ANI: Fraud, a mass phenomenon in local administration
National Integrity Agency (ANI) President Horia Georgescu stated yesterday at the “Conflicts of Interest and Incompatibilities in South-East Europe. The Romanian Case” conference that an internal study conducted by the institution in local councils, county seats and county councils shows that defrauding public funds is a “mass phenomenon.” “I believe that in the following period the issue of conflict of interests, especially in public procurements, will become the dominant part of ANI’s activity. ANI conducted an internal study in which it analyzed local councils in county seats and county councils, and the results were outright alarming. (…) Defrauding and channeling public funds in the local representatives’ pockets is a mass phenomenon,” Georgescu stated, being quoted by Mediafax. The ANI President pointed out that the legislative framework “which reached its limits” needs to be improved in order to stop this phenomenon. He pointed out that even if conflicts of interest are identified and later confirmed by court this does not result in the cancellation of signed contracts, given the fact that the whole process usually ends “three or four years” after the contracts are executed and paid. “It’s very important for the system of sanctions, the mechanism through which the products of the conflict of interests are recovered, I am talking about public contracts, to be faster, more efficient and to have effectiveness and efficiency, to have a character of deterrence,” Georgescu stated. He rejected the “political discourse” concerning the dissolving of ANI and pointed out that the agency “has become a success model, a model of good practice that can inspire other countries too.” An Expert Forum report on conflicts of interest in Romania, a report financed by the British Embassy, Finnish Embassy and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, was also launched at the conference. According to the report, although Romanian politicians “formally” supported the legislation on conflicts of interest, incompatibilities and the setting up of ANI against the backdrop of the EU accession, actions against the institutions, legislation and practices in the domain are visible seen from a part of them. The report also concludes that Romania has to continue to be monitored by the European Commission when it comes to the functioning of the anticorruption framework.