RISE Moldova: Phantom Projects in Gagauzia with EU Funds

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The authorities of Gagauzia wasted a part of the €3 million in grant funding provided by the European Union on phantom projects that turned out to be useless, with about €1 million having been spent on experts and employees those activity was yet unnecessary or classified. “The project Support to Local Authorities (SLPA) was implemented since 2017 until 2020, but some of its components are absent even if almost three years have passed since the deadline,” says the journalistic investigation entitled “Phantom projects in Gagauzia with EU funds”. “Improving the quality of legislative initiatives was one of the project lines. For that purpose, they gathered a group of experts who drafted 16 bills. But none of these was adopted at the local level even after three years of the SLPA completion,” article author, journalist Petru Garciu, commented for IPN. According to the investigation, even if nearly three years have passed since the project was completed, not all the divisions of the Gagauz executive committee have been connected or use the expensive electronic document management system that was designed at a cost of almost 8 million lei (over €400,000). “One of the project’s goals was to improve the work of the authorities of Gagauzia. For the purpose, they employed also foreign experts with a budgeted fee of 900 euros per working day. However, some of the documents developed by the consultants remained on the shelves. The autonomy’s authorities did not reduce the number of divisions of the local executive committee even if a restructuring document was also thought up as part of the project,” said the author of the investigation. Despite the fact that part of the funds was wasted, another part of the grant went on unplanned costs. “For example, the EU funds were used to renovate the bashkan’s office and other premises of the Gagauz government, although it hadn’t been initially planned. However, the deviations from the expenditure plans, including the cost of repair, were classified both by the Gagauz authorities and by the EU Delegation to Moldova, referring to the confidentiality terms of the grant funding,” said Petru Garciu. According to journalists’ calculations, “over the last eight years, the European Union has been one of the largest international donors for Gagauzia, having implemented projects worth more than 11 million euros in the autonomy"”. “However, this fact didn’t increase the popularity of the idea of integration into the EU. For instance, a survey conducted in December 2022 by IData company showed that the percentage of inhabitants of Gagauzia who support EU accession is one of the lowest among Moldova’s regions - only each third resident of the autonomous unit supports European integration,” reads the article “Phantom projects in Gagauzia with EU funds”.