Public procurement

Secret Companies and Deals in Rezina

Colaj CIJM
Author: Tudor Iașcenco, Ion Perciun
22/02/2016 10787

Three companies managed by the same person are the favourites of the authorities of the district of Rezina in terms of public procurements. Every second contract in the field of repairs and constructions was awarded during the period September 2013 - April 2015 to one of the three companies in which Liviu Jitari figures either as a manager, or as a founder: Litarcom, AVI Borș and Capilla.

A predilection which arouses suspicion

Based on three contracts concluded with Litarcom LLC, the administration of the district of Rezina allocated 2.46 million lei for the renovation of the rooms rented in the premises of the Town Hall of Rezina. Other nearly 1.14 million lei were allocated for the erection of a monument and the arrangement of the square near the town’s central place, projects entrusted to Litarcom LLC and Capillati LLC. The third project, which was funded so far by about 13 million lei, consists in the construction of a sports complex and its total cost amounts to 74 million lei, according to the latest information publicized by the district administration. In accordance with the data of the State Registration Chamber, the owner of Litarcom LLC, as well as of AVI Borș LLC is Liviu Jitari. Together with Adrian Covaș, he also appears as the founder of Capillati LLC, with equal shares.

The three companies owned by Liviu Jitari were also preferred by other public authorities and institutions of the district of Rezina. For example, Litarcom LLC built a water treatment plant for which 12 million lei were allocated from the National Ecological Fund in January 2014; the company is also building aqueducts and sewerage networks worth 3.82 million lei and 3.24 million lei in Saharna Noua and Sârcova; in Ignăţei, it renovated the kindergarten where the works were estimated at 1.25 million lei. On the other hand, AVI Borș LLC has been selected by the Directorate for Education, Youth and Sport of Rezina to renovate one of the buildings of the summer camp for children "Nistru" in Saharna (the contract amounts to the total sum of 2.96 million lei).

Photo: CIJM

Rooms renovated at inflated prices

One of the projects in which Litarcom LLC was involved and where a number of irregularities were identified was the project for the renovation of premises rented by the district administration. Sources within this institution told us under cover of anonymity that inflated prices for the materials were included in the estimate of costs. To check this information, we sent an official letter to the President of the district, Eleonora Graur, requesting information to justify the costs incurred by the renovation of the rooms rented by the administration of Rezina district, as well as by the construction of the monument and of the fountain near the town’s central place. Our letter, sent in May 2015, remained unanswered.

From other sources (www.tender.gov.md), we found out that on 12th of September 2013, the district council of Rezina concluded with Litarcom LLC a contract for the renovation of the district council’s premises located on a storey of the Town Hall of Rezina. The total cost of the project was estimated at 1,847,234 lei. But three months later, the two sides signed an additional contract for the increase by 498.844 lei of the costs of works, and after nine months, the amount of the contract was supplemented with 118.986 lei.

Monuments are built in times of crisis 

Another project launched with much controversy is the one for the construction of a monument to the victims of the Second World War, of the war in Afghanistan and of the war on the Dniester in 1992. The initiative to build the monument was strongly criticized by a group of Communist-Democrat activists. They stated, among others, that it is a sacrilege to erect a monument symbolising the tomb of the victims of three wars near a place which is traditionally a fairground.

In fact, the district administration was obliged to conduct public consultations on the need for such a monument for which was spent public money which was more necessary in other areas, and on its location on this exact place. The district administration, however, has ignored the public opinion. It initially allocated 60,000 lei for design works, then almost half a million lei - for the construction of the monument. All this, despite the fact that a monument already exists in Rezina, being set up on a fraternal tomb of dozens of soldiers killed on the territory of the district during the World War II, and not far away, near the village of Cinişeuţi, there is a memorial complex named "Immortality".

A fountain „camouflaged” by urban planning works

Photo: CIJM

In April 2015, the District Council signed a contract worth 642 707 lei with another company owned by Liviu Jitari - Capillati LLC, hired to carry out improvement works in the central square of Rezina – on 27 August Street 1. Three companies participated in the tender, two of which were the companies of Liviu Jitari - Litarcom LLC and Capillati LLC. We attempted in vain to find out more details about this transaction from some district councillors who voted for the allocation of that amount. Marcel Rusu, the head of the Directorate for Constructions, Roads and Municipal Services of the District Council stated that, in fact, the contract contained other provisions and the sentence "improvement works in the square of August 27 Street 1" also implied the construction of a fountain near the wall the Town Hall building.

In his turn, the lawyer Andrian Furdui, who held at the time the position of architect of the town of Rezina, confirmed that the project for the arrangement of the square (the construction of the fountain) had not been coordinated, neither approved by the town’s administration, therefore he knows nothing about that object.

Vladimir Rusu, an inhabitant of Rezina who notified us about the fountain, thinks that the costs of the construction are exaggerated.

In order to check if such suspicions might be we justified, we contacted OPAL-Succes LLC, a company in Chişinău specialized in the construction of swimming pools, fountains, baths, etc. We showed to them a picture of Rezina fountain, asking the experts to estimate the cost of such an object. The next day, we received the answer: all the equipment could be purchased at the maximal price of 4,300 Euro and the works for the construction of the basin would cost about 3,000 Euro. It means that the "creation" from Rezina would cost not more than 160,000 lei. Why did the councillors allow the disbursement of 642.707 lei from the district budget for Capillati LLC? Why was the construction of the fountain concealed under the wording "square arrangement works" and why is all the information about the expenditures kept so secret? We hope to get an answer to these questions from the concerned competent authorities.

