Latviski English По-русски
Ceturtdiena 21.06.2018 | Name days: Monvīds, Egita, Emīls

Former deputy chief of anti-corruption bureau: Christmas lights are more important to Riga mayor than residents’ welfare

(No Ratings Yet)

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU«Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs focuses a lot on ‘shiny things’ and procurements performed by capital associations in which flow of money is hard to control. For example, Ušakovs has decided to allocate from the budget EUR 200,000 for Rīgas Gaisma to procure Christmas decorations. Meanwhile in Riga there are nearly 50 km of streets with no lighting. This demonstrates that the mayor focuses on ‘shiny things’ instead of improving life for Riga’s residents,» former deputy chief of Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) Juta Strīķe told BNN in an interview.

«Neither Ušakovs nor Ameriks sit in the committee dealing with people’s requests for municipal assistance»

Strīķe is a member of three committees in Riga City Council: Security, Order and Corruption Prevention Matters Committee; Housing and Environment Committee, and Transport Affairs Committee. These committees also manage Riga City Council’s Transport Department.

According to the politician, the largest amounts of money circulate in the Transport Department. She says that money is constantly and irresponsibly increased there, which, according to her, is absurd. «You see, the Mayor of Riga sits in committees that deal with the largest amounts of money. Neither Ušakov nor Ameriks sit in the Housing and Environment Committee, where people need support from the municipality. This also means there is no money to resolve social problems.»

Strīķe mentions as an example that there are approximately 340 orphans waiting in line for apartments in Riga. They cannot continue living in orphanages because they have reached the age of 18. There are also 210 large families waiting for apartments. 37 families with child invalids also wait in line. The number of people that have reported their homes are in critical state is close to 330. «These numbers are not too large that Riga municipality would not be able to resolve vital problems. By making those matters a priority it would be possible to fix problems next week and make sure queues for municipal apartments reduce in the near future. But for some reason even this is beyond Riga’s ruling officials.»

«Ušakovs will only intervene in areas that hold up his interests. Coincidentally, projects that hold up his interests also juggle absurdly large amounts of money. This includes Transport Department’s plan to introduce a parking system and mobile app to help drivers find free parking space. The cost of this plan is around EUR 9 million. It is also absurd that Riga City council pays bonuses worth half a million euros for ‘well-repaired streets’,» Strīķe adds.

The politician says such unfairness in priorities is likely based on the belief that increasing benefits for residents or repairing apartments would make it harder to perform acts of corruption. «We cannot exclude any possibilities,» Strīķe ironically comments.

Another problem the New Conservative party has noticed is that apartments that have no tenants because they are not repaired also receive heating. «Money is paid for nothing. Apartments continue to break down because no one lives in them. Whenever we bring up this topic to coalition members, they act as though they hear nothing – they care nothing for this problem.»

«Conflict with the law is no reason why a person cannot be given a job in Riga City Council»

Strīķe told BNN that she feel no real difference between working in KNAB and Riga City Council – work in both institutions is based on analysis of a great deal of information.

The city council member notes that in the past she had viewed documents about Riga municipality from a different perspective – a criminal one. «I know about the decisions every member and every committee in the city council have made over the years.»

She is particularly confused that there are people working in Riga City Council who were officially accused of corruption. According to her, those people had selfish interests, and the Mayor of Riga is well-informed of that. «I recognize many names. Some of them are not just members of the city council but city officials as well. My question is – what are they still doing here?» said Strīķe, adding that the ones that were interviewed by KNAB in the past are aware that she knows of the ‘misdeeds’ they had committed during their careers in Riga City Council.

«This only strengthens my belief that conflict with the law is no obstacle in getting a job in Riga City Council. It is, in fact, the opposite – if someone was searched, detained, convicted or accused, it means that person will stay loyal to their employer and not go complain to KNAB. This is a kind of guarantee that the chosen person is one of their own,» Strīķe continues.

«The scheme is – one does not have to pay a bribe, it is possible to employ people fictively»

One of the topics BNN has brought up multiple times over the years is officials combining posts. In Latvia, especially its municipalities, the same people can be found working in different posts. The very fact of combining posts can hide fictive employment. In the case of municipal administrations this can mean illegal payment of wages using taxpayers’ money.

Strīķe also says that fictive employment can exist when combining posts. Fictive employment, according to the former KNAB officer, is already a crime. «If the state or municipality pays you money, and you do nothing – it is basically theft,» she says.

The politician also adds that combining posts often hides an entire scheme beneath it – «no reason to pay bribes, you can just employ them fictively». Proving a post is fictive is harder than accusing someone of taking bribes. «It is worth keeping in mind in such situations that such acts are also robbing the state, which is a criminal offence. Law enforcement institutions should pay more attention to this problem.»

According to Strīķe, if such a thing happens in municipalities, then this is proving loyalty to crime by mayors and keeping certain people on a short leash. «If you don’t listen to me, you won’t get a well-paid additional post. This is a very serious problem for municipalities because money is paid from residents’ wallets,» Strīķe told BNN.

Leave a reply

  1. ZC says:

    Damn, with 200000e it would be possible to illuminate remarkable part of that 50km, even without using Chinese or Polish cheap products. But it could be also interesting to see the receipt of that Christmas decoration. Is there some own line for pocket money?

Lithuania’s blood plasma corruption scandal extends to Latvia

The former head of Lithuania‘s National Blood Centre, suspected of corruption and involvement in unlicenced activity, received more bad news this week from Latvia, where investigators of the Lithuanian Special Investigation Service had questioned the Latvian Health minister, Anda Čakša.

