Cost of corruption in natural resource extraction in Moldova

In the Republic of Moldova, the natural resources are managed inefficiently by the central and local public authorities. As a result of inappropriate management, the environment and the public budget are also affected. There is no efficient investigation of the groups of interests, criminal groups that benefit from the illegal extraction of natural resources through the agency or under the patronage of persons holding public posts. The fines imposed for these illegalities are disproportionate to the damage caused by extractions, says a study conducted by Sanda Sandu, a scholar of the Public Policy Fellowship program, IPN reports.

In the presentation event, the author said there is no strategy for the long-term sustainable development of natural resources. Besides the inefficient management of natural resources, the illicit activities are not investigated and this is confirmed by the field examinations performed by the Ecological Inspectorate. In 2017, there were identified 237 unauthorized quarries with a total area of over 237 ha, while in 2018 - 385 illicit exploitation sectors with a total area of 736 ha. Acceding to the National Anticorruption Center, there are 23 criminal cases that concern natural resource extraction directly or indirectly.

Sanda Sandu noted the processes of extracting sand and gravel from rivers have been stepped up. This illegality is often committed on the pretext of executing navigable channel cleanup works. The Agency of Geology and Mineral Resources found out that the state-owned enterprise Ungheni Fluvial Port illegally extracted 1,850 cubic meters of sand from the Prut near Semeni village, with the damage being assessed at over 369,000 lei. Also, sand had been illegally extracted in Nisporeni during six years (2011-2017) and sold to private individuals and legal entities. This was valued at over 1 million lei.

The study author said it is opportune to create a national platform for ensuring the management of natural resources. Corruption is a complex problem that cannot be solved by one player. It can be dealt with by cooperation based on partnership. A strategy for the sustainable management of natural resources should be worked out through open inclusive processes that would involve the general public, governmental institutions, Parliament, the private sector and, in particular, the local communities affected by extractions.

Another recommendation is to ensure anticorruption monitoring centering on the corruption risks in natural resource extraction. Mobile teams should determine how the legal provisions, public policies are obeyed so as to prevent corruption. The proportionality of penalties should be ensured as the fines are now very small.

The presentation of the study formed part of the Public Policy Fellowship project that is implemented by the Good Governance Department of Soros Foundation Moldova in partnership with the Hertie School of Governance of Berlin.

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