In 2012, under pressure from Europe, the Romanian state was forced to de-institutionalize people with physical and mental disabilities from the nursing homes for which Romania became world famous in the first years after the Revolution. Gradually, in a process that began then and is still ongoing, people have ended up in sheltered housing or small residential social care homes in the community.
This is how a new business emerged and flourished: the trade in very sick, and therefore defenceless, people. At the expense of the state, still obliged to pay good money for their care.
From one of the biggest slices of the budget, that for social assistance, the state has ended up paying large sums for the accommodation, meals and care of each and every person with disabilities, whether they live with a family or are under care in a state or private social care home.
The more severe the diagnosis, the more the state money increases. It even goes up to one thousand five hundred euros in the most serious cases.
“Social service providers’ have taken the place of nursing homes: NGOs or companies that take in people from the state, but also money, in exchange for accommodation, food and treatment to improve their condition, or at least halt their decline. When the money stays in the pockets of businessmen and doesn’t help people, the social service becomes a money factory.
The circle is simple: the heads of the institutions that “give” people and money to the “social care homes” are also the first to check the conditions in which the sick are cared for. But they don’t. In this quid pro quo mechanism, money flows, and people – defenceless, some without civil rights and without families – wither and die. Then others come. And so on.
On 24 November 2020, in a one-room flat in Voluntari, an NGO with the name of a made-up saint is being set up: The Saint Gabriel the Brave Association.
Among the first members of the organization we find Ligia Gheorghe (formerly Enache), an old friend of Gabriela Firea, former producer of her shows on Antene, advisor to the mayor, the senator and then to the Minister of Equal Opportunities Gabriela Firea.
By the end of September, Firea had lost the capital, and became a senator in early December. Her eternal adviser Ligia was practically between jobs then, although, according to her CV, from November 2020 to July 2021 she was employed at Metropola TV, the television station of the Voluntari City Hall, run by the eternal mayor of Ilfovea Florentin Pandele, Gabriela Firea’s husband.
Alongside her, the association also includes Ecaterina Adriana Voicu, who was appointed by Mayor Firea in 2017 as head of the Bucharest Youth Centre, as well as her life partner, Stefan Godei, former boss of the social-democrat youth movement in Ilfova and a sort of bodyguard of Gabriela Firea.
According to the founding documents, the aim of the organisation chaired by Godei is to “improve the quality of life” and “fight against the disappearance of life”.
That’s in the abstract, because although it doesn’t exist, St. Gabriel the Brave is going down and starting to make its associates money: The NGO has set up two social care homes to care for the hardest-pressed adults, those with severe mental and physical disabilities. And it receives a lot of public money every month from the General Directorates of Social Assistance and Child Protection (DGASPC) Ilfov and Sector 3.
That is, from the people of the state in Ilfov, the Firea-Pandele fiefdom, but also from those under the Firea-Pandele couple’s godson, Robert Negoiță.
People are dying on their feet and the money is flowing. When problems arise, no state employee seems to see them.
We saw them.
“He was Viși!”
It’s Thursday, November 11, 2021, and an ambulance is disturbing, with its sirens, the peace of the inhabitants of Stefan cel Mare Street in Pipera, Voluntari.
It stops suddenly in front of the house at number 38. There’s nothing written on the gate, you’d think it was just another post office day villa in the “posh” neighbourhood on the outskirts of Bucharest.
The crew lowers the stretcher and rushes into the yard, then into the house. After a few minutes, he gets out and climbs back into the car, the stretcher on which a young man is lying inert. It’s Gabriel Gheorghe, nicknamed “Viși”, a boy who spent his whole life in Bucharest orphanages and later, as an adult with severe mental disabilities, went through many state social care homes.
Viși had just had a seizure. He fell backwards and hit his head badly. The ambulance took him to Floreasca hospital, but no one could do anything for him.
A few hours later he died. He was 35 years old.
“Viși died? Oh, when did he die? He jumped all day, when he was happy he did this…”, remembers with sadness Lili Covaci, a psychologist and behavioural therapist who worked with Viși in the past, imitating the boy.
It’s September 7, 2022, and Lili Covaci is part of the Legal Resources Centre (CRJ) team on an unannounced monitoring visit to the “St Gabriel the Brave” social care home at 38 Stefan cel Mare Street in Pipera.
