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Theft Also Responsible for the Rising Waters in Western Romania

04 Mai 2005 - 00:00

Two weeks had passed since the rivers in Banat overflowed the fields around them. On the one hand heavy rain was to blame, and on the other hand the poor maintenance of the system of channels designed to drain the excess waters down stream. This guiding system for excess waters cost already tens of billions of lei (millions of euros).

  • In the aftermath of the flooding we discovered not only the corpses of wild and domestic animals, but also the putrid smell of dirty dealings with public funds which supposedly should have fixed the problem.

    The minister for agriculture, Gheorghe Flutur, stated when visiting the region, that the civil servants of the National Company for Land Improvement (NCLI) were to blame for siphoning the public funds towards their personal business interests. "All I know so far is that it is a total mayhem. Surely, we will find the people responsible for the misappropriation of the money and held them accountable," said Flutur.

    A check of the Finance Ministry on the local subsidiary of the NCLI showed that public funds were squandered on leasing equipment to a private company, and then paying the same company for the services it delivered using that equipment.

    If that is hard to believe, check this: in order to qualify for European Union funds worth millions of euros, a small channel was falsely described to be as big as a river with tributaries, the size of Danube itself.

    One other maneuver made by the local subsidiary of the NCLI was meant at siphoning the money for alleged dredging of the Aranca channel and planting of fir trees on its banks, to stabilize the land. Only that a report of the Romanian Intelligence Service showed that aerial pictures proved the alleged land improvement works did not take place, and that the false description of the channel as high flow river was aimed at qualifying the adjacent companies to get subsides for irrigation equipment.

    Another wrongdoing of the local NCLI was to pay in advance 65% of a 1.5 billion lei (some 43,000 euros) contract to a company, Interject Ltd., which was to measure and record officially the plots of lands owned by the National Company. (This, while the contract stated that 30% of the money will change hands at the signing of the contract, 60% of the money will be paid at the end of the measurement work, and 10% will be paid when all plots would have been officially recorded.)

    In December 2004, a report of the Finance Ministry showed these facts and deemed that a criminal act had been committed, as described under the Penal Code.

    Another financial engineering provided for the National Company to lease equipment to a private company, Riviera Ltd., owned by Victor Ceia, one of the employees with the National Company.

    The opposition Social Democrat Party asked for the resignation of Sulfina Barbu, the minister for the environment. The SDP vice-president, Titus Corlatean, said yesterday that the present government proved to be incompetent and irresponsible. The SDP will ask for a parliamentary committee to be set up in order to assess "what was really going on."

    The SDP local subsidiaries will also start a campaign for collecting building materials for the people left stranded and with their homes in ruins by the rising waters.

    Translation : ANCA PADURARU
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