To note that a few months after the works were finished, the district administration “got rid of” the monument and of the fountain, transferring them to the mayoralty’s property.

A sports complex – another project with a lot of unknowns

The sports complex of Rezina is another facility built with the involvement of the company Litarcom LLC which leaves room for a lot of questions. This time again, we attempted to get informed at first hand, that is from the district administration. Those responsible for the constructions and repairs and the ones from the public finances directorate refused to provide information to us and referred to the President of the district. We followed their suggestion and requested the following information: Who and why has chosen this particular type of sports complex? How much do the facilities cost and which are the sources of the investments? What is the deadline for the execution of the works? Which companies participated in the tender for the selection of the contractor, what were their bids, and which of them was the winning bid? What amount of money was planned for the works in 2015, what amount was transferred and how much money was spent this year? We also wanted to find out how many people applied for the position of technical supervisor of the facility, who are they and who won the contest, and for which reasons 150,000 lei were allocated from the budget for the respective person, in addition to the budget for the sports complex.

We also requested copies of the minutes of the tenders for the selection of the contractor and of the technical supervisor in order to be further able to provide truthful and objective information to the readers.

Eleonora Graur, Photo: rezina.md

Eleonora Graur, President of the district, gave us a response which lacks most of the requested information. “The sports complex of Rezina is executed in accordance with the urban planning certificate issued on 24th of July 2014 by the mayoralty of Rezina and it will consist of a football field with the dimensions of 68x105 m, stands with the capacity of 2,500 seats, a hotel complex with an administrative building, a parking, a basketball court, a handball court, a swimming pool, green areas and a billboard. The complex will occupy a surface of eight hectares", says the President's response.

The letter informed that by November 2015, at this facility were executed and paid works worth 4,338,858 lei; that "the works are performed in an organized way and following the established timeline". The letter also informed us that, in addition to Litarcom LLC, three other companies (their names are not specified) took part in the tender for the selection of the contractor; that the contract with the technical supervisor (his name is not specified) has been terminated for "noncompliance with the contractual conditions", and that the construction works on the site are under the monitoring of the Directorate for Constructions, Municipal Services and Roads of Rezina district council. In another context, Eleonora Graur stated that "the decision to build exactly this kind of sports complex was made by the district council of 2011-2015 Legislature".

By the way, by its decision No.16/24 of 24th of December 2010, the town council of Rezina had allotted four hectares of land for the district’s sports complex, not eight hectares, as the President stated. Who, when and how has allotted four hectares more for the respective facility from the town’s property?  Nobody could answer this question.

According to the procurement contract concluded on 30th of January 2015, the district council of Rezina allocated 12,998,882 lei for the works planned at this facility, but, as Eleonora Graur said, Litarcom LLC consumed not more than 4,338,858 lei until November 2015 (according to other data - about eight million). Eleonora Graur stated that the works on the building site are supervised by the employees of the Directorate for Constructions, Municipal Services and Roads of Rezina district council. On the other hand, according to the information we hold, no employee of the above-mentioned Directorate has a licence in this area, and, moreover, as public servants, they do not have the right to involve in such activities.

Wishing to find an answer to a number of questions related to the activities conducted by Litarcom LLC, Capillati LLC, AVI Borş LLC in the district of Rezina and their relations with the district administration, in December 2015 and then on 3rd of February 2016 we sent to the entrepreneur Liviu Jitari an official letter with a set of questions. He left our request unanswered. Another question arises then: if the parties involved in these deals have respected the letter of the law in all they did and have nothing to conceal, why do they keep secret the requested information which should be available for everyone, because it concerns the public money.

Expert: the law is circumvented and public money is spent at the discretion of the authorities

Being asked to comment on the situation in Rezina, Olesea Stamate, President of the Association for Efficient and Responsible Governance (AGER) stated that one of the major problems faced by the system of public procurements in Moldova is the nearly total lack of planning.

"Although the law provides that the contracting authorities shall make procurement plans and the Contravention Code sets sanctions for the infringement of such provisions, this seldom happens in practice. As a result, the authorities spend the public money at their discretion, without any accountability to the citizens who, as taxpayers, make up the procurements budget. Thus, we find ourselves with monuments and fountains in times of deep economic crisis and with other facilities whose need for is dubitable”.

The expert also argues that citizens are deprived of any intervention mechanism in this process, as no public consultations are conducted to determine the need for such procurements, and, in the absence of prior procurement plans, only post-factum reactions are possible. "Such a situation implicitly leads to other abuses in the procurement process, because what cannot be monitored / observed may be easily defrauded. Moreover, the monitoring of contract implementation is a "black hole" of procurements in Moldova, as it seems that nobody has any responsibility at this stage", Olesea Stamate stated.

The investigation has been done in the framework of the Campaign „Public Money Is My Money Too”, conducted by the Centre for Journalistic Investigations (CJI) 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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