Viși is one of the young people Lili looked after many years ago, when she worked at the former “Marin Pazon” Neuropsychomotor Recovery Centre in Sector 3, which has since closed. Most of them are today beneficiaries of the services of the “Saint Gabriel the Brave” social care home in Pipera.
The other “children”, as Lili calls them, recognise her, even though it has been many years since they last saw each other. Somewhat hard to believe, for people with serious medical problems. To help them remember her, Lili Covaci says the magic word: “McDonald’s”.
“I used to bring them McDonald’s regularly, especially when they were good and cooperative”, the psychologist tells CIM and Buletin de București reporters after her visit to the social care home in Pipera.
A beautiful prison
Unfortunately, Lili Covaci and her colleagues who come to monitor the social care home in Pipera quickly realise that, apart from the fact that the house is relatively clean, the condition of these people has not improved at all, a sign that they are not in fact receiving the services for which the state pays.
“This looks like a nice prison, what you have here. It’s clean, really, here, but where are the social services?” asked Georgiana Pascu, programme manager at the CRJ, the two people – a social worker and a nurse – who were looking after the nearly 30 people on the day her team went to monitor the social care home.
But the formal findings of the CRJ monitoring at the St Gabriel the Brave social care home in September 2022 look much worse in detail.
And the conclusions of the CRJ activists are reinforced by Romanian state officials, namely a team from the National Authority for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ANPDPD), which also visited and monitored the social care home just a few days before the NGOs arrived.
According to the two monitoring reports (CRJ and ANPDPD) obtained by reporters from the Media Investigation Centre and Buletin de București, the social care home is in fact an upstairs and attic villa where 27 people with severe health problems live. For their care, DGASPC Sector 3 pays more than 30,000 euros a month. The money goes to the association with the made-up saint’s name, which in turn pays a monthly rent of €3,500 for the hundreds of square metres of house, plus a generous courtyard.
And that’s pretty much all there is, in fact, behind the name of the St Gabriel the Brave Care and Assistance Centre (CIA) here. The rest is form, just on paper.
Of the more than 30,000 euros that go into the pockets of Gabriela Firea’s close associates every month from the state, only four thousand lei, i.e. less than a thousand euros, end up being spent on medical, psychiatric and psychological services, according to documents obtained by CIM reporters and Buletin de București. This means that 2.7% of the total amount received covers essential services, given that all 27 beneficiaries are people with severe or severe disabilities and mental disabilities, and therefore people who need quasi-continuous medical supervision.
And this is also shown in the condition of the beneficiaries, but also in the documents.
The ANPDPD inspection took place, according to the report, in the last week of August 2022, and the last records in the GP’s observation sheets are from spring. Since then, the health status of beneficiaries has therefore only been assessed in emergency situations when an ambulance was called.
One such episode of self-aggression by a beneficiary was noted by the ANPDPD team during the control itself. In the absence of specialists to intervene immediately, the employees called 112 and the Rescue Service and the Police immediately came to the social care home.
Another example recounted by the ANPDPD in the report: the case of a beneficiary who, in August, “had multiple episodes of agitation, screamed, threw her head on the pavement, pulled her hair and stripped off her clothes”. In this case “an attempt was made to calm her down”, after which “the emergency service was called”.
Another event, on 9 March, was also dealt with by “specialist emergency help”, as a beneficiary was aggressive with his roommate, “threw him out of bed, they bumped over old wounds, hurt each other”.
“It’s an interesting ambulance trick, but it’s actually abuse. The ambulance comes for free when it’s called, and the employees call the ambulance for basically everything. I’ve seen situations where they’ve called rescue for a rash on a beneficiary, for example. It should be illegal to use free Ambulance services to compensate for the work of doctors you actually choose not to pay,” says Georgiana Pascu, leader of the CRJ’s monitoring team, speaking to reporters.
“As the family doctor had not offered consultations to the beneficiaries in the social care home since spring, they (the beneficiaries, editor’s note) received medical assistance only through the emergency medical service,” ANPDPD representatives also state unequivocally in the cited report.
A case of slow and certain death
The lack of basic health care is even on paper.
ANPDPD inspectors identified the case of a 69-year-old beneficiary who had lung cancer surgery in 2019 and who, since he was brought to the social care home, has never been consulted and assessed, although both the specialist and the family doctor obviously recommended regular check-ups and tests.
