Latviski English По-русски
Wednesday 19.09.2018 | Name days: Verners, Muntis

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?

Russian plane near Syria shot down by ally targeting Israeli planes

The Russian military plane, which went missing on Monday, has been shot down by its ally Syria targeting Israel's war planes and the number of servicemen lost in the event has been corrected from 14 to 15, the Russian government stated.

Latvian border guards find more than 140 kg of hashish in a car

On 16 September, Latvian State Border Guard detained a 1991-born man and his car at Grebnev border checkpoint. A secret compartment containing 145.3 kg of narcotic substances was found in his car during a routine inspection, as reported by State Border Guard.

EU suspects German car-makers of colluding against cleaner technology

EU competition watchdogs are probing if German automotive giants have colluded to restrict the development of clean emission technology.

Number of job vacancies in Latvia up 7.8 thousand in Q2 2018

In Q2 2018 there were 24.5 thousand job vacancies in Latvia, which is 7.8 thousand vacancies or 46.6 % more than in Q2 2017. In public sector there were 7.2 thousand and in private sector 17.3 thousand job vacancies.

Latvian government desperate to resolve the growing piles of used tires problem

Latvian government has supported Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s prepared report ‘On maintenance of used tires’. This report includes proposals for measures to help resolve the matter regarding speeding up recycling and regeneration rates, as well as the no less important matter of maintenance of used tires.

Cargo volumes handled by Latvian ports remain stable in first half-year of 2018

Latvian ports transshipped 43.468 million tonnes of cargoes in the first eight months of 2018, which is 0.9% more than in the same period of last year. According to data from Transport Ministry, cargo turnover’s negative balance continues declining at Ventspils port, where 13.274 million tonnes of cargoes were transshipped in the first eight months, which is a drop of 11.9%.

airBaltic carried 18% more passengers in summer

Latvian airline airBaltic has carried 2,770,047 more passengers to destinations in Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, CIS and the Middle East in the first eight months of 2018, BNN was told by the company.

Ukrainian workers in Lithuania gradually fill gap left by Lithuanian exodus

Companies in Lithuania, in particular operating in construction, logistics and retail chains, are increasingly inviting workers from Ukraine and Belarus to fill the worker shortage of Lithuanians moving to richer countries.

ABLV Bank assets worth EUR 47.14 million recovered in August

Assets worth EUR 47.13 million were recovered from the liquidated ABLV Bank in August, which is 2.2 times more than a month prior, according to the account published in Latvian Herald.

Estonia bank watchdog points to Denmark's responsibility over Danske

As to the allegations of doubtful billions flowing via the Estonia branch of Danske Bank, the Estonian watchdog of financial institutions has noted that the Danish supervisory authority was responsible for the lender's risk control.

Liepaja City Council vice-chairman steps down

On Monday, 17 September, Liepaja City Council vice-chairman for tourism and investment affairs Ģirts Kronbergs announced his resignation.

Sixteen contenders apply for Rundale Castle Museum director’s post

A total of sixteen contenders have applied for participation in Latvian Culture Ministry’s announced open personnel selection process to find the next director of Rundale Castle Museum.

Russia: Military plane with 14 Russian soldiers has been lost near Syria

A Russian war plane with 14 servicemen on board has disappeared while over the Mediterranean Sea near the coast of Syria, Russia's Defence Ministry has stated.

Unity decides not to support UGF’s initiative for people’s elected president

Unity political party has no plans to support the amendments submitted by the Union of Greens and Farmers on people’s elected president, says Unity’s chairman Arvils Ašeradens.

U.S. to introduce more import tariffs on China produce

The U.S. government has announced imposing import duty tariffs on Chinese products worth USD 200 billion (EUR 171 billion), in a trade dispute between the world's two biggest economies.

Latvian parties’ pre-election promotion costs reach EUR 1.64 million

Three weeks prior to Saeima elections, expenses of Latvian political parties on promotion have reached EUR 1,638,393. Concord remains in the least expense-wise, according to information from Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau.

Internal Security Bureau criticizes State Police for insufficient corruption prevention

Internal Security Bureau has detained several police officers under suspicion of bribery. Because of that, the bureau has voiced criticism to the management of Latvia’s State Bureau for insufficient corruption prevention measures.

Full transition to electronic documents in construction sector planned for 2019

During a meeting on 17 September, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers supported the amendments to Construction Law developed by Economy Ministry. These amendments provide for a full transition to electronic document handling in the country’s construction sector starting from 2019. This includes submission, decision-making processes and coordination – all of these processes will be performed using Construction Information System, as confirmed by Economy Ministry.

MPC permit revoked for liquidated Jurmala-based M7 Energy

Latvia’s Economy Ministry has made a decision to revoke the permit that allows selling produced electrical energy within mandatory procurement component system from SIA M7 Energy (previous name SIA KSER) CHP plant in Jurmala.

U.S. looking into Danske Bank operations in Estonia

Danske Bank, the leading bank in Denmark, is being investigated by U.S. authorities in relation to alleged money laundering from Russia involving Danske's Estonia branch, American media report.

Nearly 80,000 people have left Riga to live elsewhere in last seven years

In the past seven years, 78,692 people have left Riga to live in other countries or elsewhere in Latvia, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Estonia's free rural bus rides result in passenger boom

Rural bus lines in the majority of Estonian counties have been offering free trips since early July, and in August an increase of 10,000 more rides was observed, resulting in frequently overcrowded buses.

NP: Riga municipality plans to adopt EUR 5 entry fee to city’s centre

A EUR 5 entry fee to Riga’s centre may be a solution Riga municipality has picked to help solve possible traffic congestion problem that is expected to appear in 2020, when it is planned commence construction of Rail Baltica railway. Because of that, several major streets will be closed down for traffic, according to information from Nekā personīga programme.

State Chancellery: no attempts to influence elections from abroad have been observed

Compared to the attempts to influence election results in other countries, no active attempts to influence 13th Saeima elections have been observed so far, said State Chancellery acting director for prevention of hybrid threats Kaspars Ozoliņš.

Switzerland urges Russia to quit violating law, spying in its territory

Switzerland's foreign ministry has urged Russia to stop illegal activities on its territory after three suspected spying cases have emerged in the country in 2018.