Public procurement

Perished food products with “bio” label in kindergartens in Chisinau: companies, schemes and tenders

Poză simbol. Sursa: chisinauedu.md
Author: Mariana Rață
26/11/2016 18669

Several audio recordings of intercepted phone calls of employees of some kindergartens, officials of the Departments of Education, Youth and Sport of Chisinau and of several businessmen have shocked the public opinion. Intercepted phone calls reveal that small children in kindergarten were supplied with perished food products. Names of the persons involved are kept in secret by investigators who pretend to fear for the safety of the families who supplied the children with perished fish and meat. Center for Investigative Journalism managed to identify some of the businessmen who appear in intercepted phone calls and analyzed the companies that won tenders in 2016 for supply kindergartens of the capital with food. Most of these companies are not involved in the tender rigging case in education.

Ghena’s company,  best-loved by the Department of Education, Youth and Sport Rascani

Audio recordings of intercepted phone calls made public by National Anticorruption Center

„Ghena”, one of the protagonists of the scandal with perished products, appears to be Ghenadie Nicorici, founder and manager of Crinic Grup company. This company gained 7 tenders for supply with food in kindergartens in the capital in 2016. The company signed 3 most profitable agreements with the Department of Education, Youth and Sport (DEYS) of Riscani sector in the amount of 4.665.890 million lei.

Products supplied by Nicorici company seemed to be appropriate for children and DEYS from Buiucani sector, signed four contracts worth 472 012 lei in 2016. Also, Crin Grup was contracted by the psycho-neurological boarding school in Cocieri, Dubasari to supply with food worth 148,000 lei patients from this institution. In 2015, the company delivered food products to Stauceni mayor’s office.

Superficial tenders

As a rule, contracting authorities were not very exigent when they  set participation conditions in tenders. For example, under the tender book  of the tender organized on June 7 2016 by DEYS Rascani and wherein Crinic Grup  gained an agreement worth over 1.042.094 lei, the competitors were required to present a copy of the certificate of company registration, a certificate of fee payment, the last financial reports, sanitary-veterinary authorizations of company functioning and a statement on ethical behaviour and non-involvement in fraudulent and corruption acts (!). In all announcements for tenders gained by this company, the contracting authorities showed that the products must be ecological. Accountant of DEYS Rascani  was involved in tendering and leader of the working group for contest development was Andrei Grosu, head of the Department of Education. Today, he and his deputy-accountant Dumitru Vatavu were put under arrest for 30 days in the Penitentiary No. 13.

Wife, head at the State Tax Inspectorate

Ghenadie Nicorici, director of Crinic Grup. Photo: Realitatea.md

Company Crinic Grup, founded in 2003, has its legal address in an apartment on str. Calea Iesilor.  The apartment is registered on the name of businessman’s wife Luminita Nicorici. The latter is main inspector of the State Tax Inspectorate, municipality Chisinau. In the income on property for 2015, she showed modest incomes gained by her husband– only 41  thousands lei, from the activity of the 2 companies which he owns. Couple Nicorici have 2 apartments with a surface of 47,5 square meters and  21,7  square meters, a storehouse with a surface of 54,1 square meters and 6 cars, 5 of them were purchased in 2013. The cars which are not new, were imported from other countries.

Though they have low incomes, couple Nicorici and their 2 children seem to afford expensive holidays,  show photos posted by Luminita Nicorici on socialization nets.  

Another company, the same beneficiaries

Another company involved in the tender ringing case in education- Cordacom SRL was registered in the same apartment on str. Calea Iesilor. Founders of the company are Ghenadie Nicorici and Nicolae Curchi. Cordacom did not gain this year any tender organized by DEYS in Chisinau. But in  2015, this company  delivered food products to DEYS Rascani (4 agreements worth 2.390.000  lei) and DEYS Buiucani (2 agreements worth 770.000 lei). Also, last year, the company delivered products to the Institute of Mother and Child and the Psycho- neurological boarding school in Cocieri, Dubasari. In 2014, company did not sign agreement of food products delivery to the Municipal Clinic Hospital No.1.