About the same beneficiary, in a note in his file of March 2022, the employees of the social care home wrote that he refused treatment: Symbicort (inhaler). In another, later note, it is stated that the beneficiary “has no treatment”. Asked at the ANPDPD inspection why he refused the treatment, the man replied that he had no money to buy it.
A bottle of Symbicort Turbuhaler, which, according to the leaflet, lasts at least one month for an adult, costs 70 lei. For the care of this patient, the social care home receives from the state, through DGASPC Sector 3, 5,571 lei a month.
The same beneficiary suffers, according to medical records, from diabetes. The employees on duty at the time of the ANPDPD inspection had prepared tea and biscuits with cream for everyone at breakfast. Including him, as neither the nurses nor the nurse knew, according to the report, that the man had to be on a special diet.
Anti-vaccination doctors absent or not present
The head of the social care homee, Ștefan Godei, explained to the ANPDPD inspectors that the family medicine company with which he had a contract, GIMED SRL, had unilaterally terminated the contract “several months ago”. For this reason his beneficiaries have not been seen by any doctor for months. His social care home is “in negotiations” with another possible provider. According to a contract obtained by reporters, GIMED SRL was receiving one thousand lei a month for the care of the social care home’s 27 beneficiaries.
The physiotherapist – also essential for people with this medical condition – has not come to work for months either, according to the same Godei, who claims that “his employment contract is about to be terminated”.
The psychologist has also started missing. According to the ANPDPD report, “some beneficiaries said that the psychologist had offered them counselling and psychological support a few weeks ago on Saturdays of the week, but that he had stopped coming.” He was allegedly on holiday at the time of the visit, Godei told ANPDPD monitors.
The psychology office with which the Association of St. Gabriel the Brave collaborated until November 2022 belongs to Antoaneta Camelia Preda. The amount that her psychology practice received monthly was 1,500 lei.
Preda had links with Sector 3, just like the beneficiaries living in the house in Voluntari: until the end of October 2021, she was the head of the “Pistruiatul” Service Complex run by the Sector 3 Social Assistance and Child Protection Directorate. She has worked for DGASPC S3 since 2010, when she was head of service at the Service Complex for Delinquent Children.
The psychiatrist, on the other hand, comes twice a month to the social care home and still receives 1,500 lei. According to the ANPDPD, the nurse maintains a relationship with the psychiatrist and receives therapeutic instructions from him over the phone.
The psychiatrist in question is Matei Iorgu Dragoș. According to the website of Imuno Medica, the clinic where he works, he has almost ten years’ experience in medicine. “His medical and scientific training is complemented by his spiritual and theological training, as he is also a graduate of the “Justinian Patriarch” Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Bucharest.”
Imuno Medica Clinic is owned by businessman George Becali, and from 2017 to 2018, psychiatrist Matei was the company’s administrator. Since 2019, Becali’s clinic has come to public attention after Libertatea wrote about the scientifically unproven treatments it provides.
For example, in 2019 one of the cures available at Imuno Medica was mistletoe therapy for cancer patients. “Total hyperthermia means a fever induced throughout the body with the hope that it will destroy cancer cells. Nowhere in the world do doctors treat cancer this way because they have no evidence that this therapy would work,” Freedom reported at the time.
Moreover, in the pandemic the same newsroom discovered that Imuno Medica had published on its website a treatment and/or prevention plan for COVID-19 with controversial drugs such as Ivermectin, Arbidol and Plaquenil, as well as gargling with brandy. This plan was created by theologian Virgiliu Gheorghe, co-patron of the clinic, promoter of pseudomedicine and follower of the antivaccine movement.
The views of the psychiatrist who treats the beneficiaries in Voluntari do not differ considerably from those of his bosses at Imuno Medica. He is one of the doctors who signed the rejection of the draft vaccination law because “there is no consensus in medicine on the safety and efficacy of vaccines”.
The remaining employees, few and unprepared
Beyond the “outsourced” services, which are more or less “outsourced” on paper only, the social care home does not have nearly enough staff.
In addition to the fact that doctors rarely visit the Gabriel the Brave social care home, the staff who are supposed to look after the 27 beneficiaries suffering from serious mental health problems are insufficient.
The Gabriel the Brave Social Care Home should operate with a total of 27 posts, according to the Rules of Organisation and Functioning (ROF) on the basis of which it probably received the contract from DGASPC 3.
