The project "Education Reform in Moldova" is carried out at the expense of an external loan to be reimbursed by the country's citizens, and the unjustified use of public money is inadmissible, mentioned the members of the Parliamentary Public Finances Control Committee.
This conclusion was reached by the deputies together with the representatives of the Court of Accounts of the Republic of Moldova (CoARM), who examined on December 8, the results of the audit of the Project "Education Reform in Moldova" concluded on December 31, 2020.
The most significant observations of the financial report were presented by Petru Rotaru, member of the CoARM and the auditors responsible for the audit.
We mention that the project "Education Reform in Moldova" is a loan granted in two stages to the Government of the Republic of Moldova, the total value of which is 50 million dollars US. The closing date of the Project is December 31, 2022.
Although an unqualified opinion was issued following the audit, however, were identified some irregularities and problematic situations related to the capitalization of the project resources.
In 2020, the level of absorption of funds for the implementation of the Project's activities was 95.0%.
The Ministry of Education and Research has ensured a low level of execution of the means to the managed components A.3 and C that incorporate the actions regarding the consolidation of the quality of education or only 22%, the cause being the transfer or cancellation of some activities for implementation for other periods due to the influence of the epidemiological situation, as well as related to the delay of the acquisition process.
At the same time, during the reported period, an oversized level of execution is registered by the management by the Public Institution "Social Investment Fund of Moldova" (PI SIFM) of the financial means related to Component A.2 whose main objective is the renovation of 17 constituency schools. Thus, according to the financial reports, in the management year, expenses were actually made in the amount of $ 5.3 million, or what is an excess of 4.7 times the planned budget.
Another irregularity concerns the non-compliant management by the Social Investment Fund of Moldova of the operational expenses related to the remuneration process of the Fund team members involved in carrying out the Project activities. Thus, the decision-makers of the Fund additionally trained and remunerated persons, whose functions and attributions were not pre-established and coordinated with the Ministry and the Donor, the ineligible expenses representing 52.5 thousand dollars.
At the same time, from the sources of the Project, the remuneration for the forced absence from work of the director of the institution in the amount of $ 5.6 thousand was paid in a non-compliant manner, as a result of his dismissal and subsequent reinstatement based on the Court's conclusion. We mention that no remuneration expenses can be paid from the Project account due to disputes between employees and state institutions.
The audit verifications also attest to the avoidance by PI SIFM of performing ex-ante controls at the execution of civil works contracts. Thus, the institution admitted to increase the initial value of a contract by 20.3% without requesting from the Ministry of Education and Research and the World Bank the prior approval of contractual changes, given that they exceed the 15% threshold set by the donor’s directives.
According to the representatives of the Ministry of Education and Research, the major goal of the project is achieved, because so far 23 schools have been renovated.
The members of the Public Finance Control Committee reiterated the imperative of efficient and transparent use of financial resources. It was noted that the project is carried out on account of an external loan to be repaid by the citizens of the country, and the unjustified use of public money is inadmissible.
The Committee called on the responsible parties involved in the implementation of the project and the use of resources to take all the necessary steps to fully implement the recommendations of the Court of Accounts.