On 19 January 2017, a meeting of Ventspils University Senate was held. Without prior informing of society, this meeting was attended by infamous Ventspils resident Aivars Lembergs and 1st deputy chairman of Ventspils City Council for matters of infrastructure and the so-called curator of the education institution Janis Vitolins.
Among other things, this meeting discussed behind closed doors the use of state funding, as reported by Ventspilniekiem.lv.
The preparation process of the state budget for 2017 caused a massive backlash from society. Residents were shocked by the reported information regarding the division of millions of euros on so-called deputy quotas, as well as by the fact that this budget was hastily approved in the cover of night.
«People are not aware of the motives behind certain decisions regarding the use of budget funds. We only know that one such decision provides for the allocation of a considerable amount of money – EUR 4 million – to Ventspils University College for the development of scientific infrastructure – new low-frequency antenna LOFAR – in Irbene,» – the portal writes.
During a previous press-conference, Ventspils City Council deputy Aivars Lembergs (who, possibly, also performs duties of the chairman of Ventspils City Council) stated that he received positive response from the Senate of Ventspils University College regarding the possibility of organizing a meeting to discuss the use of those EUR 4 million ‘intended for the development of scientific infrastructure of Ventspils University College in the next three years’. Lembergs had previously said he would like to wait until a new rector is chosen for the college.
Lembergs also mentioned during his press-conference that «… the goal is to listen to the opinion of the college’s management to put efforts into rational use of that money, so that it is properly invested and not lost».
Ventspils Univeristy College organizes a meeting of the Senate once a month. Wednesday is usually chosen for meetings. The meeting in question was supposed to take place on 18 January, according to anonymous sources. However, the meeting was unexpectedly moved to 19 January at the last moment. It is possible this decision was made specifically to accommodate representatives of Ventspils City Council, believes the creator of the portal Edvards Ratnieks.
It should be noted that the college’s senate is its highest deciding body in budget and economic affairs. The Senate consists of academic personnel from the education institution – there are no outside representatives.
In spite of the fact that Ventspils University College receives major funding from taxpayer money (including taxes paid by Ventspils residents), there is very little information about those meetings published on the official website. What little is known about those meetings is limited to the time of meetings. There is no information about any decisions made during meetings or minutes from them.
«Meetings of Ventspils University College Senate are theoretically open. This was obvious the last time Lembergs and Vitolins visited the Senate in March 2016. Both officials were accompanied by a horde of journalists and the entire event was widely reported by the media.
Ventspilniekiem.lv accidentally found out that this week’s meeting of the Senate would be attended in secret by Aivars Lembergs and Janis Vitolins. The latter is well-known to readers as the official who likes to sue the residents he is supposed to serve,» – the founder of the portal writes.
Ventspilniekiem.lv observed Janis Vitolins and Aivars Lembergs sitting down for the meeting at Ventspils University College.
When asked if the Senate had discussed matters related to budget money and use of deputy quotas during the meeting, Karlis Kreslins said «no».
Although meetings of the Senate are open, representatives of Ventspilniekiem.lv were denied access to the room without any explanations.
After the Senate’s meeting, the portal saw Lembergs giving a number of instructions to acting rector of Ventspils University College Kreslins, who accepted them with multiple nods.
After the meeting, Aivars Lembergs was interviewed by the portal about the topic discussed during the meeting. Ventspilniekiem.lv was told that the meeting addressed the matter regarding the use of state budget funds by Ventspils University College. Lembergs denied the assumption that the EUR 4 million were taken from deputy quotas. He did make it clear that the money was allocated by Education Ministry and Finance Ministry.
«The question as to who is actually in charge of state education institution and its budgets remains open. Is it managed by the rector, the Senate and Education Minister Karlis Sadurskis?
What Ventspilniekiem.lv learned at Ventspils University College in the evening on 19 January suggests the opposite. How can meetings of the Senate be closed off for all if they are theoretically open?
What secret talks were independent members of the Senate taking part in with members of Ventspils municipal administration? If it was nothing more than the construction of LOFAR antenna in Irbene, it should be said that it is outside of Ventspils city limits – Irbene is under jurisdiction of Ventspils Municipality Council. Why weren’t the head of Ventspils Municipality Council and his deputy called to the meeting then?
Were those instructions given only in regards to use of budget funds, or also in regards to the antenna’s construction, or even in regards to any possible candidates to replace the recently dismissed rector Gita Revalde? Instructions were once given to get rid of the rector. Perhaps this time instructions covered something else.
Why weren’t those important matters (important to Ventspils City Council at least) discussed openly through public consultations in the newly-formed convent of advisors of Ventspils University College? Did those instructions apply to the possible votes of the Senate?
How does all this comply with principles of good management, state university autonomy?» – the portal asks.
A video is added that describes what happened with added sound effects.