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Head of Prime Minister's Inquiry Department, Tudor Chiuariu: "We want to run field checks"

Arthur SUCIU

Tudor Chiuariu is one of those young men (he is 29), untouched by the Communism virus, on the competence and responsibility of whom the incumbent Power counts in its fight against corruption. Before being appointed as Secretary of State, the head of the Prime-Minister's Department for Inquiry and for Monitoring Transparent Spending of Community Funds, Tudor Chiuariu graduated from the law school and from post-graduate European law programmes.

What is the exact activity of the Prime Minister's Inquiry Department?

In the context of initiating EU accession negotiations on Chapter 28 ("Financial Control"), one of the conditions referred to the establishment, either independently or within one of the already existing institutions, of the contact office with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). The decision was made that this contact office will be the Prime Minister's Control Corps, later on renamed the Government's Control Corps. Since March 2004, with the restructuring of the central public administration, this attribution, of unique contact point with OLAF, was assigned to the Prime-Ministers Department for Inquiry and Monitoring of Transparent Spending of Community Funds. On January 3, 2005 I was appointed Secretary of State, head of this Department.


What are the objectives of your mandate?

One objective of my term in office is to separate domestic administrative control activities, concerning public institutions and authorities, and ordered by the Prime Minister, from activities related to examining the use of Community funds, to guarantee the independence of these operations.


So you will not be the administrative duplicate of Victor Ponta...

I'd like to believe that I won't. A second objective has to do with the drafting of a strategy for the anti-fraud fight, to protect the European Union's financial interests, a unique strategy in Member and States-. Romania is the only one to have had such an initiative. The strategy will be endorsed under a Government Resolution, most likely by the end of June 2005. It sets out responsibilities not only for the Department, but also for other relevant institutions, such as the Ministry for Public Finances, the Higher Magistrates Council, the Ministry of Agriculture, the SAPARD Agency, the Ministry of Transport, therefore all institutions that play a part in contracting, implementing and monitoring European funded-projects, institutions with attributions in recovering damages and sanctioning administrative violations or criminal deeds.


How does the inquiry process unfold?

When it is about a criminal deed, the file is forwarded to the National Anti-corruption Prosecutor's Office (PNA). If it's about possible administrative irregularities, then it reaches our Department. Any entity which uses Community funds is bound to provide us with all the information and data we request, regarding the projects they implement.


Can you conduct field checks?

We are doing our best to strengthen the legal framework within which the Department operates. In this respect, an Emergency Ordinance will be issued, which will have the force of a law. We coordinate this anti-fraud fight and coordinate relevant institutions even outside the Executive structure, such as the PNA and Courts of Justice. Not in the sense that we interfere with judicial procedures, but in the sense that, for instance, they are bound to make information available to us. When we have sent them a file, we must know, for example, what is the conclusion reached by the Prosecutor's Office? Was the person under investigation sent to Court? And if they were, is there a final Court ruling, and did the Court convict the person, or clear charges? If there were damages, were the damages recovered? Because this is the ultimate goal of the entire chain.


How many files have you investigated since taking over the mandate?

Since end-January up to this day we have opened 27 files. So far we have worked quite well with OLAF. They can take part in the investigations we initiate. Also, we can ask them for technical assistance, as it happened in our most recent file, with the Senate Speaker's son, who was running some financial schemes via a number of companies he had set up in Germany. We were suspecting this is what happened. He would purchase equipment from Romania for contract beneficiaries, from some of his own companies set up in Germany. We asked for OLAF assistance, they contacted the German partners, came up with the information and the file was sent to the Prosecutor's Office.


Therefore there is quite a close relationship with OLAF...

We work very well with OLAF. They are very satisfied, in operative terms, the cooperation with us is the best they have. They are very pleased that we send them, very quickly, the reports we forward to the Prosecutor's Office, after we have translated them. There is permanent consultation over the pending files, because, since we ask them to assist us, a parallel file is opened in their office as well. It is definitely a trans-national matter. I also receive quite favourable signals as far as the training side is concerned, because training sessions are organised not only for Romanian institutions, but also for some of the recent EU Member States. For instance, we organise training sessions in Romania for Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary. As a subsequent step, a network of training organisers was established, i.e. in each of the institutions taking part in the training programmes we organise there is one person in charge with the training programme development in the respective institution.


How far do inquiry attributions go?

At the moment our attributions are not very high, we mainly request information and documents. What I mean to achieve is to have the Department personnel authorised to run field checks, to benefit from the support of public order agents in completing this objective, if we should meet any resistance. I want the documents to be submitted to our office within ten, rather than thirty days, as it is the case now, therefore a much shorter deadline. We would also like that the documents drafted by our inspectors qualify as evidence in a criminal trial. This would make the work of prosecutors in charge with the respective files a lot easier.


To what extent is there a connection between the Inquiry Department operations and the fight against corruption?

We have a distinct strategy for the anti-fraud fight, to protect the financial interests of European communities. By virtue of my capacity as head of the Department, I am a member of the Council for Anti-corruption Strategy Implementation. Naturally, if correlation is necessary between the measures in the anti-corruption strategy and in the anti-fraud strategy, it will be achieved this way, through my participation in the Implementation Council's works.


Does the Department you coordinate only protect the interests of the European Union? To what extent do its operations concern Romania?

We aim to meet all our obligations deriving from the EU membership. As of January 1, 2007 we will no longer have only revenues coming in the country from the EU, but we will also become resources for such funds. Part of the VAT, of the so-called sugar tax, will be channelled to the UE budget. At that point, the scope of our inquiries will extend. We will no longer check only the revenues coming from the EU to Romania, but also the way public institutions and business operators pay their VAT and taxes which account for EU budget resources.

By Arthur SUCIU

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