It is worth mentioning that Ghenadie Nicorici owns the third company Nika Nicorici  located

on str. Albișoara 84, the address of Lyceum George Meniuc. According to data of the State Registration Chamber, the company manages restaurants. Ghenadie Nicorici was put under arrest for 30 days.

Company with hundreds of agreements in the  country

The audio recordings of intercepted  phone calls published by NAC cover the name of a certain „Lilian”  who should settle a problem related to payment of some illegal fees which the economic units should pay periodically to heads of departments for rigging tenders.  He is Lilian Sofrone, manager of the company  Lovis Angro,  that gained in 2016 at least ten public procurement agreements at DEYS Rascani, DEYS Buiucani and DEYS Centru. Total amount of agreements is 10,3 million lei, of which 7,8 million are procurements carried out by DEYS Rascani.  The Department of Education Rascani signed the last agreement with the company on October 20, current year.

Except tenders gained for supply with food in the capital, Lovis Angro  signed this year almost 600 state agreements for delivery of food products to kindergartens, lyceums, professional schools and health centres in the country. But the agreements signed outside Chisinau are smaller and reach less than one hundred thousand lei for a contract, except the mayor’s office in Orhei, Leova and some settlements in  the Administrative Territorial Unity Gagauzia.

On January 15, Lovis Angro  signed an agreement of food products supply to the school-kindergarten  No. 199 in Chisinau. This is the only case detected by us in the database of the Public Procurement Agency when an educational institution organized in 2016 a tender for products purchase, in other cases the procurements were organized by the Departments of Education. Kindergarten in sector Rascani purchased food products worth 943.291 lei. Lilian Sofrone  is among the businessmen detained by prosecutors in the tender rigging case in education.

Both company Lovis Angro and another company that  deliver food products to educational institutions and kindergartens in the country are registered on str. Columna 170. It is about company Artprest-Grup, founded and managed by Mihail Guțuțui. In mid last year, the company was included in the ban list of the Public Procurement Agency for inappropriate execution of the clauses from the agreement. The company does not have the right to participate in public tenders by November 2018. We do not know if there is a connection between both companies.

Another company gained hundreds of tenders

Audio recording of intercepted phone calls made public by NAC

Another company that has delivered this year food for children in the kindergartens in Chisinau is Sanex Trade, managed by Stepanida Grosu. Products of this company were delivered to the kindergartens in Botanica, Centru and Ciocana sectors. The company in Ialoveni gained an income worth 8 million lei for 9 contracts signed. Sanex-Trade Company delivered food both in Chisinau and throughout the country and signed more than 300 contracts with mayor’s offices, lyceums and healthcare institutions in many districts.

Two employees of the company Natalia and Serghei Bahcivanji were detained by police and were placed under arrest for 20 and 30 days respectively and they are charged of traffic of influence and active corruption. According to some sources, these 2 are daughter and son in law of Tatiana Cebotari, adviser of the minister of Education, Corina Fusu.

Also, they represent the company Status-Prim, another winner of the tenders organized by the Departments of Education in Chisinau. The company was registered in 2009 in village Alexandrovca, Ialoveni and is founded and managed by Nadejda Bahcivanji. In 2012, the company gained hundreds of tenders of food products supply to educational institutions in the country but later it did not  participate in any tender.

The database of the Public Procurement Agency does not show any contract signed this year by this company with any department of education in Chisinau. The company was contracted either through the Central Market or was a subcontractor of SRL Sanex Comert.

Natalia Bahcivanji  and his husband Serghei  seem to appear in the phone calls made public by the NAC. She is the woman who discusses with the man about the beaten apples that were supposed to be delivered to kindergartens.

