The more transparent the activity, the less temptation for corruption

13 October 2020

Local public authorities in the cities of Criuleni, Otaci, Briceni, as well as the district councils of Ocnita, Taraclia and Briceni were the most non-transparent in the country in 2019.

Local public authorities in the cities of Criuleni, Otaci, Briceni, as well as the district councils of Ocnita, Taraclia and Briceni were the most non-transparent in the country in 2019. At least that's the data from a report by the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives (IDIS) "Viitorul", developed together with the Slovak organization INEKO after evaluating 32 districts and 60 largest rural and urban localities in the country. The assessment was based on nine transparency criteria: access to information, citizen participation in decision-making, budgeting, organisation and conduct of public procurement, management of public property, conflict of interest, human resources, social services and local government investment. The existence of a local authority website and its updating with information needed by citizens is very important to ensure access to information. According to the monitoring report: Transparency of local public administration authorities in Moldova in 2019, the best example in this regard is provided by the city halls of Balti, Chisinau, as well as Falesti and Straseni. At the opposite pole, there are local authorities that do not have an electronic page or they are not functional. These include the cities of Dondușeni, Criuleni, Otaci and others. The deputy mayor of Criuleni, Sergiu Poponeț, says the town's website was blocked for half a year and only a week ago was updated with new information. At the same time, the site's "Budget", "Transparency in decision-making" and "Public procurement" sections contain no information. The deputy mayor said that until now citizens were informed about the decisions of the town hall through the local newspaper, social networks and on the information board in front of the town hall. Reduced transparency at all stages of public procurement The monitoring results show reduced transparency at all stages of public procurement. Thus, some first and second tier LPAs do not inform the public of the tender notices, others do not communicate the results of the purchases. The districts of Anenii Noi, Dubasari, Hincesti, Ialoveni and Ocnita are mentioned here. Iurie Plopa, President of Ocnita district, blames citizens who are not interested in participating in the procurement process. "We can't pull people by the hand: come on, please, participate in the tenders. Those who are interested participate, those who are not - don't. The information is placed on the District Council website, I gave the indication that all procurement contracts should be indicated," explained Plopa, who was elected district chairman after the local elections last autumn. Diana Ranga-Enachi, an expert in public procurement, says that publishing notices in as many information sources as possible, including on the town hall's website, is proof of transparency. "The publication of procurement contracts is not required by law, but local authorities are obliged to publish on their website half-yearly/quarterly and annual monitoring reports on the execution of procurement contracts. These must include information on the subject and value of the contracts, the economic operators who execute them, as well as any deviations from the contractual provisions and, possibly, the sanctions applied" - says the expert, noting that these provisions are often not respected, and if such reports are published they are only of a formal nature. No public consultations In the monitoring report on the transparency of local authorities, it is mentioned that some authorities did not hold public consultations in general in 2019, and some of them mimed some consultations, about which the locals did not even know. The mayor of Basarabeasca, for example, did not consult with citizens on the draft budget for 2020. However, the mayor of Basarabeasca, Vitalie Cimpoieș, says that residents were informed about the budget in other ways: "Honestly, I don't know if the draft budget was published somewhere online, but we usually publish brochures with the budget, in which we indicate where the money is spent and give them to people for information. I go to different parts of the city and explain how public money has been spent. People can also find out from the information board at the entrance to the town hall." Not so: the budget is published on the eve of consultations For his part, Viorel Pîrvan, an expert at IDIS "Viitorul" and author of the report, says that in many cases the local budget is submitted to public hearings and consultations too late. "International rankings show that transparency in our decision-making process is low. Authorities try to consult citizens at the final stage, in November - end of December, when the budget already has to be approved. At that point, however, citizens can no longer intervene and change what has already been calculated. People need to be informed at the initial stages, to be made aware of the draft budget much earlier than on the day of the consultations," says the expert. He is convinced that where there is transparency, public money is used more responsibly: "If the work of a local public authority is always in the public eye, there is less room for manoeuvre and less temptation to corrupt". The country's 60 municipalities and 32 district councils are being assessed for the fourth year in a row. The monitoring report was based on information available on official websites and responses to questionnaires sent to the authorities. It should be noted that some public authorities did not even respond to requests for information. Mariana Jacot, Independent Press Association