Controversial politicians and businessmen fights over Romanian funding for Moldavian kindergartens
The Romanian Government has invested over 17 million euros in Republic of Moldova for the renovation of almost 800 kindergartens to be reintroduced within the educational system. Among the 200 construction companies which were awarded contracts there are political profiteers as well as businessmen with integrity or legal issues.
Tenders in the countryside
Romania and Republic of Moldova signed in 2010 a non-reimbursement financial assistance agreement of 100 million euros. Romania granted this money to its neighboring country to invest in infrastructure, education, energy and environment. Almost 20 million were dedicated to rehabilitation works of hundreds of kindergartens. There are 767 working contracts closed so far. The Moldavian Ministry of Education was the programme coordinator whereas the institution which practically spends the money was the Moldova Social Investment Fund – MSIF.
The MSIF’s Executive Manager Mircea Eşanu explained to the reporters the selection procedure of construction companies. “The process is conducted according to the World Bank. The MSIF is not involved within the tenders’ procedure or connected to Public Procurement Agency. We help communities by preparing the documentation, estimating the necessary amount, and offer guidance on the tenders. All the tenders are taking place in the village. At the beginning where the municipalities had low sums 200 -300.000 MLD (cca. 9.500 – 14.500 euro) the tenders aimed a group of villages. However in the majority of cases meaning 600 kindergartens the tenders took place in the village and the municipality elected the company”
Eşanu assured that all the selection procedures obey rigours in terms of integrity. He said surveys were conducted whether a company meets all the technical requirements, have a license and similar contractual experience. “The companies were checked in terms of litigations and sequestered accounts but usually we have not had such cases. Generally speaking there are mechanisms to disqualify the companies which are not meeting the conditions.” Based on the Eșanu’s statements on rigorous surveys 200 companies have won the public tenders to renovate the 767 Moldavian kindergartens. Some of the companies were awarded one renovation contract other up to 29.
Money from kindergartens and video chat
Provladina Construct received 11 contracts to renovate Moldavian pre-schools. An investigative story published in Ziarul Național probes how the local municipality of Șipoteni has chosen the company to perform insulation works on the local kindergarten building. Initially the mayor sent few request offers to several companies pretending to comply with the public tender legislation. At the end, the municipality granted the contract to Provladina Construct. The company is owned by Ion Susarenco a nephew of a local Democratic Party councilor and a closed relative to the mayor. The initial contract was in value of about 19.000 euros with the additional contract signed three months later of about 6.000 euros despite the fact the Moldavian legislation forbids additional contracts to be signed in value of more than 20% of the original contractual costs.
Daniel SRL is registered in Bălți. The company managed by Iurie Popa was awarded with eight contracts to renovate the kindergartens. Daniel SRL is a shareholder of other two companies, one of those being RC-STORE which has as managers two French citizens: Philippe and Maurice Cosyn. According to Moldavian media Philippe Cosyn registered under his name www.liveshowstudio.com a video chat studio. Data from the Moldavian registrar of Commerce shows that Philippe Cosyn open in February 2012 a company called RC-Store SRL. Through this company the French investor also owns a web domain www.rc-store.md. On the website RC-Store stated it opened the first flying school for small remote-controlled aircrafts. A call on the phone number mentioned on the RC STORE website was a surprising one. A lady answered and strongly stated there are no other people there than Daniels SRL owners.
One of the companies granted with 26 renovation contracts in the municipalities of Drochia, Cimișlia, Orhei and Ciulucani – Telenești District is Coceban - Construct S.R.L located in Chișinău, the Moldavian’s capital. The firm has been established by Olga Ceban and Sergiu Cobaș who is also the company’s manager. In spite of many construction works he recently had problems with several buildings his company worked on and had been subpoenaed in 2012 trial at Ocnița local court. Cobaș was fined for inobservance the construction regulations. According to the court decision acting as a supervisor of Ştefan cel Mare secondary school construction site Cobaș did not filled in the technical document, some of the assesments records and certificates of conformity were missing. When contacted Sergiu Cobaș confirmed the 2012 trial but he did not recall what was the out come of it.
Contracts for the Transnistria’s leader business partner
Another company which was awarded many contracts is Green Farm S.R.L based in Chișinău. 17 renovation contracts received this company founded by two firms SG Engineering & CO S.R.L. and Steaua - Grup S.R.L. Green Farm’s manager is Valeriu Pleșca a controversial businessman and politician. He was the Moldavian minister of Defense between 2004 and 2007 when the country was ruled by Communists. According to point.md in 2012 he borrowed almost 1.000.000 euro from two banks. Pleşca took 301.000 euro from Moldova – Agroindbank and 613.000 euro from Banca Socială. In both cases Green Farm was the debtor. Three years later in 2015 Banca Socială along with Unibank and Banca de Economii were wound up under the International Monetary Fund conditions following the disappearance of one billion US dollars from the Moldavian banking system.
