Good Practice
PP Files reveal 60 percent of Romanian public procurements hit by complaints

Journalism project dosareachizitii.hotnews.ro, also known as “The PP files,” has highlighted flaws and irregularities in Romanian public sector procurement, and gives suggestions on how to improve procedures.

An article in EurActiv Romania says the project found that more than 60 percent of public sector procurement procedures are hit by complaints. In Romania public procurement is a €17 billion market, and according to official data from the communication platform used to award public contracts, more than 19,000 tendering procedures were initiated last year.

The National Council for Solving Complaints (CNSC) revealed that they made decisions on 60 percent of cases, meaning that these were all subject to complaints. Close to 40 percent of these complaints were about contracts financed by European funds.

Frequent irregularities were also found in the public procurement process. The National Authority for Regulating and Monitoring Public Procurement (ANRMAP) gave information about irregularities in contract-awarding procedures. This included using, in inappropriate circumstances, some awarding procedures which would normally be applied as exceptions. Another was dividing a contract into several smaller contracts to avoid going through procurement procedures. Yet another irregularity was ignoring rules on publicity, especially rules about publishing the awarding notice in the timeframe specified by law. The last irregularity ANRMAP highlighted was the inadequate and subjective use, during the evaluation of offers, of criteria included in the awarding documentation.

The Journalism project was launched in April to act as a corruption watchdog and raise awareness of dodgy dealings in public procurement. It has already revealed apparently illegal, restrictive qualification requirements in a tender document, forcing the Education Ministry to reduce turnover thresholds to a tenth of the initial price.

The project was launched by Freedom House Romania Foundation to combat criminality in public procurement and was a response to EU recommendations.

In another EurActiv Romania article, the director of Freedom House, Cristina Guseth, is quoted as saying that 80 percent of public procurement in Romania is fraudulent, flawed of manipulated. However, she says that this figure is more a perception than a result of measurement.

The project’s journalists have so far covered 17 cases of fraud and corruption, 5 of which were closed after a final decision. In one case, the mayor of the city of Ramnicu Valcea bought €9,000 of playground equipment in Bulgaria before reselling it to local authorities for €30,000. He was given a two-and-a-half year prison sentence. Another case, which ran from 2008 to 2013, involved a land swoop which would allegedly lose Bucharest’s Baneasa airport €4 million, although the defendants were eventually all acquitted.

With Romania just publishing higher than expected third-quarter economic growth results, and more economic expansion expected in the fourth quarter supported by higher public spending, this is likely to be an area the new administration (whoever that will be by next week) will be keeping a close eye on, especially if they are as committed as they say to Romania’s continued embrace of the European Union.

The dosareachizitii.hotnews.ro website explains the judicial process as well as the loopholes used by defendants. It currently lists a number of upcoming hearings, with details of the alleged crimes and defendants.