|The representative office of the Romanian Center for European Policies in the Republic of Moldova (CRPE – R. Moldova) is launching the report entitled “10 issues of the public integrity system in the Republic of Moldova” – and how they can be solved by the legislation under public debate.”
The authors of the report – Ludmila Gamurari, Cristian Ghinea (director of CRPE) and Laura Ștefan (member of the advisory group of anti-corruption experts attached to the European Commission) –identified 10 problems undermining the efficiency of the mechanism for the verification and control of the wealth of dignitaries and civil servants in the Republic of Moldova. The authors of the study analysed the package of legislative proposals launched by the Ministry of Justice and believe that they respond to the most serious issues identified, providing real solutions. Three bills are in public debate: “The Bill on the National Integrity Center”, “The Bill on Wealth and Personal Interests” and “The Bill on amending and supplementing several legislative acts”. The adoption of these bills would bring significant improvement to the performance of the National Integrity Commission (renamed as the National Integrity Center, with clarified attributions). The practice of the past few years has revealed that the wealth control system is affected by the following problems:
- Institutional fragmentation. Under the current legislation the NIC is a mere traffic officer, while the enforcement of sanctions is carried out by other institutions (the National Anticorruption Center, the Anticorruption Prosecution Office etc.) The bill on the National Integrity Center stipulates that the Center is responsible for applying sanctions, and brings more clarity in relation to its operation.
- The statute of limitations is too short. The statute of limitations for the application of sanctions for failure to file wealth statements is of only three months. This was construed differently by the institutions concerned: the CNI and the CAN. It is the main reason for which the CNI reports a significant number of sanctions applied for failure to file the statements. The new bill the statute of limitations is improved and the legal interpretation is clarified. Therefore, disciplinary sanctions can be applied within 6 month of the final finding of the CNI.
- The CNI verifies the statements, not the actual wealth. The legislation used by the CNI does not have a joint definition for what the CNI can verify: is it wealth statements or is it control of the wealth of dignitaries and civil servants? The new bill makes the transition between a formal control of the accuracy of the wealth statement to a real control of the evolution of the wealth of civil officials throughout their mandate.
- Lack of a civil mechanism for the confiscation of wealth. The current legislation and the Operating regulation of the National Integrity Committee does not provide for a civil mechanism of confiscation of wealth that does not correspond with the revenues of the officials. The new bill gives the CNI the right to notify the court of law with a request to confiscate any unjustified wealth from the dignitaries and civil servants. Moldova will have a real instrument to discourage corruption and undue wealth.
- The improper definition of “apparent difference in wealth”. The CNI deals a lot with small scale cases, involving insignificant differences in the declared wealth. This is not an appropriate role for an institution which should be targeting grand corruption. The new bill sets a threshold of approximately EUR 7500 between the declared wealth and the real wealth. This allows to narrow down real grand corruption cases from petty cases.
- The time limit for the control. Currently, the CNI can carry out wealth control only during the first year after the statement is filled. It is an unreasonably short time limit. The version submitted by the Ministry of Justice allows control both during the term in office and after the end of the term.
- Lack of access to databases of other institutions. In order to carry out wealth control, the CNI should be able to compare the declared wealth with their properties acknowledged by the state. But the CNI has partial, mediated and conditional access to these data. The CNI does not have direct access to the land registry data or to data regarding real estate. It is not normal for the state not to give this institution access to the data required to conduct its work. This problem is solved by the new bill on the National Integrity Center, which states that institutions holding state registries will conclude contracts to grant free access to their data.
- CNI’s faulty structure. The CNI is a collegial type of institution, consisting of five members appointed by the Parliament with a five-year term, and the Regulation of the CNI does not indicate the attributions of these members with clarity. This was one of the main reasons for which the CNI was undermined by almost permanent internal conflicts, which took their toll on its image and credibility in society. The bill solves this problem, stipulating a unitary management, with a president established by competition and appointed by the chief of state, with an own apparatus, consisting of integrity inspectors.
- Exposure of the CNI to direct political control. The appointment of the members of the CNI through nomination of a member by each group in the parliament creates a direct connection between the members and the political parties. The bill on the organising of the National Integrity Center provides for the establishment of the National Integrity Council, an intermediary body, where the institutions of the state are represented (the Parliament, the CSM), as well as the civil society (plus a representative of the media). This formula ensures the accountability of the institution, but, at the same time, it protects it from any direct interventions of the political parties.
- Insufficient resources allocated to the CNI as compared to expectations regarding it. The pace in verifying statements (110.000 statements in 2013 verified by eight employees) was caused, mainly, by insufficient staffing and the small budget. The average salary within the institution is very low by comparison to the responsibility of controlling wealth. The new bill allows the CNI to employ up to 50 people, which is a significant improvement. But the proposed impact will be reduced, if salaries remain unappealing. The CNI must be included in the justice reform measures, agreed with and funded by the European Union. The full report in Romanian is available here. The report is financed under the project entitled “Consolidating the institutional capacities of the National Integrity Commission”, supported by the Unit Official Assistance for Development of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with the United Nations Development Program – Moldova.
The positions reflected are those of the authors and do not involve the official opinions of other institutions.