The special parliamentary committee for the laws of justice has adopted, on Monday, the PSD proposal to introduce a threshold for abuse of office, the gross minimum wage of RON 1,900. The committee has also voted an amendment to repeal the article on negligence in office committee by the civil servant, part of the draft to amend the Criminal Code.
The PSD MPs have changed the phrase ‘patrimonial material benefit’ to ‘undue material benefit’. They have also amended article 297 of the Criminal Code regarding the abuse of office, by eliminating the word ‘non-patrimonial’. The amendment was adopted with 13 votes for and 7 against.
Another controversial amendment adopted was that a public servant is considered to have broken the law if his deed has brought a financial benefit to him or to his first and second degree relatives. At the same time, the special committee has deleted the provision according to which drafting, issuing or approving legislative acts by the Government or the Parliament could fall under the offense of abuse of office.
Following the vote, the special committee will issue a report on the draft law. The Senate plenary will vote, on Tuesday, the draft bill, according to the upper chamber’s agenda.
Justice Minister’s suggestions
Justice Minister, Tudorel Toader, suggested Sunday evening that the threshold for abuse of office should be the equivalent of the minimum gross wage.
“I have the opinion, and this is our proposal, that the threshold is the equivalent of the minimum gross wage, not the net wage, the gross wage. We have submitted this proposal. If the damage is higher than the minimum wage, the criminal responsibility is on, but the judge has the means to individualize the punishment,” Tudorel Toader said for Romania TV private broadcaster.
The gross minimum wage is RON 1,900 (approx. EUR 410).
Also on Sunday, the chairman of the special parliamentary committee for the laws of justice, PSD Deputy Florin Iordache, told Antena 3 TV private broadcaster that the Ministry of Justice has proposed “a minimal threshold for abuse of office”, adding that “if there is damage, this does not mean a criminal file is needed.”
“We want to finalise this definition for abuse of office once and for all, there were a lot of such abuses lately. We will discuss, I understand there is pressure from the Ministry of Justice to set a minimal threshold. I repeat, it is very important to register no more abuses. If there is damage, this does not mean a criminal file is needed. The problem will be solved with a civil code file, the money is recovered and that’s all,” Iordache said.
Iordache added that the debates and the vote on the amendments to the Criminal Code will be concluded on Monday by the committee.
DNA retorts: Numerous files to be closed down
The National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) has replied to the Justice Minister’s proposal on the abuse of office that prosecutors would be forced to close down “numerous files” if the JusMin’s proposal to redefine the abuse of office offense came into force, arguing the area of enforcing the crime will be extremely confined. DNA warns that large categories of offenses currently stipulated in the criminal law might be decriminalized.
The anti-corruption body argues that 215 files sent to court last year might be acquitted, while the majority of the ongoing ones would be closed. Besides, anti-corruption prosecutors say that the form proposed by minister Toader is not compliant with certain constitutional provisions.