The Court of Accounts of the Republic of Moldova, on July 18, examined within an online session the Audit Report on the consolidated financial reports of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection (MLSP) concluded on December 31, 2022.
The Court of Accounts auditing the consolidated financial reports of the Ministry of Health for the budget year concluded on December 31, 2022, issued a qualified audit opinion, which was determined by the following deficiencies:
- the limitation and impossibility of the audit to comment on the total expenses in the amount of 851 million lei, reflected in the "Social Benefits" account, used to grant compensation to citizens during the cold period of the year (November-December 2022), determined by the non-performance of the interaction and data exchange operations between the information system of the MLSP "Energy Vulnerability" and the systems owned by the SFS (AIS e-Request) and the forms extracted from these systems;
- the limitation and impossibility of the audit to comment on the value of humanitarian aid intended for refugees from Ukraine reflected in the amount of 59 million lei;
- the "Shares and other forms of equity participation within the country" account was undervalued by 32.9 million lei related to investments in the Republican Experimental Prosthetics and Rehabilitation Center (REPRC). Thus, the value of the account was reduced, as a result of the non-registration of the investments made by the MLSP in the infrastructure of the founded institution, as well as the transfer into management of the buildings and lands that are part of the public domain of the state's property.
It should be mentioned that in 2019 the public institution REPRC was reorganized from a state enterprise to a public institution, but this did not separately record the debt for real estate and land received under economic management in the amount of 46 million lei and 19 million lei, respectively;
- the MLSP overestimated the value of the "Intangible Assets" account by 24 million lei as a result of not canceling 15 non-functional modules out of 21 existing in the Social Assistance Information System and the undervaluation of the same account with the value of 905 thousand lei, through the non-accounting of 3 information systems by 3 entities, including the "Energy Vulnerability" Information System worth about 815 thousand lei, etc.
The audit also highlighted other deficiencies, but which did not influence the audit opinion.
Regarding reducing unemployment and ensuring the level of employment, it is noted that the number of people with this status for the year 2022 was more than 66 thousand people. In context, the audit determined several problems and irregularities such as, the insufficiency of control at the central and territorial level related to the verification of files and the regulatory establishment of the rights of the unemployed, employers, causing situations of incorrect calculations of these payments in insignificant amounts quantitatively, but significant from a qualitative point of view, because they provide sources of existence for the beneficiaries.
From the total analyzed files of people with unemployed status, 66 people remained at the job offered, another 42 people resigned after 3 months of employment. The audit mentioned that individual employment contracts were concluded with these people at the lowest wages, which constituted about 4,000 lei or 38%, compared to the average wage in the economy of 10,500 lei. The high release rate of unemployed employed people shows that economic agents have not taken sufficient measures to improve working conditions, despite the fact that they have accessed job subsidies.
Another problem is subsidizing the workplace for the employment of the unemployed with disabilities, which indicates that in 2022, out of 1896 people with the status of unemployed with disabilities, only 5 people were included in the labor field. One cause would be the lack of working conditions for this type of unemployed from the employers, as well as the insufficiency of the MLSP’s and NEA’s actions.
Between November and December 2022, the MLSP spent 851 million lei, which were intended to help citizens pay their bills for natural gas, thermal energy and electricity by granting compensation.
According to the data accumulated in the "Energy Vulnerability" Information System, approximately 763 thousand requests were registered. When completing the application form, the applicant had to declare the income obtained by each member of the household, estimated as the average monthly income for the last 6 months. In order to check the integration and the filters that work in this information system, the auditors extracted from the system the data on citizens who declared incomes up to 6000 lei.
Respectively, from the total of about 300 thousand people, 30 thousand people were selected according to the audit sample, whose data were checked and contrasted with the data from the Information System of the State Fiscal Service. Thus, during 2022 according to the data of the State Fiscal Service, these natural persons declared income in the amount of 621 million lei, and according to the data declared in the "Energy Vulnerability" Information System based on the request for granting the degree of vulnerability, the revenues were 95 million lei, which is only 15% of the total accumulated revenues.
