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Wednesday 08.04.2020 | Name days: Dana, Dans, Danute, Edgars

New Rīgas satiksme board approved on last year’s last work day

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Riga, board, council, management, approval, Artis Druvinieks, Druvis Kleins, For Riga, HarmonyMultiple decisions were made in the final days of 2019. These decisions had shaken up the already fragile coalition in Riga City Council. It is not only that the previously excluded candidates were appointed to Rīgas satiksme’s board, an opportunity was also rapidly used by the tenants of Riga Central Market. Harmony deputies together with For Riga! bloc are also dissatisfied with Mayor Oļegs Burovs and want him out, Nekā personīga programme reports.

All this is happening in a time when it will soon be necessary to approve the budget and the city council may have a shortage of votes again, the programme reports. «Developments are largely depended on Burovs’ party Honour to Serve Riga, which is set to gather for a faction and board meeting on Monday, 13 January.»

Opposition deputy Druvis Kleins (For Riga! bloc) decided to support Burovs’ coalition in exchange for vice-mayor seat and the right to supervise public transport company Rīgas satiksme (RS). On the first day in his new post, Kleins replace representatives of the company’s council, directly influencing the board members selection process. Kleins’ approved representatives work in the nomination committee that restored in the first stage the candidates that were previously excluded over reputation risks. This includes the lawyer involved in the company’s previous scandals – Elīna Epalte-Drulle, NP reminds.

The programme also notes that a year ago the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) had performed a search in her home and office. She is also a witness in a criminal case. Although KNAB’s performed search at RS Administrative Resources Management director Epalte-Drulle’s office was a well-known fact, Kleins’ appointed council members had no doubts about her reputation, NP notes.

In a conversation with NP, RS council and nomination committee member Natālija Moškeviča does not believe there are any reputation risks for Epalte-Drulle: «They are not affected by any press publications about searches. On top of that, I have not read anywhere those searches have any relation to RS.»

Another candidate reinstated for evaluation was Emīls Jakrins, who previously worked together with Bemhens in the board of RS. He also stepped down after Bemhens’ arrest. Jakrins was also in charge of the Transport Department, where Moškeviča works.

«The new board of RS, included Epalte-Drulle and Jakrins, was approved on the last work day of 2019 half an hour prior to the end of the work day.»

«The composition process of the new board is considered by RS shareholder Juris Radzevičs as, possibly, dishonest. He is currently in charge of all of Riga municipality’s owned companies, because the law changed as of 1 January. Radzevičs is unable to directly dismiss the board, but he can add changes to the council,» NP notes.

The programme also notes that Radzevičs has evidence that minutes of meetings of the nomination committee were corrected after New Year’s to justify changes during the selection process. Questions about that have been asked to council chairman Rolands Klincis. NP has information that Monday may be Klincis’ last work day in his position. Indifference and negligence within RS has troubled its largest creditor. Although the EUR 100 million lender SEB Bank had asked the municipality to inform them about planned changes to RS management to learn of those people’s reputation, it was not done.

Read also: Rīgas satiksme’s shareholder to ask prosecutor to assess council chairman’s approval

SEB Bank board chairperson Ieva Tetere comments: «In the case of RS, we want this company to be among those that do not ignore good management principles. Thereby if we as a creditor have question, if society has questions and even shareholders have questions about the company’s management, this is unacceptable. In the long term this could lead to a situation when it may become harder for the company to cooperate with the finance sector and borrow money for its future investment projects.»

Radzevičs has asked the office of the prosecutor to evaluate the legality of Kleins’ actions. NP has unofficial information that at the end of 2019 the coalition had discussed the plan to appoint consultant Jurģis Liepnieks, who is close to Nils Ušakovs, as Radzevičs vice. Liepnieks’ family was previously generously rewarded in municipal procurements. However, Mayor Oļegs Burovs did not agree with that.

In the final days of December 2019, Kleins had decided on another questionable business deal in another one of Riga’s companies – Riga Central Market. NP reported that once in the past Ušakovs had accepted a 40-year rent contract with a company that is related to his once advisor Ēriks Teilāns.

«This business deal was not beneficial to the municipality and its requirements were not complied with. Because of that, the contract with industrial goods trader LLC Promenex needed to be terminated. But instead the contract was extended at the end of the year. The point regarding the buy-back of the building built during the previous contract’s term was promptly excluded from the extended contract. In exchange, LLC Promenex has received the option to enforce from the central market the unpaid debt from Vidzeme market’s tenant. The debt was ceded for 250 thousand. It is not possible to assess the benefit from debt enforcement rights because like Vidzeme market’s former tenant Kaufnann, Promoenex has mutually associated firms.»

During Burovs’ absence, his second vice-mayor acted out. Anna Vladova decided to appoint Jakrins as Riga City Council’s development department’s interim manager. Later, however, Burovs cancelled Vladova’s decision upon returning from his vacation, NP reports.

Protesting Burovs’ one-man management style, non-compliance with coalition agreement requirements and negligence of the budget, Harmony deputies together with For Riga! bloc and Baiba Broka want to have Burovs dismissed. The initiative was signed by 20 deputies, which is not enough to dismiss Burovs.

The opposition is now waiting for Honour to Serve Riga to decide on Burovs’ fate. The party is set to have a faction and board meeting tomorrow, the programme explains.

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