Money for cultural activities redirected to buy a car

07 October 2020

From this year's budget savings, the town hall of Marinici commune in Nisporeni district purchased a car.

From this year's budget savings, the town hall of Marinici commune in Nisporeni district has purchased a car. By decision of the local council, the savings from the budget line for cultural and sports activities - 47 thousand lei - were redirected for this purpose. While experts advise local authorities to manage money efficiently in times of pandemic, rationally and transparently, the mayor of Marinici says the car was absolutely necessary. On 11 September, the ten local councillors present at the meeting voted unanimously for the decision to decrease the amount of expenditure in the budget categories "Development of culture" and "Sport" and to increase the amount of expenditure for the town hall apparatus by 47 thousand lei. The redirected money was earmarked for the purchase of the town hall car. Without competition The total value of the car purchased (Dacia Sandero model) is 185 thousand lei. The local authorities of Marinici did not announce a public tender for the purchase of this good, and the mayor of the commune, Vitalie Veleșco, told the Independent Press Association (API) that the town hall did not have a car and the officials were travelling on business with the car transporting children. He says that no tender was announced for the purchase of the car, because the Law on Public Procurement allows contracted authorities to buy low-value goods without a tender if the purchase does not exceed 200 thousand lei. Maria Croitoru, head of the Marinici House of Culture, does not know about the budget changes and has not been informed that the cultural budget has been reduced to buy a car. "I don't know, I'll have to ask the town hall. They didn't tell us, I'll tell you honestly. I don't know, how can I answer if I don't know?". She points out that due to the pandemic, no cultural and sports activities were organised this year. The mayor confirms that no sports activities were held, such as the opening and closing of the sports season, so savings were created. At the same time, the local elected official states that the director of the house of culture is aware of these changes. Savings at the expense of culture in times of pandemic Independent public procurement expert Sergei Merjan believes that the Marinici local authorities did not take into account the priorities of this period when they decided to redirect public sources for culture to the purchase of a machine. "Three priorities have been set at national level: combating COVID-19, education and support for farmers due to drought conditions. If you look at the Local Public Administration Act, in the very first article it is specified that the local public administration is formed to promote the interests of the people in the locality. If money was initially planned for culture, it means that these means are in the interests of the people. Thus, those financial means had to be used specifically for certain cultural activities," says the expert. "This money could have been used to buy computers for schoolchildren" Sergei Merjan points out that decisions on the use of public money must be taken in a transparent way: "In order to be planned, a purchase must have financial coverage, which is also provided for in the Law on Local Public Finances. If this means of transport was planned in the budget, it must also be included in the procurement plan published at the beginning of the year. There are certain principles of good governance where the public authority must ensure that money is used in an efficient and transparent way. I am not just talking about the need to publish a notice. There has to be a demonstrated need to purchase something with public money." The expert argues that in times of pandemic, the Marinci authorities could have found another solution, for example, renting a car and using the savings to buy other goods needed by the locality: "They could have bought some computers or laptops for the pupils. In rural areas it is difficult for some children to do their lessons online because they don't have the equipment and some don't even have an internet connection...". Ala Revenco, executive director of the "Parents in Solidarity" association, confirms that during the pandemic some local authorities in the country made savings, including at the expense of children, because educational institutions did not function and the savings were redirected to other expenditure, often in non-transparent conditions and without the necessary justification. Lilia Zaharia