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Wednesday 18.07.2018 | Name days: Rozālija, Roze

Millions worth fuel stolen from the state yearly

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUFuel worth millions of lats is stolen from the state and its institutions yearly, public officials say.

«Many know this but barely any of them speak out,» a high-ranking public official, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the business news portal BNN.

Similarly, also the fuel market experts point out the issue is not going to lose its topicality for a long time. The average proportion of fuel stolen from the state and used for private needs accounts for 25-40%. The Procurement Monitoring Bureau’s estimates show the state is thus deprived of millions of lats.

Inguna Sudraba, Latvia Auditor General, admits the problem, stressing that they can only check the efficiency of the use of fuel from the perspective of documents. The State Audit Office (SAO) cannot check whether it is really used for the designed purposes. Such physical control is only possible from the very institution itself, she says, adding that there have already been a couple of cases when the SAO rules that an entity has to repay for inefficient use of fuel.

No specific probes have yet been launched on this, as it has always been done within the framework of financial audits, Sudraba says.

Meanwhile, the industry representatives point out the issue stems from the Soviet times and is considered to be a normal practice among employees. There is even no point in discussing whether fuel is stolen from state institutions as it would be similar to wondering whether the day will break again. The question is how to fight this, Jevgenijs Kisiels, the long-standing president of the Fuel Traders and Producers Association, told the business news portal BNN.

Recently, the media has been abounding in news stories with high-ranking public officials using vehicles for private needs, however, this is said to be just «the visible part of an iceberg», say people close to the matter. Besides, if you are not caught red-handed and this has already turned into an ordinary practice, the practical Latvian will go on with it. We can, of course, grumble about the state and the fact it barely provides for people, but we must realize it is us who fill the State Treasury. If we dodge taxes, the living condition will grow even worse, says Miks Lusis, fuel market expert.

Stricter control over employees use of these vehicles would save the state a lot, all BNN surveyed experts are sure. When the crisis stroke, fuel thefts subsided slightly, as the public sector’s procurements dropped as well. Everyone was racking their brain of how to save as much as possible. However, the possibility «to have a free ride» became even more appealing when remuneration was cut in the public sector, a representative of a ministry told BNN, stressing that the current itinerary system is inefficient, especially, when a large number of cars has to be kept under control, Moreover, the mechanism can be avoided easily, he says.

Kisiels points out this has always been an everlasting issue and it will remain so. It is exceedingly difficult to control it but there are a number of ways how it can be done, for example, an itinerary system. But, you see, when a manager has agreed with an employee, no control is longer possible. Also Sudraba (Auditor General) agrees this can hardly be subject to any control. The only way how to do this originates from the Soviet times – the car must be returned in a specific hour, but if it is left to the employee also after that – no one will ever be able to follow that.

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