Romania’s integrity agency said on November 3 that three cabinet ministers and another top government official were unfit for office, triggering a public row with just five weeks left before parliamentary elections.
The agency, a corruption watchdog set up at the request of the European Union as part of the fight against corruption effort, said that regional development and tourism minister Eduard Hellvig, held a management position in a private company for months after his ministerial appointment; transport and infrastructure minister Ovidiu Silaghi failed to explain the source of about 45 000 euro worth of expenses; the minister-delegate for social dialogue Liviu Pop, while interim education minister earlier this year, signed an order that directly benefitted his previous employer, the teachers trade union.
A fourth official, the deputy secretary general of the cabinet, Sorin Mihalache, was also found to have held a management position in the private sector after his government appointment, the integrity agency said.
The four, according to reports in Romanian media, have separately slammed the announcement, dismissing it as politically motivated and an attempt to influence the election campaign.
Prime minister Victor Ponta said that he asked the four officials to “explain themselves” and described the accusations as referring to past activities, not related to their time in the government. “I will remind you that we are in electoral campaign. Nevertheless, if the accusations are proven, they will lose the right to hold public office,” Ponta said, as quoted by Romania Libera daily.
Three of the men – Hellvig, Silaghi and Mihalache – are close allies of the National-Liberal party leader Crin Antonescu. The party is in the ruling coalition alongside Ponta’s social-democrats; the coalition, which took over government in May after winning a vote of no confidence against the previous cabinet, is expected to win big at the next parliamentary elections, to be held on December 9.
(Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta. Photo: gov.ro)