In reality there are only a few employees: four plus the owner. Only four people who take care of the 27 people with absolutely special needs: two nurses, a social worker and a general nurse. Plus one of the beneficiaries, in a much better medical condition than the rest, who has a volunteer contract for the position of nurse, in return for his services he receives a house and a meal from St Gabriel the Brave.
Only two nurses, although on paper there are 13. Only one nurse, although there should be four.
The professional quality of employees seems to be even more disastrous than their insufficient number. The ANPDPD states that “no documents have been identified to prove the participation of employees in training/education”. In the contract with DGASPC S3, the association committed itself to take care of staff qualification and to provide the necessary human resources. This did not happen.
And this, ultimately, directly affects the beneficiaries, who have no one to do practically anything to improve their condition.
“The people in care at the time of the visit were not receiving specific maintenance/skills maintenance interventions. Although in an entry called “monitoring/functional habilitation of beneficiaries” activities such as painting, modelling, drawing, gardening are ticked as carried out, the beneficiaries with whom it was possible to have discussions stated that no such activities were carried out. Social/recreational activities (watching TV programme, going out in the yard) were the only activities that were carried out at the time of the visit,” ANPDPD inspectors write.
The “rigid regime” to which the beneficiaries of the St. Gabriel the Brave social care home are subjected was also observed by the CRJ monitors. Most of the residents spend their time either watching TV or in the undeveloped backyard, weather permitting.
Those who do go out into the courtyard have “only a two-seater indoor sofa, which is in an advanced state of disrepair”.
The green space that beneficiaries could enjoy is unkempt, more of a safety hazard than a place for them to relax. According to the ANPDPD, certain elements in the courtyard of the social care home, such as electric cables or rose bushes grown over the pathway, “present an increased risk of injury”.
Things are no better on the inside. Some of the people sleep in the living room, on mattresses that they themselves have carried and laid on the floor.
“The beneficiaries sleep in groups because of the lack of supervision and care staff,” says the same report, which enshrines this lack of staff as the leitmotif that obviously generates a lack of care for those institutionalised here.
Another thing lacking for those sleeping on the ground floor in the living room are bathrooms. Although there are two toilets there, both are locked. Only staff can use them.
Social care home employees, however, say that eight of them, women and men with serious mental illnesses, would sleep in the basement.
According to the CRJ, the windows in the basement are very narrow, so the beneficiaries living there don’t get enough light or fresh air as they should. That’s in cases where they are among the “lucky” ones. There are rooms that don’t even have a window, no matter how narrow.
“Three of the basement residents lived in the hallway, with only an assigned bed, no pillows, dirty linens, no nightstand or other closet, and no personal belongings,” CRJ notes.
What’s really going on in the basement? One of the women “tearfully recounted how she had been locked in the building’s basement isolator, where she would have been left in the dark for longer periods of time.” She asked the ANPDPD inspectors not to tell the social care home bosses what she had spoken to them, for fear of ending up in the dark again when “she does something else stupid”.
“As a result of this, (the woman, editor’s note) has panic episodes and nightmares at night,” ANPDPD reporters write.
Several women in the social care home have confirmed the girl’s version of events, the report says, but all are afraid of repercussions and do not want to tell the management about what happened. Even if they wanted to make a complaint, the residents told CRJ activists that they do not have access to paper and writing instruments to make complaints or grievances. And anyway, complaints still go to the management of the social care home.
Why was the beneficiary locked in the basement? Because she allegedly became violent because she was not allowed to have sex with an “alleged boyfriend”, also a beneficiary of the social care home.
Or at least that was the reason given by the staff for the abuse.
Locking people up in solitary confinement is, in fact, illegal. The only person who can decide on this measure is the psychiatrist, not the staff – also unqualified – of the social care home. In addition, the CRJ monitors note, even if it were legal, the basement isolation social care home is in poor condition anyway – just tiles on the floor, no other furniture and a hole a few square centimetres in the wall instead of a window.
The main objective of those who are supposed to care for the residents seems “to be isolation, maintaining order and trying to meet only the basic needs of the residents at a minimum level”, conclude the CRJ activists.
The state pays well for fiction
The quasi-identical findings of the ANPDPD and CRJ teams show a stark reality: although the state pays significant sums of money every month for the care of these people, this money does not translate in any way into medical services or activities designed to ultimately improve their condition.
