In the aftermath of CIJM investigations // "Criminal shards" of a 14 million ecological project

Viorica Mija

Officers from the National Anticorruption Center (CNA) and prosecutors from the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office (PA) have initiated a criminal case involving abuse of office and large-scale fraud in connection with the 14 million lei grant awarded through the National Ecological Fund (FEN) to SA "Reciclare" for the recycling of broken glass. The scheme by which the funds were redirected to an NGO-affiliated LLC was exposed by reporters from the Center for  Investigative Journalism in late 2022, as detailed in the investigation "BLACK HOLES IN THE STATE'S 'GREEN FUND'."

In 2021, the National Ecological Fund (FEN) approved the financing of an investment project titled "Creating Sustainable Solutions for the Recycling of Glass Shards" with a sum of 14 million lei, and the beneficiary was determined to be AO "Reciclare". Subsequently, the NGO released an announcement for the purchase of the required equipment, published on August 12, 2021, with a clarification period until August 25.

Potential bidders had a limited time to submit their proposals. Within the 9-day window, only SRL "ABS" submitted an offer that fully met the selection criteria for the procurement. It is worth noting that the price of these goods (equipment for cleaning and sorting glass shards, containers/dumpsters for the selective collection of glass, and two vehicles for the selective collection of glass waste) was precisely evaluated at 13,981,100.00 lei, an amount identical to that indicated in the participation announcement posted by AO "Reciclare." The offer was submitted on September 3, and by September 7, the contract had already been awarded. The award document was signed by the commission's chairman, Vadim Axentii, who is also an administrator of the "Reciclare" public association. In other words, the money was merely transferred from one entity to another.

Given the lack of competition, the sole supplier, being the only participant in the tender, delivered goods to AO totaling 13.98 million lei. These goods had been procured by the AO in previous years, and a depreciation of 3.66 million lei had been calculated for them. Consequently, their remaining accounting value at the time of sale to AO was 4.2 million lei. As a result, the selling price of the previously used goods was increased by the supplier by 9.78 million lei, more than twice the remaining accounting value, and by 6.1 million lei, which was 1.7 times higher than the procurement price established by the supplier in previous years. The report also underscores that both the equipment for cleaning and sorting glass shards and the waste collection trucks are used by SRL, which holds an environmental permit for the management of glass waste, issued on May 25, 2022, for a five-year period, three months prior to the announcement of the procurement procedure.

The address of "ABS" SRL, also mentioned in the award contract, is Grădina Botanică Street, 9. The "Reciclare" Public Association also shares the same legal address, highlighting the close collaboration between the two entities.

When asked to comment on the situation, Serghei Balica, the manager of SRL "ABS", mentioned that waste sorting and recycling activities are essentially thankless jobs, and they don't yield profits beyond the satisfaction of implementing sustainable solutions for environmental protection. On the other hand, criticism is not uncommon.

"I have my own principles and activities that speak for themselves. I won't react or dispute their observations. I am recommended by ecological projects that have made a significant, immeasurable positive impact on the environment, even if they didn't yield monetary profits," Balica responded.

On the other hand, anti-corruption prosecutors and CNA officers assert that "both the members of the Association and the contracted economic agent would have acted in collusion, pursuing a common material interest, which was realized by fraudulently obtaining the mentioned investment project."

Viorica Mija

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