The Romanian Television scandal, far from over

MediaSind (TRANSLATED BY COSMIN GHIDOVEA
English Section / 05 ianuarie

The Romanian Television scandal, far from over

MediaSind: "The management of the Romanian Television has caused losses of over 20 million Euros to the budget of the institution, by refusing to apply the measures imposed by the Court of Auditors following the audits of the TVR"

Doina Gradea has repeatedly denied the accusations.

For years, the Romanian television has been in a state of constant scandal concerning the handling of its various policies. For some time, the fight has been waged between the current manager of the TVR, Doina Gradea, and the MediaSind Romanian Union of Journalists. The latter is accusing Doina Gradea of inadequate management and are asking the Board of Directors to hold her responsible for causing losses to the institution.

Doina Gradea has repeatedly denied the accusations.

The Board of Directors held its meeting on December 17, in which, according to MediaSind, a vote was supposed to be held on holding Doina Gradea responsible for her activity, after several members of the Board of Directors had, one day before, filed a lawsuit with the County Court of Bucharest. Doina Gradea refused to hold a vote on that issue, claiming it would be an illegality which was only intended to satisfy some individual interests.

The conflict between the two parties is presented below by representatives of the MediaSind Romanian Union of Journalists (Sindicatul Român al Jurnaliştilor MediaSind).

MediaSind Romanian Union of Journalists, together with its subsidiary MediaSind TVR, in agreement with resolutions voted by the MediaSind Romanian Union of Journalists and its affiliated members in the General Shareholder Meetings, have repeatedly asked the members of the Board of Directors to vote in support of holding CEO Doina Gradea liable for faulty management, which has caused losses to the institution, as ascertained by the Report of the Court of Auditors no. XI/40636/C.G.S./September 12, 2019 and through the Inspection Report concluded on October 26, 2020, issued by the Ministry of Public Finance - the General Economic Financial Audit Department (D.G.I.E.F.).

The auditors have also found losses and serious irregularities which could result in civil and criminal liability. The Mediasind Union together with the TVR Mediasind subsidiary have, back on November 12, 2020, made available to the public, as well as to the members of the Board of Directors a report called "Finance Ministry uncovers acts of corruption in a contract of 18 849 600 Euros, for the satellite broadcasting of the issues of the Romanian Television!," where it has reported that following the audit, the management of the TVR is accused of forgery in official documents, use of forgery, forging of signatures in privately signed documents, as well as several violations of the law!

Furthermore, CEO Doina Gradea is accused of having paid out 1,062,634.98 lei, using public funds, without any contractual and/or legal basis - the report of the Audit further states. According to the same Audit Report, the Finance Ministry will notify the prosecutors!

Also, several complaints will be filed shortly to the National Anticorruption Department (DNA) against those accused of acts of corruption via the inspectors' audits, as well as against those on the Board of Directors and the Director Committee, who have endorsed, through their vote, this flawed management.

The warning which the Board of Directors is sending to the public and the Parliament is important for the urgent dismissal of the CEO of the Romanian Television Society, Doina Gradea, who has placed the institution and its employees in a dramatic situation.

Here are the arguments:

The public has been able to see that over the last few years, during the term of CEO Doina Gradea, the public institution has only posted record negative results, due to the faulty management, which has been confirmed by several audits of the Court of Auditors. The humiliations of the employees of the National Television have been unimaginable, because they have been constantly treated by the CEO of the TVR arrogantly and disrespectfully when it comes to their professionalism.

The current management is spending public money in a discretionary manner, disregarding transparency rules, thus causing serious harm to the institution, while also placing the income of SRTV employees at risk. The management of the Romanian Television has caused a loss of over 20 million Euros, by refusing to apply the measures required by the Court of Auditors following the audits of the activity of the TVR. (The Romanian Television has lost over 20 million Euros, money which should have been recouped by those responsible since back in 2017! )

TVR ratings have collapsed due to the promotion of a chaotic editorial policy, often dictated from the centers of power by various political parties. A harmful role, in that regard, has also been played by some aberrant decisions made by the executive management. Precisely during the pandemic period, for instance, when the TVR had the mission to inform the population about the effects of the COVID-19 virus infection, the CEO decided to close down TV production, a situation which unfortunately persists! (What is the purpose of the Romanian Television? Doina Gradea is a mediocre manager, appointed by Dragnea and only 2 out of 100 Romanians watching TV choose to watch TVR - according to Libertatea.ro)

The regional studios are underfunded. Just 4% of the total budget of SRTV is allocated to the five territorial studios of Cluj, Craiova, Timişoara, Tg Mures and Iaşi. For 2020, the investment budget allocated to the territorial studios was zero lei. Same situation for TVR Chişinău!

