*Joint Standing Bureaus: Special committees have 30 days to draw up report on 2016 budget revisions
The Joint Standing Bureaus approved on Tuesday Lower Chamber Speaker Liviu Dragnea’s request on the Lower Chamber and Senate’s budget committees conducting a joint investigation into the conditions in which the state budget and the state social security budget were adjusted in August and November 2016.
The Budget-Finance Committees of the Lower Chamber and Senate have 30 days to draw up reports on the Government Emergency Ordinances to adjust the 2016 budget, the Joint Standing Bureaus of the Lower Chamber and Senate decided on Tuesday.
Furthermore, the special committees will draw up, within 15 days, reports on the Emergency Ordinances regarding the adjustment of the 2016 social security budget.
In this sense, the leadership of Parliament has sent to the special committees Emergency Ordinances 14/2016 and 86/2016 issued by the Ciolos Government regarding the adjustment of the state budget, as well as Emergency Ordinances 15/2016 and 87/2016 regarding the adjustment of the social security budget.
PSD’s Marcel Ciolacu, Secretary of the Lower Chamber, announced on Tuesday that the investigation’s purpose is to check the conditions in which the adjustment of the state budget and the social security budget was carried out by the Government in August and November 2016.
“More precisely, the purpose of the investigation is to check the conditions in which the state budget was adjusted; the means of investigation – the hearing of all the people involved, which can offer information and clarification on this matter,” Ciolacu mentioned.
The goal of the investigation is for the special commissions to ask 17 questions. The commissions will then present a report within a period of 10 days since the joint plenum approves the carrying out of this investigation, according to the request filed with the Joint Standing Bureaus.
The Speakers of the Lower Chamber and the Senate will establish next week when to hold the joint plenum that will cast the vote that the two commissions need to start their investigation, Ciolacu added.
According to the request filed with the Joint Standing Bureaus, the joint commissions will raise questions such as: “What is the way in which potential revenues were constituted so as to be able to conduct a positive adjustment? Why were the total revenues of the general budget not correctly estimated during the first and second budget adjustment? What are the investments/programmes that were budgeted but were not carried out by each ministry?”
FinMin Stefan: Audit of Court of Accounts – necessary to check conditions of budget adjustments
Finance Minister Viorel Stefan declared on Tuesday that an audit of the Court of Accounts is necessary in order to check the conditions in which the positive budget adjustments were conducted by the Government led by Dacian Ciolos.
“In August, the Government (e.n. the former one) was already making plans about how it would get involved in the electoral campaign and was preparing its field trying to save appearances, declaring that they were making positive adjustments, that is, that the country was doing well. But it wasn’t, that was a gross lie. (…) Compared to the initial projection, upgraded through the two budgetary adjustments, the one in August and the one in November, on the execution side, one could notice that 10 billion lei worth of revenues were not achieved. Of course, the matter is a serious one, but on the other hand, it covers a technical nature. That is why I consider it necessary to carry out an examination within the special commissions (…), given that the commissions can benefit from the assistance of the Court of Accounts – an audit of the Court of Accounts, in order to verify the circumstances under which these revisions were made – the legal and opportunity conditions. Therefore, under these circumstances, we will probably get to well-rounded decisions after the examination within the joint sessions of the two commissions,” declared Viorel Stefan, at Parliament’s Palace.
According to him, if the year 2016 had been a successful one when it comes to attracting European grants, more money would have been poured into the Romanian economy and the effects would have spilled over into 2017 developments.
“That didn’t happen, so that is a problem that concerns the 2017 developments, including the budgetary projection, the budget execution for the current year. It would have been preferable for 2016 to be a year of absorbing more European grants. The great non-performance can be explained by the failure to attract EU grants. We will definitely find solutions to respect the commitments of the governing platform,” further said Stefan.
He added that he has big doubts about the professionalism and technocratic nature of the way governing took place in 2016.
“I am more inclined to say that it had a political-like nature. (…) This is the first time that budgetary revenues drop so low. A preliminary figure leads us to 29.2 percent of GDP, a decrease from 32 percent, we have had 33 percent before. The big surprise comes from the fact that such a result could be inherited from a technocratic government. What we collect this year affects the financial exercise of 2017. It is true that the results of the 2016 exercise are preliminary but they will become definitive under the reserve of the checks that are still being carried out. But everything points to the 2016 exercise and the returns this year,” further detailed Stefan.
