March 15th 2020

Press release

Transparency International Romania calls for responsibility and transparency in time of crisis.

Don’t take commercial advantage during the state of emergency.

According to the public announcement made by the President of Romania, the state of emergency is to be declared based on the provisions of the Government Emergency Ordinance (GEO) no. 1/1999 approved by Law no. 453/2004, as amended and supplemented by Law no. 164/2019, in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic crisis. In this context, we remind that there would have been possible an intermediate phase: the measure of declaring the state of alert, proposed initially by the technical-scientific support group, but version was ignored by the National Council for Special Emergency Situations.

According to the provisions of the 3rd article of GEO no. 1/1999, the state of emergency can be declared in the following situations: “a) the existence of current or imminent serious dangers to national security or the functioning of constitutional democracy OR b) already occurred or imminent occurrence of calamities which make it necessary to prevent, limit or eliminate, as the case may be, the consequences of disasters”. In this situation, the state of emergency was declared regarding the population health security, in the context of the emergency actions for public health made by the World Health Organization.

Transparency International Romania reminds that all measures to be taken under the state of emergency should be strictly related to this situation; must be temporary and must be proportionate to the subject for which it has imposed:

  • Any limitations of rights and freedoms must be made in full compliance with the provisions of 4 only to the extent required by the situation and in compliance with art. no. 53 of the Constitution, only if necessary in a democratic society, if proportionate to the situation determined whether it is applied in a non-discriminatory manner and without prejudice to the existence of right or freedom. [Example: press freedom cannot be suppressed and censorship cannot be introduced if the press reports irregularities in the management of the state of emergency by the government, but only the prohibition of the information dissemination that concretely affects the operational capacity to combat the epidemic].
  • Economic State aid measures or the public procurement ones must be strictly limited to the effects of the situation that require them, in connection with the Coronavirus epidemic, with explicit justification of the link to it and the proportionality criterion. [Example: in art. 9 paragraph (2), the law stipulates the obligation of the communication service providers to continue their provision uninterruptedly. If the extension of the licenses of the telephony operators is not issued with the payment of the established fee, the extension cannot be made for 10 years without fee, but only the continuation of the issuance on the 3G frequency without renewal approved after March 30, throughout the state of emergency].
  • Measures such as facilities to ensure the prevention of the spread of Coronavirus infection must be equal and non-discriminatory.

    [Example: the requisition cannot be differentiated for some hotel service operators and for others to ensure the payment of the value of accommodation and meals costs within the institutionalized quarantine measure, or random selection, without demonstrating a criterion of direct acquisition, only of some operators who have off-season capacity, but not others in the same area].

The other economic or administrative measures must be taken in accordance with the usual procedures and standards besides the derogations given by the state of emergency. Thus, both central and local government authorities have the obligation to comply with the criteria in the legislation for all measures adopted with wider effects than combating the spread of the epidemic and not to use generic action plans in order to favour agents to take financial advantage of the crisis to later fund they campaigns or to carry out measures under the "Coronavirus flag" for they own electoral and political benefit.

In order to manage with transparency and accountability the measures that will be adopted by the central and local authorities, we call for the following principles:

We request the President of Romania that at the time of issuing the decree declaring the state of emergency to:

  • specify explicitly and extensively, according to art. 14 letter a), the reasons that required the establishment of the state of emergency, to be clear and transparent how to monitor the proportionality of the measures to be adopted, as well as the qualification of those who are under the state of emergency and those who are not, in terms of justification and the effects they produce;
  • specify explicitly and limiting, according to art. 14 lit. c1), what are the measures to be taken immediately as a first emergency;
  • specify explicitly and limiting, according to art. 14 lit. d), what are the rights to be restricted, the limits of the restriction and the purpose of the restriction in order to give a predictable and effective content to the provisions of art. 53, paragraph (2) of the Constitution;
  • use in extenso the provisions of art. 14 letter f): “other provisions, if deemed necessary”, in order to ensure the clarity of the purpose, consequences and of the causal link of the measures to be taken in the management of the state of emergency, thus ensuring transparency and accountability in political, economic decisions and public safety of state authorities. In the absence of such specifications, any abuses will be committed or any commercial advantage taken will be the political responsibility of the President of Romania as an institution.

We request the Romanian Parliament that in the Decision it will adopt, based on the provisions of art. 12 of GEO no. 1/1999 regarding the approval of the measure declaring a state of emergency, to introduce provisions such as:

  • the obligation of the President to present, within the report provided in art. 34 of GEO no. 1/1999 to be submitted to Parliament within 60 days, information on the actions taken and the measures needed to prevent the risk that required the state of emergency and the full list of the measures taken and the financial resources used, or the actual budgetary impact;
  • to approve the task of the Government to present, within 60 days from the end of the state of emergency, a detailed report on the actions taken, the measures taken, the necessity status for each of them, strictly related to the management of the epidemiological risk taken or the fiscal-budgetary measures taken limited to the period of declaration of a state of emergency, as well as the presentation of other complementary measures that have been taken through standard regular administrative procedures.

We request the Romanian Court of Accounts and the Romanian Ombudsman that at the end of the emergency period and after the submission of reports by the President of Romania and the Government, to prepare audit reports, respectively to assess the conformity and proportionality of measures adopted under the state of emergency, in the light of their corresponding institutional competencies.

We call for all central and local public administration authorities to show responsibility, transparency and integrity in the management of their competences, whether exceptional or ordinary, and not to use this situation for abuse, corruption or favouritism. Also, to sanction without discrimination all speculative and / or non-compliant behaviours of economic agents providing public services.