“The documents drawn up by the social worker of the social care home do not show the evolution/stagnation of the beneficiaries’ condition from one period to another, so that, following an elementary assessment, the real needs of the beneficiaries can be identified, on the basis of which the necessary services can be subsequently provided”, the ANPDPD representatives conclude in the control report.
But things look completely different, almost fey in the reports that the association sends monthly to DGASPC Sector 3 to receive its money.
“The social worker prepares a monthly activity report which is sent to DGASPC Sector 3 for the payment of the services provided (…) According to what was found, the activity reports are similar in content, largely formal and in many cases do not take into account the real situation in which the beneficiaries find themselves”, write the ANPDPD.
In these documents, which it seems obvious that no one at the DGASPC Sector 3 reads before paying for the services of the St Gabriel the Brave Association, we find outright lies.
One example: in the activity report 989 of 28 August 2022 we find that a 73-year-old beneficiary with severe locomotor problems, who could not leave her room, “was involved in sports activities at the social care home”.
“In these reports, dance therapy, movement therapy, sports activities, art activities, occupational therapy are listed as rehabilitation activities, but most of the beneficiaries are unwilling or unable to participate. The proposed activities remain the same: recreational activities, walks in the social care home and in its courtyard, reinforcement of autonomy skills, music therapy, motor exercises”, write ANPDPD representatives.
“Indeed, the main part of the activity seemed to be sitting in the courtyard or in bed,” the CRJ report adds, and most of the beneficiaries did not leave the social care home from the moment they arrived there. “Opportunities to go out to the market, shop, on the street, to parks or on recreational trips outside the social care homes did not exist.”
Apart from writing fairy tales on the settlement papers, the social worker seems professionally out of his depth. “From the discussions it emerged that the social worker was confusing the provision and monitoring of services, which shows a lack of knowledge of the applicable legislation and inefficient use of working tools,” the ANPDPD people say.
Chaos in DGASPC 3
Nobody in the “binomial” DGASPC Sector 3 – St. Gabriel the Brave Association actually takes care of these people, who have become real “fixed assets” by trading which moves some good money from the state to the people behind the association with a saint’s name that does not exist.
The institution that finances the association of Firea’s people, DGASPC S3, is under the supervision of the City Hall of Sector 3, headed by Robert Negoiță.
He has a close relationship with Gabriela Firea: in 2014, Firea and Florentin Pandele gave birth to Negoiță’s child. “Happy birthday to our godchildren Sorina and Robert Negoiță! May they enjoy their godson Vladut and may they make other little brothers,” Firea wrote on Facebook that same year.
The whole collaboration between the institution subordinated to Gabriela Firea’s godson and her people’s NGO was made without transparency: the tender was not published on the SEAP tender platform, so there is no information available about how many and what other bids were submitted. The only document available is the tender specifications, posted on the institution’s website.
There is even a framework contract that enshrines the cynicism, concluded on 4 October 2021.
Moreover, the people given by DGASPC 3 into the care of St Gabriel the Brave represent “lot V” of six in the specifications, but “lot IV” in the contract published on the website. However, in the bid opening sheet, the lot won by St Gabriel the Brave is actually Lot I.
We can’t find anything else about the other “lots” of people put out to tender by DGASPC3 and in whose care they ended up. Neither on the institution’s website nor on SEAP. Only from that “bid opening sheet” do we understand that another “lot” of people, called “lot II”, is in the care of the “Romantic Club” Old People’s Home Association.
We officially asked for the contracts, but we were told, also officially – but actually in jest and only on the second attempt – that they were all on the website.
False. Only one contract can be found on the institution’s website, the subsequent contract number three, concluded by DGASPC 3 with the St Gabriel the Brave Association. There is no trace of the framework agreement or the other subsequent contracts.
Throw this way and that
In a discussion with the social worker at the Pipera social care home, Vasile Saulea, a member of the CRJ monitoring team and a sociologist, concludes that people are passed from the DGASPC to the social care home like sheep, by the count.
The social care home’s social worker, Andreea Cărăulașu, the one found unprepared by the ANPDPD, also admits in discussions with CRJ monitors that she knows absolutely nothing about some of the beneficiaries before they enter the gate. What’s more, for some of them she doesn’t even have a file to know their medical or therapeutic needs.