Valeriu Pleșca was a co-founder along with his wife and son of the above mentioned Steaua-Grup S.R.L. In late December 2013 he was granted a licence for the MBC, a TV station focused on economical issues. According to Mold-Street publication the MBC’s manager is Valeriu Pleșca. The media outlet is owned by SG Media 1 SRL a company established by Steaua-Grup SRL (50%) and Seymur Akhunzada (50%). Mold-Street mentioned that Seymur Akhunzada is very active in Transnistria. Pridnestrovskaya Moldavskaya Respublika - or Transnistria - is a breakaway state of Republic of Moldova with no international recognition. A self-declared independent country, Transnistria is a nucleus of smuggling for weapons, cigarettes and alcohol. Akhunzada is the Kazakh billionaire’s Talgat Baitaziev right-hand man. Baitaziev is the owner of Râbniţa Metallurgy Plant the largest steel producers in the area. He is a business partner of Yevgeny Shevchuk the former Transnistrian president until December 2016. On the other hand, Seymur Akhunzada is the president of Board of Tiraspol based Ipotecnii Bank and the deputy manager of Râbniţa Metallurgy Plant.
Opposition blames the ruling party abuses while receiving contracts
Cronotrans SRL and Maistcons Grup S.R.L two companies with the same owner have won 22 renovation contracts. Cronotrans was established by Nina Iurcu and Petru Carabadjac in the village of Puhoi, Ialoveni district, the latest acting as general manager. Iurcu is a member of Liberal Democrat Party – PLDM and vice-mayor of Puhoi. Her head person is Petru Frunze the village mayor who complains over the renovation contracts. He said these contracts are awarded to the municipalities run by PLDM opposing party – the Democratic Party. Frunze complained for jurnal.md over the political pressures. “Every municipality has children and kindergartens to be repaired. Yet, the money was granted on other criteria. If we want to receive finance we have to be in Democratic Party -PD. If not, there is no finance! We have to face the consequences.” He seems not to see his vice-mayor company Cronotrans is being awarded with construction contracts. The company’s general manager Petru Carabadjac is the co-founder of Maistcons Grup S.R.L along with Victoria Donciu registered in the same district of Ialoveni.
As a general manager Petru Carabadjac has been investigated for the death of a Cronotrans employee. A February 2016 rule of the Supreme Court of Republic of Moldova blamed Carabadjac for not complying with the employees’ safety regulations within the company. “The employer is compelled to assure the safety and health of its employees, to take all the appropriate measures so that in the high risk areas to have access only qualified personnel who received proper instructions, to endow employees with non-hazardous working equipment and to offer the employees individual protection gear for free. Cronostrans SRL has not obeyed any of these above mentioned mandatory conditions as the workers building a gable were not given a safety belts and helmets.” Another court file to mention Cronotrans is connected to Carabadjac’s son who had broken the legislation regarding the employee’s social insurance.
Compared to Cronotrans, I.M. GLUCK S.R.L. has won eight contracts. The company is owned by Valeriu Tincu and Alexandr Bensak a German citizen. Tincu is a co-founder of other several companies among them Moldova Leasing SRL where a small shareholder is Anatolie Ghilaș. He is a politician and a former Moldavian Member of Parliament between 2009 and 2011 elected on Democratic Party lists. Ghilaș is the general director of National Agency for Land Registry and Cadaster since 2011 and a godfather of the Vlad Filat the former Moldavian prime-minister convicted for corruption. Anatolie Ghilaș has been a main figure in several investigative articles regarding his luxurious houses and public tenders.
In February 2017 during a Moldavian Government meeting it was approved a list of 83 new kindergartens to be renovated with Romanian financial aid. This time the champion of contracts was the District of Nisporeni the home of Democratic Party leader Vlad Plahotniuc. 17 buildings are to be here renovated with the costs estimated to 400.000 euros. All the mayors in the municipalities where the kindergartens will be rehabilitated are members of the Democratic Party. In the first stage of the project the Nisporeni district had 27 construction sites for which has been paid a record amount of about 1,2 million euros. By contrast in Ungheni District 28 kindergartens were renovated with only 655.000 euros. According to an official report 17,68 million euros were spent from the 20 million granted by the Romanian government to this programme.
This article was developed within the “Overcoming media’s stereotypes through cross border co-operation” coordinated by the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism and supported by The Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation – A Project of the German Marshall Fund.