Doina Gradea and her team have violated both the Romanian constitution, the Law on whistleblowers, as well as the OIM conventions and the European directives in the sector of work relations, by imposing an ethical code which suppresses freedom of expression and leads to the firing of employees and collaborators that are difficult for the management.

The social dialogue of TVR has depreciated considerably, and the representative union organization has not been recognized as a social partner, according to the internal legislation, the international directives and conventions in the area of work relations. Romanian representatives have been refused the right to be members of the evaluation commissions for the competitions held by the institutions. They have also been prohibited from participating, as observers, in the meetings of the Board of Directors. Furthermore, the CEO of the TVR has called upon the gendarmes to prevent the leaders of the union from attending the meetings of the board of directors, even though a ruling exists which was voted by all the members of the Board, which grants our representatives the right to attend. The court rulings in favor of MediaSind and its legal right to represent its members are being ignored, through all kinds of legal aberrations backed by campaigns paid for with public money.

Repeated violations of Law no. 544/2001 concerning information of public interest and Government Decision no. 714/2018 concerning domestic travel have been uncovered in court. In that regard, the Court of Bucharest has canceled the agreement signed by the management of the TVR and its press union -SPUSTv, which reduced the rights to delegate of the company's employees stipulated through government ordinance no. 714/2018.

Ignoring the rules of the democratic game of the Rule of Law, the Doina Gradea management has launched attacks, including in court, against the members of the Ethics and arbitrage commission;

Due to the faulty management, the institution has missed out on extremely important contracts for the organizing of milestone events for the Romanian television, in favor of private interest groups and entities.

Hiring in the TVR has been done while disregarding legal procedures: faced with the irregularities mentioned in the meetings of the Boards of Directors, the Legal Department has distanced itself from any aspect which concerns the organization and validation of hiring competitions. For instance, in May 2019, three competitions held simultaneously ended up proclaiming as winners the three members of the Board of Directors of SRTv.

We are reporting the lack of transparency when it comes to the number of hires during the current term of Doina Gradea.

The current management of the institution is in charge of the discretionary spending of public funds in the Romanian Television Society (SRTv), including in TVR Moldova.

The current CEO has refused to evaluate the activity of the executive management, which has been kept at an interim status since its appointment to the current day.

By halting the current shows, the Doina Gradea management has sabotaged the activity of TVR Moldova, in a period of strategic changes on the Eastern border of Romania.

The same management of SRTV has repeatedly violated labor legislation, the law of public interest information, demonstrating the disregard for and discrimination of social partners.

SRJ MediaSind together with the affiliated members from the TVR, MediaSind TVR, have denounced the abuse and illegalities of the current management. Besides, there are 20 ongoing lawsuits against Gradea due to the discretionary manner in which she sees fit to lead the biggest public media institution. Some of them have been already won irrevocably by our organization, which is why the management of the TVR has been forced to disclose the contracts and the names of the various collaborators, law firms, etc., who have benefited from millions of Euros spent in a discretionary manner.

The illegalities discovered by the inspectors of the Court of Auditors are extremely serious, totally compromising the management of the institution. They are as follows:

- Between September 27, 2017, when she was appointed as CEO of SRTv, and the present day, Doina Gradea had enough time to take all the required steps to recoup the over 20 million Euros of losses caused by the abusive firing of the employees of TVR and from the fraudulent execution of commercial contracts. Why is it that only now - according to an address of the Court of Auditors sent to MediaSind TVR today, was the appointment of a verification commission been decided, thus violating the Decision of the Court of Auditors no. 16/2016, the Civil Ruling no. 2830/2017 of the Court of Auditors of Bucharest (which also rejected the request of the SRTv to suspend the sanctions imposed by the inspectors of the audit commission), as well as the Decision no. 1759/2020 of the High Court of Cassation and Justice of Romania - is a question which the head of the TVR will have to answer before the criminal prosecutors.

