The system of fines and damages needs to be revised, and the efforts to collect arrears of payments, taxes and fines related to the environment will also be strengthened, concluded the external public audit.
In this context, on September 21, the Court of Accounts of the Republic of Moldova (CoARM) presented within the Public Finance Control Committee (PFCC), the results of the Compliance Audit Report on the issuance of permitting documents and the administration of taxes, fines and payments related to the environment.
The Court of Accounts’ team led by Tatiana Șevciuc, Member of the CoARM, reported to the members of the PFCC about the findings, which attest to deficiencies in the administration of taxes, fines and payments related to the environment.
The authorization of activities with an impact on the environment is carried out by the Environment Agency (EA) and the Agency for Geology and Mineral Resources (AGMR), by issuing permissive documents to natural and legal persons practicing the activity of entrepreneurs with an impact on the environment. In the process of issuing permissive documents in the field of the environment, other institutions are also involved that are responsible for preventive control, such as "Apele Moldovei" Agency (AMA), National Public Health Agency, National Food Safety Agency (NFSA), Environmental Protection Inspectorate (EPI), etc.
According to the legal framework, 34 permissive docuemnts are issued in the field of environment, of which 2 are issued by AGMR, 32 by EA and 4 related documents related to the issuance of permissive documents, 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 2019-2021, 94,617 permissive documents were issued in the field of environment, including in 2019 - 26218 permissive documents; 2020 – 34739 permissive docuemnts; 2021 – 33,660 permissive documents, and revenues collected in the state budget in the total amount of 1 billion 85.1 million lei.
According to the Court of Accounts, the procedure for issuing permissive docuemnts in the field of the environment was carried out with some deviations from the relevant legal framework, the deficiencies found being due to both the human factor and the insufficiency of managerial controls related to the stages of issuing permissive acts. In this way:
- some files do not contain identification documents of the applicant, the permissive documents being issued after the examination deadline has passed, these varying from 4 days to 2 months, the files did not contain the notification regarding the suspension of the examination deadline, etc.;
- the issuance of Environmental Notifications/Authorizations regarding the transboundary transport of waste was carried out with a 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, this being issued with non-compliance with the provisions of the legal framework;
- the process of issuing the permissive act of the AEPA type is carried out with some violations of the legal framework, such as the signatures of the inspectors from the Environmental Protection Inspectorate and the applicant are missing within the control report, the deadline for the execution of the request is calculated incorrectly, ranging from one day to 58 days;
- The "Waste Management" Automated Information System (AIS WM) is still not interconnected with the Automated Information System for the Management and Issuance of Permissive Documents (AIS MIPD), as well as it is not fully used according to the requirements of the Waste Law and the AIS WM’s Concept;
- The Automated Fishing Permit Management Information System (AIS e-fishing), by way of derogation from the provisions of the legal framework, was developed in the absence of a technical concept approved throughout a Government’s Decision, it being designed on the basis of the Regulation approved by the management of the Environment Agency.
During the meeting, it was mentioned that, during several years, the quotas for industrial and commercial fishing in the aquatic objectives of natural fisheries were not approved. Although, during 2016-2021 and until now the quotas for commercial fishing in natural water bodies have not been approved, this has not been felt in the commercial fish market, which leads to suspicions regarding the origin of the fish sold on the markets of the Republic of Moldova.
Regarding the administration of payments, taxes and fines related to the environment, the following is certified. During 2019-2021, the state budget received payments in the total amount of 1 billion 78.4 million lei, the increase in receipts being certified, caused including by the change in 2020 of the payment system for natural resources, in particular the way of calculating payments for the extraction of useful minerals (ECO 114612), which led to an increase in receipts from 46 million lei in 2020 to 55.3 million lei in 2021.
The process of administering environmental payments and fines shows some deficiencies:
- the uneven approach regarding the collection of revenues accumulated from the issuance of permissive documents, some being collected from the state budget, and others in the own budgets of the issuers of the permissive documents;
- the arrears recorded for payments for environmental pollution administered by the State Tax Service have shown a continuous increase, in 2021 compared to 2020 – by 3.1 million lei;
- the lack or insufficiency of cooperation and communication between the Environmental Agency, the Environmental Protection Inspectorate and the State Tax Service is attested, which caused the capture of water without environmental authorization and the non-collection of possible revenues to the state budget in the minimum amount of 1.7 million lei and a maximum of 5.0 million lei;
- during 2019-2021, as a result of the controls carried out, the EPI 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 over several years of the amount of the minimum wage and the coefficients for damage caused to the environment in the field of forestry deprived the state budget of significant financial means over several years. Thus, the calculation of the damage caused to the environment in the field of forestry, established by the Forestry Code, is based on the minimum salary, 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 valued up to 50 lei until now.
Tatiana Cunețchi, the President of the Public Finance Control Committee, mentioned that the topics under discussion are complex and appreciated the activity of the Court of Accounts regarding the identification of sensitized issues. In Ms. Cunetchi's opinion, the audited entities must strengthen their efforts, and measures will be taken to harmonize the legal framework related to the environment.