“They just show up at the gate,” says the social worker, usually after she gets a phone call from Godei’s president telling her another beneficiary is coming. “Many times we don’t even know if a woman or a man is coming,” the social worker continues, confessing that she also has no way of insisting at DGASPC 3 that the employees finally do the job they are paid to do.
For their part, the recipients don’t know in advance where they are going to end up either, so they wake up in a new house from one day to the next, without having given their consent and without having a say in their future.
For them, as people with severe psychiatric disorders, such sudden moves can have a huge negative impact. “They become aggressive because they don’t know what’s happening to them, they’re scared,” says Lili Covaci.
Some of the people who spoke to representatives of the JRC during the monitoring visit said they did not know why they were living in the social care home, that they would like to leave and that they had not been asked if they wanted to live there. “The procedure by which the beneficiaries arrived in the respective social care homes was non-transparent”, the JRC monitors also confirm.
On top of that, many of the people don’t even have a case manager, a key position in the social care area, as this is the person who actually monitors how a vulnerable and dependent person like these people is cared for. The case manager should be appointed by DGASPC S3, the institution responsible for monitoring people sent to the social care home.
“They told us that they don’t have enough staff and that they will end up appointing our beneficiaries who now don’t have a case manager,” the social worker told the CRJ monitors.
The same thing the DGASPC S3 also told the ANPDPD auditors: “they are facing a shortage of specialist staff and are organising a competition for vacant posts”.
The last advertisement for filling case manager posts was published by DGASPC Sector 3 at the end of August 2022, but no one ended up filling any of them.
Negoiță’s people’s blatant collusion with the Firea-Pandele couple
We asked Negoiță’s subordinates if and when they checked their partners to whom they had given people in their care and what conclusions they drew from the checks. We found out that the DGASPC Sector 3 people also checked, among other things, the Pipera Social Care Home of the Saint Gabriel the Brave Association. The visit took place on 11 May 2022.
“Following the (unannounced) visits, it was found that the beneficiaries are provided with adequate social services, according to the Minimum Quality Standards,” Negoiță’s people state in the cited response.
A few months later, in August, the ANPDPD representatives – and then the CRJ representatives in September – found completely different. For example, in the conclusions of their report, the ANPDPD explicitly state that, by the absolutely insufficient number of employees, “the provisions of Decision No 426/2020 on the approval of cost standards for social services, according to which the ratio of specialist care and assistance staff/person with disabilities in the CIA is 1/1.20, are violated”.
Moreover, among the main recommendations after the monitoring visit, the ANPDPD control team advises Stefan Godei, president of the Association of Saint Gabriel the Brave, to quickly complete the staffing scheme of the social care home, so that it corresponds to the Regulation of Organisation and Operation. That means hiring up to 27 people, up from four at present.
On the other hand, after a year of operating as a social service provider on the basis of a provisional licence – the maximum period allowed by law – the association has been vetted to receive its definitive five-year licence. This is what the law says: once you have authorised your NGO as a social service provider (a formality, something similar to activating a CAEN code on a company), for one year you operate on a provisional licence for the social service, for the social care home you open. Provisional licence that you often receive only on the basis of what you declare, and then, following a control, you finally receive a “definitive”, “normal” licence for five years.
Two inspectors from the National Agency for Payments and Social Inspection (ANPIS), Ilfov county branch, Andrieș Alina Mihaela and Năstase Andrei Cornel, visited the social care home in Pipera and checked the conditions in which these people live and the services they receive.
Their visit took place at the end of May 2022. Comparing the conclusions of the AJPIS Ilfov inspectors with those of the team of three ANPDPD employees, you get the impression that they concern two completely different social care homes, although both teams are obviously talking about the same CIA, “Sfântul Gabriel cel Viteaz” on Ștefan cel Mare 38 in Voluntari.
In May, AJPIS Ilfov notes, for example, that the beneficiaries are properly fed by the catering company, and the menus are posted in plain sight. In August, ANPDPD people found that menus were not displayed and beneficiaries had no idea what food they were being served at meals. Moreover, “discussions with the staff revealed that no menu lists are drawn up” and that breakfast and dinner are prepared by staff from food “provided by the management of the social care home, not purchased on the basis of a food list”.
The same ANPDPD inspectors claim in August that beneficiaries “generally” do not receive fresh fruit and vegetables, contrary to medical recommendations. ANPIS people in Ilfov, however, say in May that they eat fresh fruit at least three times a week.
