Romania makes all state finances public to deter graft

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 11, 2016 9:53 AM

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanians now have full access to the revenue and spending data of state institutions in move which could help fight corruption, the country's prime minister said on Friday.

Romania is perceived as one of the European Union's most corrupt member states and Brussels keeps its justice system under special monitoring together with neighboring Bulgaria.

A program launched by the finance ministry on Friday now makes available monthly budget execution data for the country's roughly 17,720 state institutions, including parliament, ministries, city halls, schools and hospitals.

"Any citizen, company and taxpayer can now see how public funds are distributed and how they are spent by local, county or central administration," Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos told reporters.

"This transparency... should remove risks of fraud or corruption, because what money is being spent on and how much one investment or another costs will become much more transparent."

Anti-corruption prosecutors in Romania have been cracking down on high-level graft, gaining praise from Brussels, while the tax authority has also stepped up efforts to improve collection.

Criminal inquiries into ministers, lawmakers and mayors have revealed overpriced public works contracts awarded in exchange for bribes, tax evasion, fraudulent handling of EU development funds and subsidies.

Prior to the disclosure program, which was financed with EU development funds and took three years to implement, budget data was reported to the finance ministry and central administration, making access more complicated.

The program introduces automated checks of budget data and in case of irregularities stops institutions from making treasury payments until they address the issues, which works as an incentive for budget reporting discipline.

Finance Minister Anca Dragu said state companies as well as public works contracts will be loaded into the scheme within four months.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Toby Chopra)