The Finance Minister specified that it was “an unrealistic projection, an overestimation of budgetary revenues out of political reasons.”
“We haven’t mentioned the word ‘gap’, we said it was an unrealistic projection, an overestimation of budgetary revenues out of political reasons, and it is hard to explain how a technocratic government could have behaved that way. From now onwards, the Court of Accounts will come and will identify the government’s elements that are not legal, not opportunity-based, not pertaining to good management,” he added.
Viorel Stefan announced, in the same context, new possible measures for the authorizing officers.
“We are worried because we need strong actions, we must come up with a new concept of budget projection – and here we have in view a demarche that started 20 years ago and is stalled – that of the budgetary projection for projects and programmes. So, we no longer want to upgrade the budget to its historical result, but to scan all the authorizing officers, to reset the entire spending structure of each officer individually, to allocate each leu spent by authorizing officer to a programme from that officer’s portfolio. Thus, I am convinced that we will identify more inefficient, irrational spending that we intend to eliminate from the budgetary projection and especially from the budgetary execution in 2017,” stated the Finance Minister.
PNL’s Predoiu: Liviu Dragnea plans political revenge against previous Gov’t
National Liberal Party (PNL) MP Catalin Predoiu said on Tuesday that Lower Chamber Speaker Liviu Dragnea is planning “political revenge against the Ciolos Government” requesting the approval of an investigation committee in respect to a matter that can be easily clarified through a “simple question in the economy-related ministries.”
“In a style that we can already recognise in any of his actions, PSD President and Lower Chamber Speaker Liviu Dragnea is planning to exact political revenge against the previous government by convening the Parliament’s plenary session to approve an investigation committee in regards to actions that can easily be clarified through a simple question in the economy-related ministries. Concretely, what it is proposed is the investigation of the conditions in which the budget exercise was ended, which in fact is going to end in February, how budget adjustments were conducted in the previous year and why more accurate forecasts on state revenues have not been done,” Predoiu said at the Palace of Parliament.
He added that the data and information requested in this investigation are public, and Dragnea is making “a PR exercise which in the end will destabilise the institution of Parliament.”
“It is an exercise making the investigation committee institution look ridiculous, it is an exercise proving once more that Romania’s Parliament is mistaken for a personal political feud of Mr Dragnea. We are obviously protesting this manner of leading Parliament, we have voted against in the joint standing bureaus and we will bring arguments in the plenary session. We are noting that the PSD, instead of getting to implement its governance platform, is taking care, in a good tradition, of the burdensome legacy from the previous government. All sorts of benefits for the population were promised under false pretence, mainly financial, and now, when they have to get down to work to grant these benefits, the PSD is taking care of entirely different businesses. Instead of taking care of investments, re-establishing sustainable economic growth based on investments and not solely on consumption, PSD is busy with imaginary problems,” Predoiu mentioned.
Nicusor Dan: PNL, USR and PMP opposed setting up of investigation commission. Parliament is mass of manoeuvre
PNL, USR and PMP opposed the setting up of a commission to investigate the budget adjustments carried out in August and November 2016, Save Romania Union (USR) President and Lower Chamber lawmaker Nicucor Dan stated on Tuesday, adding that Parliament is “a kind of cannon fodder.”
Nicusor Dan stated that it is not necessary for the budget committees of the Lower Chamber and Senate to investigate the conditions in which the state budget and social security budget adjustments of August and November 2016 were made, because in his opinion the consultation of some official state documents suffices.
“There are some questions that can obviously be asked, but the formation of an investigation committee isn’t necessary, it’s sufficient simply consulting some official documents of the Romanian state, several Substantiation Reports, which justify those budget revisions,” Nicusor Dan argued.
He stated that parliamentary activity and democracy are “starting to degrade” because “it’s not alright for the Government to propose an empowerment law in which amendments to organic laws be motioned through Government Ordinances, and this is why the Constitutional Court of Romania was notified.” “It is not alright to convene Parliament from one hour to another, it is not alright to convene Parliament just as an excuse so that the Government can issue emergency ordinances. Therefore, there are all these things. Somehow Parliament is some sort of mass of manoeuvre so that the Government can issue ordinances – it cannot issue simple ones and, therefore, they are emergency ordinances,” the USR Lower Chamber lawmaker claimed.