Renate Weber on the turf of the PSD - The ombudsman

George Marinescu
English Section / 12 noiembrie 2020

Renate Weber is to the Ombudsman what Valer Dorneanu is to the Constitutional Court: a political representative, heavily anchored in the past, who, instead of reforming the institution they are in charge of, has turned it into a tool they use as they please and - according to the subordinates - mostly for enhancing their own image before those who sent her there.

Even though it should serve the interests of the population, the Ombudsman has become a political institution, whose leadership (head and deputies) are appointed by the Parliament, respectively the Joint Permanent Bureaus of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The term of Victor Ciorbea at the helm of the institution showed that it is obedient to the parliamentary majority, which flagrantly contradicts the ombudsman notion, which is an attorney of citizens in their relationship with the Parliament and with the other authorities of the state.

The appointment of Renate Weber in the summer of 2019 was supposed to represent a reinvigoration of the institution, a return of the Ombudsman to the values it was supposed to protect, but - as employees of the institution told us - in reality things haven't changed, we are in fact witnessing an increase in obedience.

At the Ombudsman, everything currently revolves around Weber and her six deputies because, immediately after taking over the leadership of the institution, Renate Weber centralized any decision-making process concerning any investigations conducted across the country and the locally issued recommendations, according to the quoted sources. Regardless of whether we are talking about the failure to comply with the law in Suplacu de Barcău or in Viişoarea, or in Bucharest, the investigation only gets done upon order from the Ombudsman or its deputies, essentially leaving the employees in the 14 territorial offices without any power in the relationship with the local authorities and the public institutions in the country.

Sources from within the Ombudsman institution claim that in July 2019, in a meeting which was attended by several people, including heads of territorial offices and the six deputies of Mrs. Weber, she said: "From now on, any investigation you conduct will be made with my approval or that of my deputies, and the recommendations from the territorial offices, for the local authorities, will be sent from the central office rather than from the territorial ones".

"Because the decision was obstructed at the level of the leadership of the Ombudsman, and locally things work as bad as they were when the investigations were conducted. Moreover, after our investigations, Renate Weber decided to conduct another investigation, simply to undermine our authority over the local officials. That is why the institution of the Ombudsman is currently dysfunctional locally when it comes to decision making", several heads of the local territorial offices told us.

According to the same sources, the order issued by Renate Weber "dilutes the decision-making power for each case". Experts and advisers to the Ombudsman claim that it is pointless for them to propose measures and recommendations that, according to the law, local authorities, the public institutions, mayors would be required to implement, if the case reaches Bucharest "where Renate Weber and her deputies make their own decision among themselves".

"We have proposed measures in several cases, but although many months have passed, they did not get implemented. Why? Because the decision has been blocked at the level of the Ombudsman's leadership, and things are the same as they were at the time the investigation was concluded. In addition to our investigations, Renate Weber sent another investigation, only to undermine our authority in front of the local mayors, which is why the Ombudsman is currently not functioning locally. decisions ", several heads of local territorial offices sent us.

Employee rotation - the method of appointing people that are loyal to Weber

Order no. 90/July 23rd, 2019, which implemented rotation of territorial offices employees as coordinators, seems to have been issued by Weber to quickly implement her new decision. The official reason prior to the issuing of the administrative act was the need for removing suspicions concerning the interests that the heads of the territorial offices could have had locally.

Except that, by analyzing the document in question, the reality seems to be different, as the decision was made at the top level of the Ombudsman. It can be inferred that Renate Weber wanted from her first day to remove from the position of coordinator of the territorial offices all those who did their job right locally, especially in relation with the mayoralties.

However, when reviewing the the analysis of the respective document, the reality seems to be different, as the decision is being made at the level of the Ombudsman leadership. It can be understood that Renate Weber wanted from the first day to remove from the position of coordinator of the territorial offices all those who performed their activity correctly at the local level, especially in relation to the mayors.

Through the aforementioned order it is stated that the order concerning the nomination of the coordinator of the territorial office will depend on the number of years working for the Ombudsman institution. But Renate Weber also introduced several exceptions to the nomination of the oldest employees of the institution. Persons who have been received disciplinary sanctions, are the subject of disciplinary investigations or have not received the "Very Good" score during their last year of activity may not be appointed as coordinators. There are, however, situations when the sanction or disciplinary investigation occurs when some officials do not get along with their bosses or do not follow their orders, and conduct their activity according to the law. As far as the evaluation of civil servants which takes place annually, it is notorious that it happens at the discretion of the head of the institution.

Practically, through the order issued immediately after the appointment, anybody that raises criticism will no longer have decision-making power locally, and those that are a problem for the leadership and for the deputies of the Ombudsman can be relegated to the background.

According to the same order, the term of office of the coordinator of the territorial office ends after one year, on December 31, after which new proposals will be made and another coordinator will be appointed.

