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Latvia’s State Audit sees options for saving millions in real estate management

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUIn Latvia’s State Audit’s opinion Interior Affairs Ministry and Provision State Agency have not organized sufficient and efficient management of their owned real estate property. Inappropriate and unplanned use of funding allocated for the construction of firefighters depot, use of state property for private needs, disorganized allocation of apartments to officials, lack of appropriate rent fees and planning are but some of the problems uncovered during the audit.

«Enough time was provided to sort out management of real estate properties. Instead of results, however, we see irrational planning, waste of money allocated with intention of improving firefighters’ day-to-day environment, favourable treatment of high-rank officials, unauthorized use of space intended for the firefighters’ depot for needs of a hunting club, as well as provision of low rent fees for use of apartments. Such double standards should be prevented to make sure society does not lose its trust in state administration,» said State Auditor Elita Krūmiņa.

Could’ve saved three million euros

The state auditor says the largest amount of funding was allocated for the renovation of State Fire and Rescue Service’s depot. «Unfortunately the use of this funding has not been sufficiently efficient or economic so far. SFRS’ construction initiatives received no sufficient control from Interior Affairs Ministry. As a result, the depots were too large. Some of their rooms are not used to their full potential. Building maintenance costs are also too high.»

Proper construction planning of the six depots could have helped save at least EUR 2.8 million, State Audit notes.

«Lack of standard construction projects proves inefficiency. This approach would have benefitted depot construction. Another problem is the fact that SFRS’ developed technical goals included two times more construction workers than was necessary, even though there are no plans to increase the number of workers. Had the depot rooms been planned rationally with allocated funding in mind, more depots could have been built in Latvia. Unfortunately, none of the territories that suffer from low efficiency of SFRS were included in the construction plans, demonstrating the glaring lack of proper management of real estate properties,» as concluded by State Audit.

Firefighters and rescuers forced to wash work apparel at home

State Audit mentions that a situation when funding allocated for depot construction was used solely for construction work and not for procurement of equipment, furniture and necessary machineries. «Firefighters and rescuers are not even provided with important facilities like work apparel washing and drying machines. There are rooms intended for them, but no equipment to put in them. Firefighters and rescuers of Ērgļi depot are forced to wash their work apparel at home. Kitchen equipment for Ape depot was procured by firefighters without state support.»

The allocated EUR 11.5 million were enough to build only some of the planned depots. Because of that, it is now necessary to search for additional funding to commence construction of fire and rescue depots in Riga and Daugavpils. The real priorities become clear when you consider that more than EUR 2 million of the allocated funding was not used for construction of depots or improvement of firefighters’ and rescuers’ work conditions in the countryside. Instead this money was used for the construction of a new administrative building in Riga region, State Audit reports.

Ķeipene depot managed by a hunting club

The audit also revealed that illegal activities were performed with sate property in Ogre, Ķeipene County. Specifically, the State Fire and Rescue Service’s depot was being used for different hunting-related activities. No lease agreements are signed and no lease fees are paid for use of premises.

Since 2009, Plauži hunting club has been registered at Ķeipene firefighters depot’s address. Its chairman is the director of Fire Safety and Civil Defence College. The contact telephone number is the same as the official work phone number of the chief of SFRS Financial Planning Office. Several high-ranking SFRS officials were well-informed about this situation. During the audit, however the address and contact number of the hunting club were changed. Nevertheless, the State Audit has turned to Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau.

Three times more expensive for cadets

The audit revealed that interior affairs sector’s apartments are leased at least partially from the state budget. Some tenants, including one high-rank SFRS official, are provided with more favourable rent fee contracts than other tenants. Cadets of the Fire Safety and Civil Protection College are charged rent per 1 m2, which is nearly three times higher than the rent fee for the deputy chief of SFRS.

Lack of proper monitoring and planning

The portfolio of real estate properties owned by the interior affairs sector is expansive. The majority of them are in a critical state, and funding for their maintenance is limited. Because of that, it is important to secure a unified development look.


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