Romanian Whistleblower Demoted After Exposing Government Fraud Scheme

Опубликовано: 26 Июнь 2023

Mara Paraipan Romania WhistleblowerMara Paraipan has faced retaliatory action for blowing the whistle on multiple government schemes to defraud taxpayers of millions of dollars. (Photo: courtesy of

Although Romania has passed a law that offers protection to whistleblowers, the case of a public servant who has faced retaliatory action for blowing the whistle on multiple government schemes to defraud taxpayers of millions of dollars shows that the EU member still lacks the will to stand behind those who expose corruption.

As a precondition for gaining access to new EU funds, the country adopted its whistleblower protection act at the end of last year. However, according to critics, the law is not entirely in line with the spirit of the EU's whistleblowers protection directives.

Even so, the legislation should have protected Mara Paraipan, a former Ministry of Transport official, who was demoted following her complaint to the country's National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA).

She reported that her superiors asked her to approve funding for infrastructure projects that would have defrauded taxpayers of millions, which were falsely presented as necessary funds for routine restoration permits.

In March 2020, shortly after Paraipan joined the ministry, the Regional Directorate of Roads and Bridges (DRDP) Craiova bureau requested "emergency" restoration funding for a highway retaining wall. The initial cost of the project was valued at 1.3 million lei (US$290,000).

However, nine months later, DRDP Craiova demanded ten times the amount—13 million lei ($2.9 million)—to complete the project. Paraipan was instructed by her superiors to approve the proposal.

At that time, DRDP Craiova was led by Laurențiu Bratu, a man who, in 2021, would be exposed for criminally lying about his credentials to obtain his position. Although he was ultimately acquitted due to the country's statute of limitations, the judge ordered him to return the seven years' worth of wages he fraudulently collected.

Paraipan refused to approve the 13 million and requested an explanation for the 12 million lei ($2.7 million) difference, despite pressure from her boss to comply.

"My boss put pressure on me to recognize this value," she told the Romanian media outlet Context. "I resisted the pressure... I said: no. I can't do that because my conscience doesn't allow me to overlook how public money is spent."

In 2020, DRDP Craiova also requested 700,000 lei ($155,000) in funding from the ministry for another highway project. However, two years later, the bureau updated its assessment and asked for 4.2 million ($930,000).

Once again, Paraipan was responsible for granting final approval.

DRDP Craiova tried to justify the request for six times the original amount by stating that unforeseeable delays faced by every construction project would undoubtedly lead to increased overall costs.

Paraipan rejected the funding proposal and notified the DNA that DRDP Craiova's actions warranted an investigation into fraudulent activity.

"From the moment I notified the Secretary of State for the first time about my reasoned refusal to recognize that value, the pressure began," she said.

Among the retaliatory actions taken by her superiors was a negative performance review for her work in 2022. Ministry officials also began spreading reports that Paraipan intentionally created workplace conflicts, was disrespectful, and spread lies and false accusations.

Finally, in March 2023, she was transferred to the Naval Transport Directorate, a department considered inferior to roads and bridges, and given a less important position and a job she knew very little about. As a result, her performance in 2023 significantly declined.

When asked about the matter, representatives from the Ministry of Transport stated that she should have kept her head down and refrained from asking any questions.

In an attempt to regain her old position, Paraipan filed two lawsuits against the ministry—one requesting the suspension of the decision to move her to another department and the other demanding its dismissal.

She lost both although the court did determine that her superiors’ actions against her represented an act of retaliation. Paraipan appealed both rulings.


Henry Pope contributed to this report