Contacted by phone, Tatiana Cebotari confirmed that Natalia Bahcivanji  is her daughter, but denied any connection with the tenders gained by companies Sanex Comerț and Status Prim. „These companies gained tenders in 2009, 2010. I have been employed at the Ministry one year ago, how could I influence these tenders?”, reacted the adviser. Cebotari said that she was sorry that  following a bright career at Court of Accounts and National Energy Regulatory Agency, she is now subject to critics of the press.  "Has anyone proved  my daughter's fault? Is it a court decision? We conduct inspections throughout the country and now I can say that we have found food of poor quality ", she said. Minister of Education Corina Fusu, has informed us by  phone that she  was sick and could not provide any details. "I cannot give any details because I'm officially now on sick leave", said the minister.

Companies under Central Market’s umbrella

Managers of companies who have not signed direct agreements of food products delivery with the departments of education in the capital  were also detained in the tender rigging case in education. These companies seem to be contracted by the Municipal Enterprise Central Market that gained many procurement agreements with DEYS in Chisinau. Thus, Viorel Galasanu  is the manager of the company Draur Grup, established in 2001. In previous years, the company gained many tenders organized by DEYS Rascani and Buiucani.  We did not find information about company of Tatiana Jigau, another person detained in the tender rigging case in education.

Food suppliers to kindergartens in Buiucani district

Audio recordings from NAC show that the biggest problems with the quality of food were reported in Buiucani. DEYS Buiucani signed in 2016 food delivery contracts with companies Crinic Grup owned by Ghenadie Nicorici (2.1 million lei) and Lovis Angro (about one million lei). Also, the institution has contracted firms Credoprim (one million lei), Adrika (813,000 lei), Fabi & Lina (600,000 lei), Carnprodlux (665.760 lei) which, however, seem to have no connection with criminal cases examined by prosecutors.

Director of  Credoprim, Gheorghe Costru claims that his company delivers dairy products to kindergartens in the capital and they never delivered perished products. "I heard audio recordings of intercepted phone calls. Surely, I have a bad opinion. They come up with all sorts of proposals and win tenders. We are producers of dairy  products and we cannot afford to offer such a low price in tenders as they do. They bring products from Ukraine or elsewhere and then problems appear", says the economic unit.

Department of Education, Youth and Sport from Buiucani is the only one that signed agreements of food products supply with company Axedum, a poultry company in village Buteni, district Hancesti. DEYS Buiucani bought from Axedum food products  in the amount of  600.000  lei. Founders of the company are Galina and  Grigore Cojocaru, who manage many businesses. Contacted by the Center for Investigative Journalism, Dumitrita Cojocaru, commercial director of Axedum said that the company did not have any connection with this criminal case. „We have our own poultry farm.  We grow our own cereals and we feed them. We have a modern slaughterhouse. There were never any claims against our products. In contrast, employees from the kindergarten buy poultry from our farm", said the source.

Companies close to DEYS Botanica

The procurements performed by DEYS Botanica are quite curious. The authority bought most of the food products from Sanex-Com (4,3 million  lei, more than half of all the amount delivered by the company to the kindergartens in Chisinau),  and from Premium-prod SRL (5,6 million lei).  The last company founded in 2011, is constantly contracted by DEYS Botanica for food products delivery. Year by year, the agreements reach millions of lei. For the first time, Premium-prod  gained a tender from DEYS Botanica in June 2011, which is 2 months after the company was set. The amount of the first agreement was 4,5 million lei. In 2016, except food products, DEYS Botanica  purchased from Premium-prod, disinfectants and beds for kindergartens, in the amount of 738.000 lei.

The company with the legal address in town Ialoveni, is owned by Tamara Batin, and Violeta Palencu is the manager. A year ago, Palencu was state senior controller at the Court of Accounts. It is worth mentioning that no other Departments of Education in Chisinau  required this year the services of this company. In 2011, in an article about the summer camp „Poienita Vesela” in Danceni, Ziarul de Gardă  wrote about this company, contracted by DEYS Botanica,  that it has not  delivered in time certain food products for children. The representatives of the company did not reply for comments. It is worth mentioning that Premium-prod  is not involved in tender rigging case in education. 