Social payments officials in Ilfov are unequivocal that the catering company contracted by Godei’s association, SC Mititei la Tomiță SRL, provides beneficiaries with three meals and two snacks daily. However, ANPDPD claims that, although the contract concluded with “Mititei la Tomiță” provides for two meals and two snacks to be delivered to those in the social care home, they would in fact receive only one meal, lunch, and that’s it.
More serious is that AJPIS Ilfov found, at the end of May, a staff of 29 employees, who seem to have evaporated by the end of August, when, according to ANPDPD, only four remained plus President Godei. The physiotherapist, for example, had not come to work “for a long time”, as Godei told the ANPDPD team during their visit at the end of August. “Since spring 2022”, the ANPDPD explicitly claim. On 31 May 2022, the last day of spring, the AJPIS Ilfov employees note that the social care home “has (…) a physiotherapist”.
AJPIS Ilfov employees also find, in May, the “training and professional training plan” for employees. Three months later, the ANPDPD found completely untrained employees and no document showing that they had actually attended training.
These findings of the AJPIS Ilfov – implausible, as they are contradicted by both the ANPDPD control team and the CRJ monitors – earned the Association of Saint Gabriel the Brave a score very close to the maximum in the evaluation for obtaining a permanent license.
This is how the Gabriel the Brave Social Care Home obtained its accreditation. By ticking all the quality standards only on paper, without taking into account the reality that the 27 beneficiaries live every day.
One week before the provisional one expires: on 7 July 2022.
However, it is obvious that all the specific shortcomings pointed out by the ANPDPD and the CRJ in their reports simply could not have been valid at the end of August and the beginning of September respectively, but not in mid-May.
A perfect deal
Just three months after receiving its provisional license, in early October 2021, not even a year after it was set up as an NGO, the invented saint Gabriel the Brave is working and the association of Gabriela Firea’s people wins the fat contract from DGASPC S3, and people start coming to the villa in Pipera.
From 4 October 2021 to 13 December 2021, the social care home operates without a health permit, despite caring for some of the most vulnerable people. When it finally receives this authorisation, it is obtained for a different form of organisation, where the legal requirements are different: nursing home, not care and assistance centre (CIA), as it should be.
It is not until 22 June 2022 that it receives the necessary health authorisation for a social care home for people unable to care for themselves.
According to documents obtained by reporters, on 7 December, the same period when it did not have a permit, the social care home was fined 250 lei because, among other things, “employees could not prove that they had mastered the basics of hygiene”.
For the period 1 May 2022 – 31 December 2022, the only contract subsequent to the framework agreement available on the website, Gabriel the Brave receives 1,114,200 lei for care services for several people with mental disabilities. That’s 3.8 million lei in total for the two years it has committed to care for beneficiaries in sector 3.
So “Viși” and all the other people were thrown by DGASPC Sector 3 into the house in Pipera without any details, consultation or consent. In number, 27, no more and no less.
When “Viși” died, in November 2021, another beneficiary was sent in his place to the house in Pipera.
Because it had to come out to the number, 27, in order to finally get the amount out of the contract.
The people of Gabriela the Quick
While the poor people in their care are withering away day by day, for lack of staff and, in fact, of services that at least maintain their condition, if not improve it, the grabbers in the entourage of the Minister of Equal Opportunities Gabriela Firea collect heavy monthly money from DGASPC 3 for the social care home in the Pipera house. Money which, not being spent on the welfare and development of the people in their care, remains with them to a significant extent.
The president of the association, Ștefan Godei, and Ligia Enache have known each other for about ten years, since he was “very young and even very restless”, as Ligia herself described him in a happy birthday wish on Facebook.
Stefan Godei is no stranger to politics. In 2013 he was the vice-president of the Ilfov Social Democratic Youth Organisation. Slowly but surely he began to make himself noticed by older party members. A year later, Godei starts appearing in photos alongside Gabriela Firea and other important politicians, mainly from the PSD.
From Voluntari, Godei quickly became one of the most important people in the state. He even seems to have a role of his own: the bodyguard who guards Firea from reporters.
Another year later, he attended the baptism of Firea and Pandele’s son, a party held at the hotel of their godson, Robert Negoiță: “Together with friends and colleagues, singing, playing and good times!”.