Deputy of the Ombudsman - close acquaintance of Marcel Ciolacu

The appointment of Raluca Alexandru as Deputy Ombudsman, who deals with preventing torture and other cruel or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in places of detention, also raises questions. Raluca Alexandru replaced Constanţa Magda Ştefănescu, whose term was not renewed, unlike the other Ombudsman deputies whose terms were extended.

"What seems curious at first sight, has an explanation. Raluca Alexandru is one of the people in Liviu Dragnea's entourage. So it is even more curious that she was appointed to the position, which also deals with the rights of detainees, that is, those of Liviu Dragnea as well, who is serving a custodial sentence", sources from the public institution led by Renate Weber told us.

According to Raluca Alexandru's CV - posted on the Ombudsman's website - she was secretary of state during the government of Viorica Dăncilă, between July and December 2019, in the General Secretariat of the Government, and between 2017 and 2019 she worked at the County Insurance House of Health Buzau. Moreover, between October 2017 and May 2019, he held the position of president of the respective institution, being previously a member of the PSD Buzău branch, an organization that was then led by the current president of the Chamber of Deputies and head of the PSD, Marcel Ciolacu.

Regarding the connections of the new Deputy Ombudsman to Marcel Ciolacu, on February 26, 2020, the marketing director of Iris Pharm, Violeta Moraru, wrote: "On February 26, 2020, the IRIS pharmacy was subjected to a lynching by a TV network. The one who ordered the attack, Marcel Ciolacu, interim president of the PSD, owns a chain of drugstores based in Buzău County, and over the last 3 years, Marcel Ciolacu, through proxies and people appointed in the central and local public administration (Simona Anghel - president of CJAS Buzău and Raluca Alexandru - former president of CJAS Buzau, currently Ombudsman Deputy), ordered the destruction of all competing companies. His partner in those actions is businessman Costin Isac, who was convicted for offering bribes to the Ministry of Healthcare. With that "team", Ciolacu tried to impose his monopoly both in parallel exports and on the local pharmaceutical market. That dirty show on that that TV network is harassment, because I notified the National Anti-corruption Department and hearings are currently taking place in that regard. Those mentioned are being investigated for defrauding the state budget and the creation of organized criminal faction. We trust the judiciary and we are convinced that this case will lead to finding out the truth about Ciolacu's practices, business and entourage ".

Contacted by the BURSA newspaper, Violeta Moraru told us: "I think that that complaint got stuck somewhere at the anti-corruption department, due to the pandemic. Therefore, I want to send another notification, related to the first one, because our company has suffered huge losses due to the constant investigations by the County Health Public Department (CJAS), ordered by Ciolacu, Raluca Alexandru tried to illegally cancel our contract with the CJAS, but she probably realized, being a lawyer, that she would be committing abuse and she was dismissed for failing to see her task through. She went on medical leave for about two and a half months and was supposed to appear before the CJAS disciplinary committee, but she avoided that because I think she threatened Ciolacu that, if he did nothing, she would go public with what she knew, which is why she was made Secretary of State in the General Secretariat of the Government, in the Dăncilă Cabinet, and she remained there until December 18, when she became Deputy Ombudsman. The oath for her latest position she took front of her former head of PSD Buzău, Marcel Ciolacu. This is a circus!"

Raluca Alexandru - the epitome of employee rotation in public institutions

Regarding the row of drug stores in the Buzău County, according to the information provided by Mrs. Moraru, Raluca Alexandru was the person through whom Marcel Ciolacu acted to establish a monopoly in favor of Evofarm, which included the companies run by his nephew - Mihai Ciolacu - namely Nicomart Prim Team SRL, Marcos Provit, Alina Farm and Medela.

The representative of Iris Pharm also claims that at first, Raluca Alexandru was the lawyer of the mayoralties where the drug store mafia led by Marcel Ciolacu acted, but when the Court of Auditors begun a series of investigations in the county of Buzău, Raluca Alexandru was transferred to the County Health Public Department, (Casa Judeţeană de Asigurări de Sănătate - CJAS), as adviser. After just two months, upon the intervention of the current head of the PSD, Raluca Alexandru was appointed as president of the CJAS, even though she didn't meet the requirements for the job, according to Violeta Moraru.

It looks like the aforementioned situation has not raised any issues for Renate Weber, who continues to keep Raluca Alexandru as Deputy Ombudsman, position which she was appointed to on December 18, 2019.

Article 29 paragraph 2 of Law 35/1997 states: "If during an investigation, the Ombudsman finds legislation shortcomings or serious cases of corruption or non-compliance with the laws of the country, they shall submit a report, containing the findings, to the Presidents of the two Chambers of Parliament or, as the case may be, to the Prime Minister ".

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