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I would like to draw your attention to three major decisions discussed today for adoption by Emergency Ordinance in Romania. The emergency ordinances have not been published (nor posted on a website) for public debate, as required by the Romanian law. The provisions of two of them appeared in the media today, as the drafts were leaked to the press informally; the contents of the third Ordinance, proposed on the Government’s agenda, and concerning magistrates and prosecutors, is fully unknown.
The first Emergency Ordinance concerns amendments to the public procurement legislation. According to a report from a reputable NGO on the draft, it allegedly allowed bidders in a public procurement process to choose to make secret any part of the bids submitted, unlike until now when all bids could have been requested by the public on the Freedom of Information Act (which only excludes some limited information from the obligation of public authorities to make it available to the public).
This increases the chances for conflicts of interest, e.g. the public or the media cannot ask to see who participates in the tender and check whether there is a relationship with the leadership of the contracting authority. Also, the Integrity Agency ANI is no longer the institution in charge with monitoring such conflicts of interest, but UCVAP, a rather obscure agency considered not very effective in ex ante checks of public procurement.
Conflicts of interest and mismanagement of public funds have been highlighted by the Commission as major issues in public procurement and they are also included in reports in the CVM. This provision worsens the previous situation.
The second Emergency Ordinance changes the statute of the media watchdog / regulator CNA. This institution, while not very well performing, presented some threat to Voiculescu’s media empire and at least issued fines for outrageously misleading media accounts and shows. Two major changes were discussed in Government session:
– the fact that any decision adopted by CNA becomes applicable only after and if there is a final court decision about it – e.g. if CNA decides to fine a TV station for slanders, the TV station can challenge the decision in Court and the fine becomes applicable only when there is a final court decision in favor of CNA
– the membership of CNA can be changed by Parliament, the members no longer have a fixed term mandate of 6 years.
While the second provision was apparently dropped, the first still affects seriously the capacity of CNA to do its job, rendering it de facto fully ineffective. Practically, any sanction issued by the media regulator can be enforced only in a few years.
Also, the Government proposed to discuss a third Emergency Ordinance concerning the statute of judges and prosecutors. Its contents are fully unknown to the public, as it was not published on the website of the Ministry of Justice. The Ordinance might be approved in any Government session soon, and it might be in breach in obligations under the CVM.
Such proposed Ordinances are violations of good governance practices and risk to eliminate very important checks on possible abuses by the Government, by affecting regulatory agencies and the powers of the judiciary.
Thank you very much for your kind attention to these matters.