When it comes to public money, Ligia Gheorghe manages to obtain it from two positions: as a public official of the Romanian state, and as a beneficiary of public contracts concluded by the state with the St. Gabriel the Brave Association, where she is vice-president.
The association is nowhere mentioned in the declarations of assets or interests published in April this year by Ligia Enache, in her capacity as advisor to the Minister for Family and Equal Opportunities, Gabriela Firea.
Adriana Ecaterina Voicu is Stefan Godei’s life partner. In the register of associations and foundations she is listed as the person who founded the Association of St Gabriel the Brave. In 2021 she was still heading the marketing, communication and PR department of the Bucharest Youth Centre, where she was appointed head of office in 2017 by Mayor Gabriela Firea.
Adriana Voicu, Godei’s partner, did not list her membership in the Saint Gabriel the Brave Association in her assets declaration either, even though the law requires her to do so.
Ligia Enache and Ștefan Godei are old friends, but also long-standing business partners. Since the summer of 2015, to be precise. That’s when the meat trading company Piu-Piu & Casa Buna 2015 SRL came into being, which the two still run today, according to the Official Gazette, where it does not appear to have been dissolved.
Just as in the case of the St. Gabriel the Brave Association, the name of the company does not appear in Ligia Enache’s most recent declaration of assets and interests, although she was obliged to mention it.
CIM and Buletin de București reporters tried to contact all those mentioned in the “Gabriel the Brave scheme”.
We spoke to the president of the association, Stefan Godei. He contradicted, in one breath, the irregularities reported in the reports of state institutions and NGO activists who visited the Pipera social care home, saying that things “were not exactly as written there”.
“We received some recommendations and some measures to implement, we implemented them and I have nothing to comment on,” Godei said, then hung up on us.
We came back for a few minutes, from another phone, trying to find out exactly how many people died in his Pipera social care home. “None! Ah, yes, one…”, replied Godei, who apologised, saying he was “at home, with family” and didn’t want to be disturbed, then hung up again.
Gabriela Firea’s advisor, Ligia Gheorghe (formerly Enache), did not answer her phone or Whatsapp messages.
Neither Gabriela Firea, Florentin Pandele or Robert Negoiță returned phone calls or messages. However, two days after attempting to contact her, Minister Firea had her ministry spokesperson take questions.
We found out from him why the minister’s adviser’s position as vice-president of the St. Gabriel the Brave Association does not appear in her declarations of interest: “The information made available to the ministry by Mrs. Ligia Gheorghe, employed as ministerial adviser, is that she no longer holds the unpaid position of vice-president of the St. Gabriel the Brave Association, having resigned in March 2022, shortly after her employment at the ministry. (…) As regards the declarations of assets or interests of Ms Ligia Gheorghe, the employee bears full responsibility for the data declared.”
We checked whether Ligia Gheorghe had actually resigned from her position of leadership in the association. As her name and position are listed in the organisation’s articles of association, any change to them must be made by court order, after a court case. I found, on the court portal, a lawsuit in which the association was indeed asking for an amendment to the constitution in February 2022. However, after studying the judgment, I realised that it is only a matter of changing the address of the registered office, and there is no mention of the composition of the original board of directors, with Ligia Gheorghe as vice-president.
Psychologist Antoaneta Preda, who has been advising the beneficiaries of the Pipera social care home for almost a year, from December 2021 to November 2022, also contradicts the unfavourable reports of the Gabriel the Brave social care home. “Those people who are there, especially those with disabilities, are very well cared for, they have evolved a lot,” she told us.
She added, with melancholy in her voice, that they even managed to learn to sing carols to give her a “Christmas present”. On top of that, contrary to the ANPDP report, she told us that the beneficiaries were often busy with various activities or games.
Antoaneta Preda also claims that there were no people who were locked in isolation, but only “taken to isolation” when needed, and that the ambulance “was normally called” when medical problems arose.
The psychologist at the St Gabriel the Brave Social Care Home confirmed that he had been absent from the social care home for two months in the summer of 2022 because he was allegedly on leave. He then added another reason: many of the beneficiaries would have fallen ill with Covid-19 during the same period. Later in the discussion she recalled that she herself had some health problems at the time, which prevented her from seeing her beneficiaries in the Voluntari social care home.
SUMMARY and FULL REPORT available here: https://www.crj.ro/en/monitoring-report-3/