Administrative burden to be reduced for foreign students and researchers

The administrative burden will be reduced for foreign students and researchers, as well as all education and research institutions hosting them. This is provided by the amendments to the Immigration Law approved by the Saeima in the third reading on Thursday, 21 June.

Latvian Economy Minister endures no-confidence vote

Saeima declined opposition deputies’ request for dismissal of Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens.

Swedbank economist becomes new member of Bank of Latvia Council

On Thursday, 21 June, Latvia’s Saeima approved Mārtiņš Kazāks in his new post as member of Bank of Latvia Council, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

Pope Francis’ visit to Latvia will be a national holiday

Latvia’s parliament has approved in the final reading a law that makes 24 September – the day Pope Francis plans to visit Latvia – a national holiday.

ICT specialist numbers in Latvia are below Europe’s average level

In Latvia, information and communication technology specialists form only 2.2% of all employed people in the country, which is considerably below the average level in the European Union – 3.7%. Romania and Greece are the only two EU member states in which the number of ICT specialists is below Latvia’s, according to European Commission’s DESI index.

Hungary adopts prison sentence for helping migrants

Hungarian National Assembly has passed a set of laws criminalising with prison terms some help provided to illegal immigrants by non-governmental organisations.

Harmony plans turning to Constitutional Court to prevent transition to Latvian language in schools

«Why should this reform stay unrealized? It is because schools are not prepared for cardinal changes coming from dozens of other reforms that have already shocked the country’s entire general education system,» says chairman of National Minority School Parents Forum and member of Harmony’s work group in Konstantīns Čekušins.

Deputies detained in KPV LV criminal case not declared suspects yet

Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimiņš and businessman Viesturs Tamužs detained in the criminal process regarding possibly illegal funding of KPV LV party have not yet been declared suspects. Both are currently in police custody. It is likely Kaimiņš will be released later today, 21 June.

Production of mines and grenades planned in Estonia

As the Estonian parliament has adopted new rules on military arms and ammunition production in the country, local defence firm Eesti Arsenal has voiced its plan to build a factory in Estonia to make military explosives.

Total tax debts in Latvia reached EUR 1.224 billion in June

At the beginning of June, total tax debts in Latvia, including topical, halted debts and extended repayment terms were equal to EUR 1.233 billion, which is 0.6% less compared to May, as reported by State Revenue Service.

Switch off internet nationwide during exams – Algerian approach

In an attempt to prevent cheating during secondary school exams, the north African nation Algeria, has turned off internet in its whole territory.

Control Service proposes kicking out shell companies as intensely as offshore companies

Shell companies in Latvia should be combated with the same intensity once shown to offshore companies, says chief of Anti-Money Laundering Service Ilze Znotiņa.

EU imposes tariffs on blue jeans, motorcycles and other U.S. export goods

The European Union will introduce retaliatory tariffs against U.S. exports on Friday, EU Trade Commissioner has stated a top official has stated in the bloc's reaction to Washington imposing steep duties on steel and aluminium earlier in June.

Latvia’s Saeima proposes improving job-combining rules for state officials

On Wednesday, 20 June, Latvian parliament’s Public Administration and Local Government Committee decided to submit for review amendments to the Law on Prevention of Conflict of Interest in Activities of Public Officials.

Ukraine's anti-corruption court law insufficient to IMF commitments

The International Monetary Fund has commended the Ukrainian parliament for passing a law to establish an anti-corruption court and pointed to need to amend it to ensure the court can work effectively.

Opinion: they’re trying to shut us up; KPV LV is inconvenient for current government

«We are inconvenient for the current government, the established order, because for the first time a party is prepared to use facts in its rhetoric in the pre-election period. They are trying to shut us up,» said KPV LV prime minister candidate Aldis Gobzems at a press-conference after Artuss Kaimiņš was taken away by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau.

Hydro and wind power plants produced 70.5% more electricity last year

In 2017 gross energy consumption in Latvia comprised 194.9 petajoules, which is 5.5 % more than in 2016. Over the past five years, the gross energy consumption has not changed significantly. However the share of renewable energy has increased by 2.55 percentage points.

Milder penalties for the accused in digital TV case; idea’s authors get no prison sentence

Riga Regional Court has released a shortened ruling in the so-called digital television criminal case. With it, the court acquitted previously convicted former director of Latvia’s National Theatre Ojārs Rubenis. Nevertheless, some of the accused have been sentenced to fines and actual prison time.

Estonian traitor Simm ruled to serve full 12.5 years in prison

A court in Tartu has decided that the Estonian Defence Ministry ex-official Herman Simm, found guilty of treason in 2009 and sentenced to 12.5 years in jail, has to serve his full sentence, not to be released earlier.

CPCB officers detain Kaimiņš after Saeima meeting

Officers of Latvia’s Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau detained Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimiņš after the end of the parliament’s meeting.

Around 15% of Estonian 15-19-year-olds estimated to have mental illness

In Estonia, an estimated total of 20,000-40,000 adolescents, comprising 10-20% of all teenage Estonians, have been found to suffer from a mental illness and close to 3,000 children have been prescribed antidepressants.

Chief: Anti-Money Laundering Service should not submit to a single person

Anti-Money Laundering Service should not be controlled by a single person, says chief of the Control Service Ilze Znotiņa.

Saeima permits commencement of criminal process against Artuss Kaimiņš

This week Latvia’s Saeima voted in favour of the decision to detain and then perform a search in the home of Saeima member Artuss Kaimiņš from KPV LV political party.

U.S. withdraws from UN Human Rights Council voicing sharp criticism

The U.S. has withdrawn from the United Nations Human Rights Council describing the body as being politically biased and not working towards reducing human rights violations globally.