The approximately 56,000 declarations submitted by officials ever year should serve as an effective tool to help the population, media and law enforcement institutions to supervise officials’ work. The main objectives of the declaration system include registering owned real estate, preventing conflicts of interest and providing information to the public.
However, results of Latvian State Audit’s recent report ‘Is officials’ declaration submission process, inspection and publication effective?’ point to the opposite.
Along with other flaws SA has uncovered, the most serious one is the lack of legislation in regards to checking the accuracy of information stated in declarations. The law provides guidelines for filling in and submitting declarations. However, none of the regulations in place provide supervisory institutions the duty to check the accuracy of information stated in declarations.
Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau, whose main duty is to check possible breaches of the law and make sure officials do no end up in situations of conflicting interests, has developed an internal regulation. In accordance with this regulation, KNAB carries out an average of 120 inspections annually.
State Revenue Service, whose duty it is to supervise compliance with declaration regulations, only inspect the accuracy of information if it receives a relevant request.
State Auditor Elita Krumina notes: «An absurd situation has formed. Latvia has developed one of the strictest conflict of interest prevention rules in Europe. Even so, we have yet to come up with effective mechanisms to check the accuracy of information stated in declarations.»
Auditors mention multiple other obstacles that prevent the current system from fully realizing. For example, it has been noted that not all officials fill in their declarations. This is made worse by the fact that SRS does not have a systematic approach to checking lists of officials. The fact that the law demands the publication of only initially submitted declaration only makes things worse. Updated information is not reflected sufficiently in published declarations. This means society is not provided with true information regarding officials’ actual property.
There is no denying that the declaration system has developed technologically in the past several years – EDS (electronic declaration system) allows officials to submit declarations electronically. This system is convenient for officials and provides further information processing.
«Policy-planning documents do not analyse the current and desired officials’ declaration system’s effect on identification of conflicts of interest and corruption prevention. Desirable result indexes that would help properly assess the effectiveness and development of this system are not properly defined. This shows lack of political will and appropriate approach. IN conclusion: the current system does not fully provide society with accuracy of information stated in officials’ declarations,» – said Krumina.