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The BC’s negative opinion on the draft law on the external performance audit of the institution. Dragos Vicol: “A new way of political score settling”

05 June 2020
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The Broadcasting Council (BC) decided unanimously to reject the draft law that would allow its external audits. In the opinion of the BC members, this initiative contains “serious deviations” from the principles ensuring the BC’s independence.

The draft law provides for the conduct of ad hoc performance audits at the Broadcasting Council and the Competition Council by entities from abroad. According to one of the authors of the draft law, the MP Sergiu Litvinenco, this initiative is a condition set by the European Union for disbursing a new installment of financial assistance and is also necessary to evaluate the work of the two authorities, which is “amorphous,” he believes.

The opinion of the BC’s Legal Department on the draft law, examined at the meeting of June 4, argues that the role of conducting performance audits at the Council belongs to the Court of Accounts. At the same time, this initiative allegedly is contrary to the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers that broadcasting regulators “should be accountable for carrying out their functions before the public by publishing regular or ad hoc reports on their work or on exercising their mission.” Moreover, such institutions can be “supervised only in terms of the legality of their work, as well as correctness and transparency of their financial activities. No other control of the decisions made by regulators should be possible.”

“The proposed amendment makes clearer the intention of the authors of this legislative initiative to subordinate the Broadcasting Council to political power, which is likely to exert influence and reduce the institutional capacity of the broadcasting authority,” states the legal opinion.

All members agreed with the findings of the BC’s lawyers, considering it inappropriate to promote the draft law.

In the opinion of the BC member Lidia Viziru, the draft law “was not very well thought out,” and the BC’s annual report to the Parliament meets all the requirements regarding performance evaluation. Her colleague Artur Cozma noted that the BC is open for an audit by the EU, but he also mentioned the danger of political intervention in the process.
Corneliu Mihalache, another BC member, said uncompromisingly, “It is not the first nor the last attempt by some political forces to take control over our institution. That is why the issue is not whether we are afraid or not – we must not admit such interference because we are an autonomous public institution.”

The BC chairman Dragos Vicol agreed with his colleagues, saying that the draft law is a “smokescreen.” “I see this initiative as a new way of political score settling, as a new way of trying to distort the reality, especially with the electoral campaign approaching, so that our broadcasting authority could be subjected to a new veto, a right to veto, to a new way of discrediting, if it needed any proving,” Vicol said.