institute told us the assessment of the costs has to be improved by the MCDT, and their reply is expected in a few days, explaining why she couldn’t tell us the precise cost of a house. Despite that, the approximate figure mentioned by employees of the Ruralproject is half a million lei per house.
Even if the assessment of costs for August 19 has not yet been approved, sources from Briceni city hall told us houses had already started to be built the previous week in Criva, where the construction company Rom-Prim was digging up the foundations for new houses.
Andrei Popescu, technical director of Rom-Prim, confirmed to us that work started at the end of last week and that the company intended to build 26 houses. The director added immediately that, at the order of the MCDT, the work has been already stopped. According to Popescu, the ministry decided not to build houses for affected people anymore. Instead, it decided to buy them. The stated reason in a press release of the MCDT is the difference in price between building a house and a purchased one, as well as the fact that most of the houses already built contain some furniture, have gardens and are already real households. The technical director of Rom-Prim also told us his company was selected by means of a letter which came from the ministry with the proposal to carry out the building work. This happened even if according to him, the company didn’t file any request with the intention to build something.
As for the radical ‘reshaping’ of the MCDT in terms of problem solving, Gaibu said this is the drawback of the decision-making system and represents a management problem. “Little thought on decisions have been made, the necessary evaluation has been carried out, and after that another strategy has been accepted. This thing is typical of the Republic of Moldova,” the expert mentioned. Even if Gaibu stated this problem is very common in the private sector too, he emphasises that at government level, everything has to be made very professionally, and a strategy has to be well thought out before being approved.
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