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‘Moldpres’ Agency Could Remain Without Photojournalists and Translators. The Founders Decided to Make the Institution More Efficient

20 November 2019
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A number of reporters, photojournalists and translators from the Public Institution ‘Moldpres’ State News Agency were notified in advance that they would be dismissed due to the fact that the Founder approved the new structure and staffing limit of Moldpres. The decision was approved by the former Secretary General of the State Chancellery, Andrei Spinu, on 11 November, and was aimed to ‘make the institution more efficient’. Employees disagree with this decision and filed a petition to the President of the country. Igor Dodon requested the current Chicu Government to intervene in order to solve this situation.

Photojournalists from Moldpres say they are ‘unemployed’

These days, photojournalists from Moldpres, Mihai Vengher and Andrei Mardari were informed that they were excluded from the newly approved structure of the public instiution. Andrei Mardari wrote on Facebook that he was thinking to migrate abroad. ‘Yesterday I was a tourist in Milan - tomorrow I could join the Diaspora. I dedicated my entire life to ‘Moldpres’ Agency, and today the Republic of Moldova decided that it no longer needs me as a journalist, as well as other dozens of my colleagues. While the state urges the Diaspora to return home, many people are massively dismissed in the country.

Asked by Media-azi.md, Mihai Vengher told us: ‘They gave us the notice. We signed it. According to the Labour Code, we will work two more months. I have been working here for 30 years and I had offers from elsewhere. In August I had one, but I refused because I wanted to work here. I really like working here, I love my job. I don’t get into politics, although I take pictures of politicians, but that’s the situation. I think it's silly. ‘I dont’t think that there is an agency in the world without reporters’, Vengher told to Media-azi.md.

Fidel Galaico, the Head of Department, claims that the new structure does not provide for a unit of translators. ‘We have various international commitments. We are members of ANIA, Association of National News Agencies of the CIS Member States. If they force us to give up the Russian language, it automatically means that we have nothing to do there’, stated Galaico with indignation. According to him, several Moldpres employees sent petitions to the Parliament, Presidency and other institutions.

Mihai Potirniche, the former department director at Foto Moldpress TV, criticised the decision to dismiss more employees. ‘This will probably be the biggest mistake, because there are government agencies in all the countries. We have an archive of about 200,000 negatives, a figure that outnumbers even that of the National Archive. Beginning with the declaration of independence we have all the history printed out and, unfortunately, I understood that they want to reduce the number of photographs’, mentioned Potarniche.

He claims that the income of Moldpres is mainly generated by the services provided by the Official Gazette, and the State Chancellery ‘does not allocate a single leu’.

Note that the President Igor Dodon reacted to this petition and promised that he would demand the Prime Minister, Ion Chicu, to review the decision of the former Government and to ensure the operation of the ‘Moldpres’ Agency.
‘By the same decision, the entire photo service of the agency was liquidated, which made impossible to reflect in pictures the most important events in our country. I believe that the decision of the former Government of Maia Sandu violates the Constitution and the law of the Republic of Moldova because it fails to observe the rights of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova and of the diplomatic corps in obtaining official information about the events in the country in Russian and English languages’, stated Dodon.
 

 

What does the State Chancellery say?

In accordance with the law in force, the State Chancellery acts as the founder of the Public Institution ‘Moldpres’ State News Agency. In fact, Moldpres is managed by three bodies – the State Chancellery, the Moldpres Council and Management of the institution. The decision to change of the structure and the staffing limit was taken by the PI Moldpres SNA Council, on 11 November, at the request of Andrei Spinu, the former Secretary General of Sandu Government.  Andrei Spinu argues that he had to do this in order to make the agency’s activity more efficient. ‘At my request, we proposed to modify the staffing lists. The Council also proposed to make the institution more efficient. I personally endorsed the structure of the staffing list. I think ‘Moldpres’ is not efficient. The institution has very large staffing lists. For example, they have four drivers. Unless I am mistaken, the Media Department (News Division – e.n.) had about 14 or 15 employees, which is a lot compared to the effort they make. Hence, we asked to find solutions to optimise and make their activity more efficient in order to save the public money,’ said Spinu.

Andrei Spinu said that around 70 people worked at Moldpres and that the agency was a monopoly. ‘They make money on the announcements that are published in the Official Gazette, that are paid by the citizens and by businessmen,’ explained Spinu.

The former Secretary General claims that he is sorry that some people will lose their jobs, but he believes that the state must find a formula to make the activity of ‘Moldpres’ more efficient. ‘I’m really sorry. Probably, good people work there. To see what I mean – 9 people work in the Financial Department and their budget is MDL 200 million. Not even the Financial Department of the State Chancellery has so many people! Their argument is that they write invoices by hand I asked them, why? This is how we work. We cannot make any changes in the Financial Department, because there will be no one to provide such services. I also prepared a Draft Law aimed to digitalize the Official Gazette, but this had to be done 3-4-5 years ago. I told them – ‘You make your work more efficient’, and in parallel, I will take care of the digitization project, so that people can send their announcements online and pay by card. It is not necessary to employ so many people’, Spinu explained.

PI Moldpres SNA Council consists of 5 members: Ina Railean, Chairperson of the Council, who is the Head of the Department of Governmental Acts of the State Chancellery, and four other members – Svetlana Budeci, Head of Financial Department, Chief Accountant; Oxana Vlas, Consultant at Relations with the Parliament, Government and Constitutional Court Service of the Ministry of Justice; Elena Matveeva, Head of the Public Debt Division of the Ministry of Finance, and Rodica Josanu, Head of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research.

Ina Railean mentioned for Media-azi.md that the decision on the new structure was taken after the ‘Moldpres’ Agency was reorganized into a public institution. ‘After the reorganization, an analysis of the profitability and economic efficiency of the institution was carried out, in which the Center for Reforms Implementation reported, in written form, the amount of income some units collect and the amount they generate. So, a restructuring was conducted and a structure with a smaller number of units was approved’, explained Railean.

How does ‘Moldpres’ explain the dismissals?

 ‘A week ago, we received the approved structure and we are going to implement an administrative act’, explained Andrei Volentir, the General Director of Moldpres.

He stated for Media-azi.md that people are being dismissed because of the reorganization process conducted in the institution. ‘Moldpres’ News Agency operated until last year with the status of a state-owned enterprise. The Government decided to reorganize it into a public institution, in compliance with the new Law on Municipal Enterprises, which stipulates that municipal enterprises should be reorganized by 22 December, either in joint stock companies or in public institutions. All the Government did was to find a more appropriate status as PI. This transformation into a PI was a long-term process – it started on 11 January, when it was published in the OG, and was to be finished in May-June’, explained Volentir.

The General Director of Moldpress claims that he proposed to the founder some optimized versions of the structure. The first one had 68 unit and the last one – 47. ‘The redundancy process will take place according to the Labour Code, which sets a two-month deadline from the moment the notice was received. We are at the initial stage, so we cannot say that the employees of the Agency that were excluded from the new structure were dismissed. Today, we have just started to notify the employees,’ said Volentir.