- Between 2018 and the present year, the managing director of the SRTV has received a net salary higher than that established for a minister, as stipulated by the Law no. 41/1994 for the organization and operation of SRR and SRTV in article 23 paragraph 2 and 3: (2) The CEO of the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Society, as well as the CEO of the Romanian Television Society receive a gross monthly salary similar to that paid to a minister. (3) The other members of the Board of Directors of the Romanian Broadcasting Company, and, respectively, of the Romanian Television Society receive a monthly wage representing 25% of the gross wage of the CEO in question.

Members of the Board of Directors are entitled to being reimbursed, as per the provisions of the law, of the transportation and accommodation expenses, incurred by their attendance in the meetings of the Board of Directors, which has caused a loss to the state budget of 237 800 lei, because it has also influenced the amount of the additional compensation paid to the members of the Board of Directors. Compared to that illegality, the Court of Auditors has imposed that mandatory measure of recalculating the salary of the CEO of the SRTV and of the compensation paid to the members of the Board, as well as the recouping of the loss from the guilty people. Even though the deadline for complying with the law has expired on December 31st, 2019, the situation has not been remedied, which, according to the law, represents an offense.

- The Court of Auditors has notified since back in 2016 that the production house (Casa de Producţie) of TVR has been working at a loss, but the management of the TVR took no corrective measures in that regard. On the contrary, the allocated budget was substantially increased, and in 2020 it reached the amount of 3.071.474,34 lei! The production house is led by the Ethics counselor of the SRTv, Andras Istvan Demeter, who is also a member on the Board of Directors of the Romanian Broadcasting Society, even as he was declared to be involved in a conflict of interest by the High Court of Cassation and Justice of Romania and as a result, he is barred from holding positions in public institutions for 3 years! http://www.scj.ro/1094/Detalii-dosar?customQuery%5B0%5D.Key=id&customQuery%5B0%5D.Value=200000000319954

Also, the Court of Auditors warns that the expenses for the activity of the SRTv Production House are not justified by the results shown by the ratings indicators, respectively of the shows broadcast by the public TV. For the 21 productions of the Production House the expenses have amounted to 347,456 lei, supplemented by the wages of SRTv employees which participated in the necessary activities. The earnings those shows brought to the network amounted to 49,240 lei.

- Contracts for royalties and other related rights were concluded after the period when the services they would be paid for were supposed to be provided, with delays of up to 70, and 89 days, respectively, which proves that the process of the signing of those contracts was not adequately regulated and and that the operations performed were only formal in nature, and were only intended to provide an appearance of legality.

- Romanian Constitutional Court inspectors are of the opinion that the amount of 132,249.80 lei was illegally settled to the SRTV Branch in the Republic of Moldova for accommodation and utilities expenses for 4 employees, even though the eligibility requirements established through Gov. Decision / 955-2014 were not met. Consequently, the State Budget has suffered a loss equal to the amount in question, the Decision states.

- The legal provisions concerning expenditures have not been paid, and therefore the funds allocated from the state budget have been used illegally, by exceeding the rules concerning accommodation and daily allowances, according to the external expenses deduction sheets of the CEO of the SRTV, with an amount of 15 798 lei.

- The Court of Auditors thinks that in some procurement procedures, SRTV has awarded contracts to suppliers that were ineligible, because their offers did not meet the requirements. Specifically, this concerns a contract worth 870 519 lei VAT excluded, and another of 124 499 99 lei VAT excluded. For these irregularities, on July 22, 2019, SRTV has paid to the state budget a fine of 15 000 lei, levied via the Minutes for the acknowledgment and sanctioning of violations no. 7/July 19, 2019.

Those amounts have yet to be recovered to this day from the guilty persons, which represents a crime, according to Law no. 94/1992.

- The SRTV has illegally awarded a number of procurement contracts to a bidder which proposed selling covering some of those contracts using refurbished equipment, even though the bidding procedure clearly stipulated only new equipment would be accepted.

