In the context of the announcement, during the Government meeting of May 24, 2023, of the rectifications to the State Budget Law for the current year, the Court of Accounts of the Republic of Moldova (CoARM) comes with the following statement.
The corrections aim, among other things, at increasing the reference salary for some categories of budget workers, in particular, for the employees of ministries. Certainly, this important initiative will contribute to strengthening the functional capacities of the institutions and to raising the professional level of the staff in the concerned institutions. We note, with regret, that the Court of Accounts is not in the list of these institutions, and the salaries of the institution's employees are much lower compared to other public institutions.
With the request to increase the reference salary up to 2500 lei for the CoARM’s officials (with the exception of the Members of the Court - persons with public dignity), at the level of other institutions with similar functions, the CoARM has repeatedly addressed the Ministry of Finance. We did not receive a response to any of these addresses and we were not invited to consultations or discussions on the mentioned subject. Also, regarding the rectification of the Budget Law for 2023, the CoARM was not informed or consulted.
In the context of the aforementioned, the Court of Accounts addressed the Parliament with the request to include the CoARM’s employees (with the exception of persons with positions of public dignity) in the provisions of this draft law.
This request is based on the following considerations of major importance:
- the insufficient salary level of the employees of the Court of Accounts determines the high fluctuation of the staff, in 2022 the fluctuation rate is increasing (12%), compared to 7.3% in 2021. Thus, in the last 3 years, more than 30 employees left the Court of Accounts, the overwhelming majority being employed not in the private sector, but in other public institutions, at higher salaries (MFAEI and embassies, NERA, NAC, NMIC, PPA, NBM, NARA, MoF, MoD etc.). Under the conditions described, this process will continue, affecting the professional capacities of the supreme audit institution;
- the situation regarding staff turnover will worsen in the near future, because, according to the draft law, for the personnel of the ministries, the reference salary will increase up to 3000 lei. This situation will certainly increase the exodus of qualified specialists from the Court of Accounts to other institutions, with more advantageous salary conditions;
- the same reason, the salary level, conditions the current existence of about 30 vacant positions out of about 120 auditor positions. The staff identification and recruitment process is an extremely difficult one, because the salary level does not increase the attractiveness of the Court of Accounts as an employer;
- according to the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, the Court of Accounts is a budgetary institution, which can only be financed from budgetary allocations. For these reasons, we cannot have receipts from extra budgetary funds;
- this address comes in the context of the efforts made by the authorities of the Republic of Moldova regarding the achievement of the criteria for the accession of the Republic of Moldova to the European Union, set out in the Analytical Report of the European Commission (EC) on the alignment of the Republic of Moldova with the EU acquis, published on February 2, 2023. Also, the request is included in the context of the recommendations of the international peer review evaluation of the Court of Accounts, carried out under the auspices of SIGMA - the joint initiative of the European Commission and the OECD, recommendations that were taken into account by the European structures when preparing the Analytical Report:
”The CoARM must have sufficient status, especially in terms of its professional requirements and its important role in examining the use of public resources. This should be reflected in the salary of the CoARM’s staff which should be at least proportional to the salary of employees of institutions with similar professional requirements”.”
- an eloquent example of the impact and finality of the audit activity in the context of improving the public finance management system is the analyzes and evaluations carried out by national and international partners, including the civil society. Thus, in the evaluation report of the implementation of the National Integrity and Anticorruption Strategy (NIAS), carried out by the Center for Analysis and Prevention of Corruption (CAPC), it was found that, in a period of 4 years, following 52 sanctions for acts of corruption found based on the reports of the Court of Accounts, a damage of over 5 billion lei caused to the state was recovered, which demonstrates the impact of the CoARM's activity. We note that, during the last years, the reports of the Court of Accounts addressed issues of major importance for the country, such as public procurement, management of public patrimony, customs and fiscal facilities, the field of natural gas supply, etc. In the context of the last audit, for comparison, we note that the cost to be paid to the private companies involved in the debt audit in the field of natural gas constitutes almost 50% of the annual salary fund of the Court of Accounts, which carries out which performs on average about 56 audits annually;
- we draw your attention to the fact that the conditions regarding the external audit were included by the European Commission in Cluster 1: "THE FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ACCESSION PROCESS" in the Analytical Report on the application for the accession of the Republic of Moldova to the EU, which implies measures to be undertaken as a matter of priority by the country's authorities to record the necessary progress in the accession process;
- currently, the public authorities are involved in the development of the National Action Plan regarding the achievement of the criteria for the accession of the Republic of Moldova to the European Union and regarding the implementation of the Moldova - EU Association Agreement for the years 2023-2027, within the sectoral working groups. In the context of the contribution to Chapter 32. Financial control, Section II. External audit, a series of actions have been proposed to contribute to the fulfillment of EC’s requirements, the most important ones refer to ensuring the independence of the institution and the salary of the CoARM’s employees. The given actions were consulted with external partners and received the positive opinion of SIGMA experts;
- the weakening of the positions of the external public audit creates a risk for the successful implementation of the Public Finance Management Development Strategy for 2023-2030, with the Court of Accounts having an important role in this process, correlated with the implementation of the Association Agenda.
We mention that, in the summer of 2022, the Court of Accounts submitted to the Ministry of Finance the draft CoARM’s budget for 2023, which provided for the coverage of the most urgent needs to ensure the institution's activity. Unfortunately, no proposal from the Court of Accounts has been accepted by the Ministry of Finance. As a result, the budget of our institution for the year 2023 was approved, practically at the same level as the year 2022, in the conditions of the considerable increase in costs for a series of services related to the performance of the institution's activity. Under these conditions, for the first time, the budget of the Court of Accounts for the current year is a deficit one. The allocations for several items in the budget only cover the needs for a maximum of 9-10 months of the year.
Under these conditions, there remains a high risk that all the progress and achievements recorded by the Court of Accounts and highly appreciated by external partners will be compromised, and the institution's capacities will decrease dramatically.
The address of the Court of Accounts to the Parliament was made pursuant to art. 4, lit. (4) from Law no. 260 from 07.12.2017 regarding the organization and functioning of the Court of Accounts of the Republic of Moldova.