The system of fines and damages needs to be revised, and efforts to collect arrears of payments, taxes and fines related to the environment will be strengthened, concludes the external public audit.
In this context, the Court of Accounts of the Republic of Moldova, on June 27, examined during a meeting the Compliance Audit Report of the issuance of permissive documents and the administration of environmental taxes, fines and payments.
The authorization of activities with environmental impact is carried out by the Environment Agency (EA) and the Agency for Geology and Mineral Resources (AGMR), by issuing permissive documents to individuals and legal entities that practice entrepreneurship with environmental impact. In the process of issuing permissive documents in the field of environment, are involved other institutions that are responsible for preventive control, such as: "Apele Moldovei" Agency (AMA), National Agency for Public Health, National Agency for Food Safety (NAFS), Inspectorate for Environmental Protection (IEP), etc.
According to the normative framework, in the field of environment 34 permissive documents are issued, out of which 2 are issued by AGMR, 32 by EA and 4 related documents related to the issuance of permissive acts, which are part of the set of documents required for annexation to the request for the permissive document.
During the meeting, the auditors informed that, during the period 2019-2021, 94617 permissive documents in the field of environment were issued, including in 2019 - 26218 permissive documents; 2020 - 34739 permissive documents; 2021 - 33660 permissive documents, and collected in the state budget revenues in the total amount of 1 billion 85.1 million lei.
The process of managing and issuing permissive documents is performed through automated information systems: Automated Information System for management and issuance of permissive documents (SIA GEAP); "Waste Management" Automated Information System (SIA MD) and the Automated Fishing Permit Management Information System (SIA e-pescuit).
The audit team verified the compliance of the processes for issuing the Authorization for the emission of pollutants into the atmosphere from fixed sources; the Environmental authorization for the special use of water; Environmental waste management authorization; CITES Permit; Notifications for transboundary shipments of waste and Sport, amateur and recreational fishing permits.
According to the Court of Accounts, the procedure for issuing permissive documents in the field of the environment was carried out with some deviations from the relevant regulatory framework, the deficiencies found due to both the human factor and the insufficiency of managerial controls related to the stages of issuing permissive documents. Thus:
- some files do not contain identification documents of the applicant, the permissive documents being issued after the examination deadline, these ranging from 4 days to 2 months, the files did not contain the notification regarding the suspension of the examination term, etc.;
- the issuance of Environmental Notifications/Authorizations on the transboundary shipment of waste was carried out in derogation from the applicable criteria;
- The Environment Agency admitted non-compliances in the process of issuing the Environmental Authorization for the special use of water, which was issued in violation of the provisions of the regulatory framework;
- the process of issuing the AEPA type permissive document is carried out with some violations of the normative framework, as well in the control report the signatures of the inspectors from the Environmental Protection Inspectorate and of the applicant are missing, the term of execution of the request is calculated incorrectly, varying from one day to 58 days;
- SIA MD is so far not interconnected to SIA GEAP, nor is it fully used in accordance with the requirements of the Waste Law and the SIA MD’ Concept;
- the SIA e-pescuit, by derogation from the provisions of the normative framework, was developed in the absence of a technical concept approved throughout a Government’s Decision, being designed based on the Regulation approved by the management of the Environment Agency.
During the meeting it was mentioned that, for several years, the quotas for industrial and commercial fishing in natural fish aquatic objectives were not approved. Although in 2016-2021 and until now the quotas for commercial fishing in natural water basins have not been approved, on the commercial fish market this was not felt, which leads to suspicions regarding the origin of the fish traded on the markets of the Republic of Moldova.
With regard to the administration of payments, taxes and fines related to the environment, the following is attested. During 2019-2021, payments were received to the state budget in the total amount of 1 billion 78.4 million lei, being attested the increase of revenues, caused also by the change in the payment system for natural resources in 2020, in particular the method of calculating the payments for the extraction of useful minerals (ECO 114612), which led to an increase in revenues from 46 million lei in 2020 to 55.3 million lei in 2021.
The process of administering payments and fines related to the environment shows some shortcomings:
- the non-uniform approach regarding the collection of the revenues accumulated from the issuance of permissive documents, some being collected from the state budget, and others from the own budgets of the issuers of permissive documents;
- the arrears from the state budget registered a continuous growth trend for environmental payments, in 2020, compared to 2019 - by 3.6 million lei, and in 2021 compared to 2020 - by 4.4 million. lei, registering an increase from 12 million lei in 2019 to 20 million lei at the end of 2021;
- there is a lack or insufficiency of cooperation and communication between the Environmental Agency, the Inspectorate for Environmental Protection and the State Tax Service, which caused the capture of water in the absence of the environmental permit and the non-collection of possible revenues to the state budget in the minimum amount of 1.7 million lei and maximum of 5.0 million lei;
- during 2019-2021, as a result of the controls performed, IEP calculated damage caused to the environment in the total amount of 897.2 million lei, of which only 6.1 million lei or 0.7% were paid.
The non-adjustment for several years of the amount of the minimum wage and the coefficients for damages caused to the environment in the field of forestry, lacked for several years the state budget of significant financial means. Thus, the minimum wage is based on the calculation of the damage caused to the environment in the field of forestry, established by the Forestry Code, which is established by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Moldova no. 181/1994, the amount of which is 18 lei, which has evaluated up to 50 lei so far.
Finally, the Court of Accounts concludes that the general and special regulatory framework implementing environmental protection policy governs the field of environmental impact assessment and environmental expertise, has several shortcomings, ambiguous and outdated provisions, including conflicts of rules, which can prevent the clear, coherent and uniform application of the adopted provisions, and urgent and stringent measures need to be taken to harmonize the environmental regulatory framework.