That is how contract no. 26856/12.11.2018 of 351,935.36 lei was illegally concluded, for the sale of graphic workstations, contract no. 26.8367 of November 9, 2018 of 34,391 lei for the procurement of workstations for video replay, contract no. 26840 of November 9, 2018 amounting to 105610 lei for the purchase of a storage system, contract no. 26.876 of 16.11.2016 amounting to 38556 lei for the procurement of workstations for the video wall monitors. The permits and the approvals of the Board of Directors and Guiding Committee of the SRTV (CD and CA) for the signing of the contracts in question were granted while the two entities were not made aware of the fact that the equipment to be purchased was not brand new. For that reason, on July 22, 2019 SRTV paid a fine of 15,000 lei to the state budget, levied through Violation Report no. 7 of 19.07.2019. Although the deadline for recouping the loss from the guilty persons was set for December 31, 2019, no action has been taken until this date, which is a crime, according to Law no. 94/1992.

- The open tender procedure for the purchase of boilers, hydrophores and equipment was not sufficiently substantiated and the award of the contract to a company was made contrary to the provisions of Law no. 98/2016 on public procurement. For this, on 22.07.2019 SRTV paid to the State Budget a fine in the total amount of 15,000 lei, applied through the minutes of finding and sanctioning the contraventions no. 7 from 19.07.2019. Although the term for recovering the damage from the guilty persons was set for December 31, 2019, no action has been taken until this date, which is a crime, according to Law no. 94/1992.

SRTV proceeded to send to SICAP the award notice related to the procurement procedure having as object the provision of supporting structures for the lighting equipment with a delay of 14 days, compared to the legal term provided by the legislation on public procurement. Consequently, on 22.07.2019 SRTV paid to the state budget the fine in the total amount of 15,000 lei applied levied though violation report no. 7 of July 19, 2019. Although the deadline for recouping the loss from the guilty persons was set for December 31, 2019, no action has been taken until this date, which is a crime, according to Law no. 94/1992.

- Failure to submit for approval to the Board of Directors the proposals to start procurement procedures organized in batches, as well as to conclude contracts resulting from their performance, although the total amount of the contracts required this.

- The state budget therefore lost 174,808.62 lei, as SRTV illegally paid a private supplier certain services which were supposed to be provided free of charge, according to the contract concluded with the management of the TVR. Although the deadline for recouping the loss from the guilty persons was set for December 31, 2019, no action has been taken until this date, which is a crime, according to Law no. 94/1992.

- Concluding contracts for the assignment of copyright and related rights for artists represented by a private agency, for the recitals within the Golden Stag Festival 2018, without the approval of the Board of Directors and without supporting documents certifying that the artists actually performed, amounting to 11, 365 lei. Although the deadline for recouping the loss from the guilty persons was set for December 31, 2019, no action has been taken until this date, which is a crime, according to Law no. 94/1992.

- In 2018, a boiler worth 831,616.03 lei was purchased from a private company without complying with legal procedures. Although the deadline for recouping the loss from the guilty persons was set for December 31, 2019, no action has been taken until this date, which is a crime, according to Law no. 94/1992.

- In 2018, SRTV did not execute the budget of revenues and expenditures of the Golden Stag Festival according to the financing sources approved by the Decision of the Guiding Committee (CD) no. 530 / 25.05.2018 and the Board of Directors (CA) Decision no. 66 from 20.05.2018. By changing the sources of financing and in the absence of CD and CA approvals, through the executive management, SRTV requested and improperly collected from the State Budget the amount of 1,548,146.96 lei, the Decision states. Although the deadline for recouping the loss from the guilty persons was set for December 31, 2019, no action has been taken until this date, which is a crime, according to Law no. 94/1992.

- Concluding contracts for the assignment of copyright and intellectual property rights for the artists who performed during the Golden Stag Contest Festival 2018, supported from public funds, while failing to exercise good financial management of the respective amounts. Although the deadline for recouping the loss from the guilty persons was set for December 31, 2019, no action has been taken until this date, which is a crime, according to Law no. 94/1992.

These are some of the illegalities likely to be criminally sanctioned, discovered by the inspectors of the Court of Auditors in the Romanian Television.

Unfortunately, the complicity that exists between the executive management and some decision-makers in SRTV, has made the notifications, the alarm cries of SRTV employees, including our organization, intended to stop this pillage, to be snuffed out, which is why MediaSind has been forced to respond via national and international public reactions.

Clarification: The Mediasind Romanian union of Journalists, legal entity created based on the Civil ruling no. 2782/2001, Fiscal Code 14196803, takes legal responsibility for the information published. If you want more details/documents/other evidence concerning the current press release, you can write to office@mediasind.ro and tvr@mediasind.ro.

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