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Sunday 15.09.2019 | Name days: Sandra, Gunvaldis, Gunvaris, Sondra

Exclusive | Ķirsis: audits in other Riga City Council’s companies might uncover more «surprises»

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Riga City Council opposition deputy Vilnis Ķirsis

It would be worth performing an audit like the one performed at public transport company Rīgas satiksme in other companies of Riga City Council. «I am confident it would help unearth other «surprises‘ from Riga Forests, Riga Central Market, and Rīgas namu pārvaldnieks,» BNN was told by Vilnis Ķirsis.

«City council’s goal is making everything harder to see»

Ķirsis believes one of the biggest risk zones in which Riga City Council overlaps with corporate activities is the municipality’s owned companies. This is why he believes the self-management model needs changing. «The city council management’s goal is making everything harder to see – to make secret schemes possible to implement. The same can be observed in Ventspils – we can see [Aivars] Lembergs does this rather well. The same has happened in Riga.»

«Until now appointment to posts in companies like Rīgas satiksme happened the following way – [Nils] Ušakovs sat and [Inese] Strautiņa managed some selection commission for him. Then [as though through a selection process in Rīgas satiksme] the board of the company got [Emīls] Jakrins. The ‘right’ people were also put in charge of municipal heating company Rīgas siltums. All this happened based on some principle of vertical power and fraternal relations, not based on people’s professional skills.»

To fight against corruption in companies, from giving away postings to controlling flow of money, Ķirsis believes one of the solutions would be adopting OECD guidelines in companies. He believes an independent committee and perform selection of board members based on principles of professionalism.

«Then companies would get truly professional and independently selected people who have no strings to any puppeteers.»

Riga City Council deputy believes it is highly important to ensure maximum transparency to follow different activities: where money is invested and who is paid by companies. «We can see politicians have been hiding behind mystical commercial secrets for years, refusing to provide information about companies. Fraudulent activities would be harder to perform if everything is made transparent.»

According to Ķirsis, a company as a form is nothing evil, because Riga Forest or Riga Central Market or some any other company may have some form. «This isn’t exactly the municipality’s department, but at the same time we cannot let them loose either. Adoption of good management principles – both in regards to OECD and transparency – would help reflect efficiency of companies, not create more opportunities for theft.»

«A knife can be used to cut bread, but it can also be used to stab someone. The same applies to companies – if the goal is noble, they work well, whereas if the goal is stealing something, they serve this purpose,»

he told BNN about companies.

«There is no Nr.2 behind Ušakovs»

Ķirsis believes it is necessary to organize emergency elections to change the established system in Riga City Council.

«For a decade Riga has been ruled by a regime whose philosophy has been doing things that seem noble on the outside but fundamentally focused on using a lot of work and resources to accomplish nothing.»

He mentioned Riga’s bridges, which continue crumbling and streets like Kr. Barona Street as examples. According to Ķirsis, work there was performed on the surface.

«The moment it became clear work was being done on the surface without any substance to it, both of the city’s leaders understood they have no way to wiggle free, so they decided to ‘abandon ship’ and avoid problems that way.»

The fact that Riga City Council has descended into chaos and coalition members are unable to reach an agreement, Ķirsis believes the reason is that Harmony has always ruled through vertical power – they have Ušakovs, but no Nr.2 behind him.

«The other behind them is [Olegs] Burovs or [Vadims] Baraņņiks, or someone else. There is one-sided ruling. This is why they themselves are in chaos, because they have no people to take on leadership and fight. This is why at some point the party suffered a split, because some of them thought ‘why can’t I be in charge’.»

«Nothing can be accomplished with the current composition»

«Election of a new mayor is not the only decisions. Mayors are no kings. It is but one of the decisions the city council faces. The city council’s chairman has the right to organize meetings, etc., but it’s not absolute power.» Ķirsis says to «climb out of this mess, economic corruption, crisis, etc., it is necessary to perform a number of tasks best described as dismantling the old system».

According to him, the current composition of the city council is no longer able to make any important decisions. «The very same 32 deputies have been pushing Riga to where it is now remain in power, and they are not prepared to abolish they system they have built up. That’s the salt of it,» explains Ķirsis.

He adds that Harmony and Honour to Serve Riga would definitely end up in the minority should emergency elections take place. According to him, this is proven by results of European Parliament elections, looking at results in Riga.

«They had Ušakovs, [Andris] Ameriks – the leaders of Harmony’s list. They had a massive promotional campaign and they only barely won in the previous election. But at the time no one was aware of the massive corruption scandals. The collapse of infrastructure was not as obvious as it is now. Now that everything has been revealed, I see no opportunities for Harmony and HSR to remain in power.»

«It is likely Riga City Council will not be able to secure quorum, because everyone will be either in ‘Seventh Heaven’, detained or not allowed to approach one another at this rate,» Ķirsis allows.

«One more reason why I believe emergency elections are needed – I believe we’ve never had such a [corrupt] composition in the city council,» the opposition deputy says.

When asked by BNN what he thinks about corruption accusations against Baiba Broka, Ķirsis said Broka should have stepped down. «If Broka stepped down from her post in Riga City Council, it would have increased the bar for ethics and demonstrate that Harmony and HSR members cannot get away with similar acts.»

«Riga will not have money for some time»

According to him, after emergency elections there could be a five-year period in which «it will be hard to tackle affairs and take on the big vision.» «Riga will not have money to afford development for a time. But there will be money to sort out Deglava Bridge, Zemitans Bridge, streets and communications that bring a lot of money but have not received any investments in a decade,» comments Ķirsis.

He believes the next mayor should be something of a crisis manager. «There are some big problems and we need to resolve them. The next mayor needs to have a strong vision for development, but also have a mind for finances and management.»

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