The audited entity's reactions to the Court of Accounts' findings must be appropriate, responsible and in line with the legislation, mentioned the Chairperson of the Public Finance Control Committee (PFCC), Tatiana Cunețchi.
We mention that the Court of Accounts of the Republic of Moldova (CoARM) presented on December 8, within the PFCC, the results of the Audit on compliance of the public procurement within the system of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research (MECR) in 2020.
The audit team presented the most significant findings in the estimation and planning of public procurement, as well as in the stages of awarding, executing and monitoring procurement contracts. The audit evidence was collected at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, 88 budgetary institutions and about 113 subordinate self-management institutions.
In 2020, the entities subordinated to MECR made acquisitions in the total amount of 608.3 million lei, of which low value acquisitions and up to 10.0 thousand lei in the amount of 291.5 million lei or 47.9% of total procurement (including budgetary entities - 33.9% and self-management - 60.5%).
According to the audit findings, the entities subordinated to the MECR did not ensure compliance with the needs assessment, budget determination and preparation of the procurement plan, nor was the correlation between the approved budget and the procurement plan ensured. Thus, 87 budgetary institutions, according to the specified budget, had planned procurements in the amount of 640.48 million lei and 602.32 million lei, respectively. Of these, only 25 entities have developed the procurement plan for 2020 in the total amount of 61.18 million lei, or only for 10.2% of the specified procurements. Also, out of 106 self-managed institutions active under the MECR, only 29 entities have developed the procurement plan for 2020, in the amount of 108.3 million lei out of the total procurement of about 654.7 million lei.
The Court of Accounts points out that the entities subordinated to the MECR did not ensure the organization and proper fulfillment of the attributions of the working groups in public procurement, not being expressly established the attributions of each member, did not prepare accordingly the public procurement file, did not ensure an economic-financial substantiation of the existing solutions for determining the procurement. (For example: “Moldova-Concert” Concert and Business Organization; Special boarding school for blind and partially sighted children in Balti).
Poor public procurement planning determined the deficiencies admitted at the stage of selection and award of procurement contracts, being allowed the division of procurement. For example, the procedure for purchasing textbooks (39.74 million lei) unjustifiably combines the procurement of the use of “copyright on textbooks” and the procurement of “printing services”, which generates deficiencies in the correct determination of the estimated purchase value and criteria concerning the choice of winner. Thus, in case of the need to republish a manual, MECR carries out the procurement through direct negotiations without publication from the winning economic operator of the initial tender, which led to an increase in the value of the manuals by 8.4 million lei. In another case, the purchase of liquid hand sanitizer (28.9 million lei), necessary for the prevention and control of COVID-19 infection, was made by setting unmotivated requirements, which led to limited competition and the purchase of disinfectant at prices increased by at least 7.2 million lei.
And in the process of awarding public procurement contracts, the contracting authorities admitted some non-compliances, which affected the legality and efficiency of the procurement, such as:
- the purchase of coal worth 1.3 million lei by the Special Boarding School for blind and partially sighted children from Bălți municipality in the last 5 years is made from one and the same supplier;
- premature allocation of funds for the purchase of armchairs and awning by the Theater „B.P. Hasdeu” in the city of Cahul worth 1.3 million lei, although the construction of the theater building has not been completed;
- unjustified cancellation of the acquisition of the works regarding the capital repair of the sanitary groups in the study block of the State University "Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu" in the amount of 734.3 thousand lei (excluding VAT) and of the acquisition regarding the installation of fire signaling and lightning protection systems in the amount of 802.59 thousand lei (excluding VAT).
In conclusion, the Court of Accounts noted that the assessment of the compliance of public procurement in 2020 under the MECR and about 200 subordinate institutions reveals non-compliances in the estimation and planning of procurement, as well as in the stages of awarding, executing and monitoring purchasing contracts. Entities have neglected to ensure the transparency of public procurement. At the stages of tender evaluation and award of procurement contracts, the public procurement process was affected by a number of non-compliances, conditioned by the lack of impartiality and objectivity in the activity of the tender evaluation working group. These aspects of the work of institutions in the field of public procurement need to be improved in order to increase the transparency and efficiency of the use of public funds.