Contracts signed in 2016 by Premium-prod with DEYS Botanica

 

Who delivered these food products to kindergartens in Rascani, Centru and Ciocana sectors

Lilia Babuc, acting director of DEYS Ciocana, escorted to NAC. Photo: Realitatea.md

DEYS Rascani  purchased almost all food products from Crinic Grup and Lovis Angro. Also, DEYS Centru bought a smaller amount of products from Lilian Sofrone’s company. Department of Education Centru preferred products  delivered by Amager Com, a company managed by Andrei and Ion Adjer,  and they signed agreements worth about 7 million lei, Sanex Grup and Prodagrotrade. It is worth mentioning that the last 3 companies are not involved in the criminal investigation initiated by the prosecutors.  Accountants Mihaela Manea and Olesea Malii were responsible for each tender and the head of the working group was Ion Musteata, deputy head of the department.

DEYS Ciocana  had favorite companies as well. Serviabil SRL  was responsible for food products  delivery to kindergartens in this sector and they signed contracts worth over five million lei. The company that was contracted only  by DEYS Ciocana  is owned by Tatiana and Gheorghe Angheluta. "We are not  involved in this scandal. We  are official distributors of Lactis and there have never been objections against the quality of our products. In this case, I do not know what to say. Everyone is responsible from  staff to top management. There is much to say about this scandal, but I hope that the investigation will be ongoing",  said  Victoria Angheluta, commercial director at Serviabil SRL.

 Profcar Trade  benefited actually from agreements just with  DEYS Ciocana, but of a smaller value–783.314 lei. This company is owned by Valentina Evtodieva. Contracts worth almost one million lei were signed with  Fabi & Lina and Nipetgal, a company owned by Nicolae Petcoglo, business partner of Fiodor Ianioglo, who was elected last week MP in the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia. Nobody of the representatives of companies  Serviabil, Profcar Trade and Nipetgal  is involved in tenders rigging case in education.

30 criminal cases and 11 municipal officials detained by NAC

Anti-corruption Prosecution started 30 criminal cases in tenders rigging  case in education, involving 24 persons, of which 18 were detained. 11 of them are municipal officials from the Departments of Education, Youth and Sport in all sectors of Chisinau. Yesterday, 4 of them were arrested. They are-  Svetlana Balean, lawyer at  DETS Botanica sector, Ana Varlan, head of DEYS Centru, businessman Ghenadie Nicorici and one more businessman. Today, hearings for preventive measures continue. Maria Cusnir, chief-accountant of  DEYS Rascani was placed under house arrest.

According to data of the investigation, the procurement process took place with serious violations of the law by favoring certain economic units. Scheme operated as follows: for signing procurement contracts, decision makers of the departments reached an understanding with a group of economic units to increase the prices to offers so that more expensive offers win tenders. Or by prior agreement, many economic units with different price offers, but which had the same founder participated in the tender. Economic units paid the civil servants for favoring certain sums of money every month or for each tender.  

After prosecutors revealed  schemes about food products delivery,  mayor Dorin Chirtoaca came  with a reply: "We expected such a situation. They were warned at previous meetings of the City Hall, to act in line with the law. " Yesterday, Chisinau City Hall announced that the general mayor  of the capital ordered an investigation on this case. The results of the investigation will be made public  by December 14. "The mayor has not received lately signals about the poor quality of food delivered to kindergartens. There have been such complaints in previous years  and they intervened.  The City Hall did not know about current  situation  revealed by prosecutors . We are awaiting for the list of officials covered by the criminal investigation to take a decision on them ", said the mayor's spokesman, Vadim Branzaniuc. Head of General  Department  for Education, Youth and Sports Tatiana Nagnibeda-Tverdohleb did not answer our phone calls to comment  on this case.

The investigation was accomplished under the Campaign „Public Money Is My Money Too”, carried out by the Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJM) and the Association for Efficient and Responsible Governance (AGER), within a project funded by the European Union and the National Endowment for Democracy.

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