The Government did not include in the budget adjustment approved on Wednesday funds for the procurement of a presidential plane and of the “Wisdom of the Earth” sculpture, because it lacked a legal framework to do so.
“An inter-ministry working group is handling this long-discussed topic (the procurement of a presidential airplane – editor’s note). If there is a legal framework, resources from the state’s reserve fund could be used, but this is a hypothetical, it’s difficult for me to tell you. The idea is that there is no earmarking now, through the budget adjustment, because the legal basis does not exist,” Finance Minister Anca Dragu explained at a press conference organised after the Government meeting.
Likewise, she said that money was not allocated for the procurement of the “Wisdom of the Earth” sculpture either, for the same reason: the absence of a legal basis.
We remind our readers that, back in May, Premier Dacian Ciolos set up a special commission tasked with establishing a legal procedure for the presidential airplane to be bought by the end of 2016.
Likewise, given the fact that the public fundraiser for the procurement of the “Wisdom of the Earth” sculpture was a failure – because not enough money was collected from donations –, the Government has decided to allocate from the budget the entire sum needed to buy Brancusi’s sculpture.
At first, the state was supposed to pay only EUR 5 million, with the rest of the sum coming from donations, but now the sum earmarked from public funds will be EUR 9.8 million.
For the time being, the bill approving this sum is being debated by the Lower Chamber’s Culture Commission and Budget Commission, which will issue a joint report. After that, the bill will be put up for vote within the plenum and will then have to be promulgated by President Klaus Iohannis.
Although the procedural steps still left to be taken are few, things have to move fast because the deadline for the procurement of the sculpture, agreed by the Government and the current owners of Brancusi’s sculpture, is December 20.
Former Culture Minister in letter to Ciolos on procurement of “Wisdom of the Earth”: “Where is the transparency? Where is the honesty?”
Former Culture Minister Ionut Vulpescu has sent an open letter to the Premier, asking him for details on the way the “Wisdom of the Earth” sculpture will be bought and complaining that there is no transparency and the purchasing price is double the one established by appraisers.
“We are poor but when it comes to this work of art “it’s now or never,” this is what you were saying. If we are poor, Prime Minister, why did you and the Government you are leading approve its purchase at a price more than twice the level of the one established through two independent valuations carried out before you took over the Government?” the former Culture Minister asks in the open letter.
Vulpescu claims that the process of procuring the “Wisdom of the Earth” sculpture was not transparent, and asks several questions related to the purchase of Constantin Brancusi’s sculpture.
“First and foremost: what was the mandate of the negotiations commission led by the Culture Minister? 2. Who are the experts who appraised the sculpture at 11 million euros, after previous valuations had pointed to a value of 5 million euros at most? What was this valuation based on? 3. Who was part of the negotiations commission that accepted this 11 million euros price? 4. Who authorised the Culture Minister to accept the 11 million euros price? Was the approval given in a Government meeting?”
The former Culture Minister asks Dacian Ciolos what is the legal basis of the decision to extend the payment deadline to December 20, and who authorised Minister Vlad Alexandrescu to declare that the state will give up its pre-emption right in case six million euros are not collected through the public fundraiser.
“Your Government has exercised the pre-emption right in the “Wisdom of the Earth” case. Your Government, through the Culture Ministry led by Ms. Corina Suteu, DID NOT exercise this right in the “Manu Collection” case, despite being notified in this sense. Thus, known pieces, extremely important for the history of Romanian plastic arts, many of them part of the “Heritage” category, pieces signed by Rosenthal, Tattarescu and Aman, among others, were auctioned off. According to the auction house, up to 15 of the collection’s 24 paintings were auctioned off for 117,400 euros. A sum that is almost 100 times lower than the one your Government is willing to pay for “Wisdom of the Earth,” but for which funds were not found in the country’s coffers,” the letter adds.
“The miraculous disappearance of the Emergency Ordinance adopted on 12.10.2016 only serves to confirm the attitude of contempt toward citizens in general and toward those who contributed to the fundraiser in particular. After you announced the solving of the situation through the adoption of that emergency ordinance, I waited for its publication in the Official Journal, something that has not happened, not even today. What kind of Government is this, in which allegedly important documents that solve urgent and exceptional situations disappear without a trace? Were you scared of the possible legal consequences of their enforcement? Where is the transparency? Where is the honesty? (…) It’s not for Parliament to be held accountable for this “sulphurous affair” which calls for a series of clarifications, including from you!” reads Vulpescu’s letter.