The verification by the audit of the data for 38 natural persons, who obtained significant incomes in the amount of 29 million lei, including some natural persons having incomes of more than 2 million lei per person, it was found that the "Energy Vulnerability" Information System for the respective persons erroneously determined the granting of a very high degree of energy vulnerability.
At the request of the Court of Accounts, the Ministry re-examined the data of these 38 persons based on the income declared by them at the State Fiscal Service, and identified erroneously declared data in the "Energy Vulnerability" Information System, which led to unjustified expenses in the amount of 84 thousand lei.
Concluding on what has been reported, there are risks of making unjustified and irregular public expenses, and the audit team was unable to expose itself on the total expenses in the amount of 851 million lei.
The year 2022, for the Republic of Moldova, was a specific one arising from the situation regarding the refugees from Ukraine as a result of the war in this country. One of the missions of the MLSP in the process of managing the refugee crisis was to provide these people with a place to live and social services for which 133 Temporary Placement Centers for Refugees were established, of which only 68 centers were functional at the end of 2022.
For the functionality of the centers, financial means in the amount of 97 million lei were allocated from the Government’s Intervention Fund, including for the compensation of personnel expenses - 23 million lei, communal and maintenance services - 54 million lei, other expenses - 18 million lei.
Uncertain, uneven and incomplete regulation of the operation and financing of refugee centers, as well as the lack of processes and control mechanisms over the public means allocated for the maintenance of the centers generated risks regarding the correctness and compliance of the use of these financial means.
The audit of 7 centers for refugees established irregularities and problematic aspects that determined the unjustified use of public financial means in the amount of 1.1 million lei. In the context, it is mentioned that the normative framework developed by the Ministry does not provide criteria for delimiting and assigning expenses per refugee in the event that the founder of the center also carries out other activities and clear and uniform criteria for remuneration and establishing/ceiling the necessary number of persons trained in the activity centers, etc.
The lack of exhaustive regulations defining the conditions of increased health risk, as well as the incorrect application by the ministry and subordinate entities of the normative acts in force, conditioned the non-compliant use of public funds in the amount of 1.4 million lei, allocated from the Government's Intervention Fund, with a special purpose for granting the compensation increase for work performed under conditions of increased health risk.
Regarding the use of the financial means received through the Draft Memorandum of Understanding concluded between the MLSP and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on 07.11.2022, untapped resources were established in the amount of 2 million lei, which were returned to the donor on 26.05.2023.
The audit checks of the entire process of capitalizing on external assistance at all levels, with the comparison of the related data, identified problems and uncertainties. Thus, the complexity of the process, the large volume of tasks and the limited deadline for implementing the Memorandum (1.5 months) conditioned the non-identification of 285 vulnerable people and determined another 1392 vulnerable people who failed to receive the material aid of 1000 lei, within only 7 working days. Also, the incorrect planning of allowances for the remuneration of social workers, not taking into account their actual number of employees, led 19 territorial-administrative units to return 356 thousand lei. Thus, the single allowance in the amount of 1612 lei was not paid by the Territorial Social Assistance Structures, due to the vacant positions of community social worker.
In this context, the SE "Poșta Moldovei" informed the Court of Accounts that the single aid payments to vulnerable people were made based on the procedure established with the National Social Assistance Agency in the contract regarding the cash distribution of social payments from February 2019. The justification for the payment of the single aid was the individual payment receipt generated by the system based on the electronic lists developed by the Agency, which are archived daily together with other operational documents of the post offices. Due to the insufficiency of the necessary resources, the SE "Poșta Moldovei" did not dispose of the possibility of presenting the copies of these payment receipts.
With reference to the investment project for the construction of 80 apartments (municipality of Chisinau) with a value of 67 million lei, which were to be distributed and handed over to the participants in the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident, it did not achieve its intended purpose. This project is currently owned by the state, being uninhabitable, and during the audited period security expenses were incurred in the amount of 419 thousand lei.
It should be noted that, for the investments in this building, there is still a risk that part of the works carried out will require reassessments and reallocations of additional public financial means to the 67 million lei already allocated, in order to repair the building degraded before use. Moreover, the internal networks of the residential block and the installed equipment have not been exploited for about 7 years, which will determine the need for additional costs for the review and commissioning of the block of about 540 thousand lei.