Romanian Tourism Ministry shuts down promotion offices abroad over irregularities
Romania’s tourism promotion offices abroad, which are the institutions that promote the Romanian tourism abroad and attract foreign tourists to Romania, will shut down and their employees will return to the country.
The Ministry of Tourism announced on Wednesday that it drafted changes to the Government Decision which rules how the Ministry works and is organized. These not only bring changes to the organization chart but also provide shutting down the Ministry’s representations abroad.
The need to shut down these offices and rethink the way the country’s tourism is represented abroad is given both by the internal analysis made by tourism minister Mircea-Titus Dobre and the data presented by the Court of Auditors on the activity of the former National Authority for Tourism in 2015, according to a statement from the Ministry.
“The audit institution found several serious irregularities related to the external promotion offices and public money spending, which confirm the outcome of the internal analysis conducted by the Ministry of Tourism management,” reads the statement.
These offices operated on artificially created budgets, at the discretion of their representatives, without any minimal control over the correctness of amounts presented as expenses, according to the Ministry. For example, there was no maximum ceiling for rent costs, only a condition related to the admissible area. However, some employees apparently failed to respect this condition as well, according to the Court of Auditors.
“Also, when it came to rents of offices and homes for employees, there were major discrepancies between offices located in countries comparable in terms of living standards, the rents varying between EUR 1,347 and EUR 5,357 per month. Thus, in some cases, more than 70% of the budget allocated to the offices abroad was spent on rents.”
Moreover, part of the expenditures made by the Ministry of Tourism’s representations abroad was not recorded in the institution’s accounts, some amounts being reimbursed without any supporting documents. Over the years, the unjustified amount has reached over EUR 500,000.
Tourism minister Mircea-Titus Dobre has decided to change the way the Romanian tourism is promoted abroad. The external promotion offices will shut down, and their employees will return home in 90 days. During this period, authorities will work on elaborating job descriptions for employees in the foreign tourism promotion offices, as well as rules based on which these jobs will be occupied.
The future employees will have four-year mandates to avoid jobs held for indefinite periods. The current staff of these promotion offices will remain employees of the Tourism Ministry, and will be able to participate in the job contest to be organized this year.
“The Ministry of Tourism wants Romania's promotion on foreign markets to be done correctly, coherently and efficiently. The representatives of the tourism promotion offices of Romania will benefit from administrative autonomy, but their activity will be coordinated by the heads of the diplomatic missions in the countries where the Ministry of Tourism's institutional presence will be deemed necessary,” reads the statement.
The Ministry also plans to relocate some of these offices in countries that can provide tourists to Romania, such as Scandinavian countries, Benelux, but the number of promotion offices abroad will stay at 14. To optimize spending, the diplomatic missions’ headquarters may also host tourism promotion offices.
Irina Popescu, email@example.com
(photo source: Ministerul Turismului on Facebook)