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Tuesday 18.02.2020 | Name days: Kintija, Kora
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Opinion: Saeima is not an investigative institution

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Saeima deputy Kaspars Ģirģens

Latvia’s Saeima has suspicions about potential corruption in state-owned Latvian Railways (LDz), public transport company Rīgas satiksme (RS). However, the parliament is not an investigative institution. «We can see only possible problems, which we have reported to the State Revenue Service (SRS), Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) and State Police,» says Saeima deputy Kaspars Ģirģens in an interview to BNN.

SRS’s involvement alone is not enough to resolve problems with Rīgas satiksme and Latvian Railways

KPV LV member notes that a request has been submitted for auditor reports. Additionally, active work is performed with consultants in RS. «Close cooperation is also performed with SRS, State Police and KNAB.» However, the current situation demonstrates that no active involvement in these processes is observed from specific institutions, especially SRS. ‘But we work and hope general understanding that there are problems need resolving in the aforementioned institutions need to be liquidated,» says Ģirģens.

Continuing on the topic of Riga City Council and RS, Ģirģens, as chairman of Saeima’s Public Expenditures and Audit Committee, stresses that this is one of the most important objectives the committee works on every day. «These topics are important, because there are major potential corruption risks involved. As for Nils Ušakovs – every day I go through reports from the State Audit, detailing that his previously supervised institution [RS] does not function properly.»

Ģirģens also added in his interview to BNN that Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits’ recent public statements in regards to potential corruption risks at LDz were not at all surprising.

The politician mentioned that even before Linkaits’ public statements regarding the need to replace the board of LDz the Public Expenditures and Audit Committee had written a report on possible illegal activities in the company.

Saeima deputy noted that this is about tenders and contracts. There are serious concerns regarding equal treatment of participating companies and whether or any of them were lobbied. «I am talking about possibilities, because Transport Ministry has been asked to prepare documents and fill in tables. We expect that the ministry will evaluate all information and compile it for us to make conclusions later.»

Decline expected in 2020. Ministries will have to «tighten their belts»

«While we are not yet proposing reducing the number of ministries, we still have to discuss budget austerity and efficient use of finances. This is a road worth waking.»

As the most major test for the government Ģirģens mentioned the 2020 budget, development of which is set to commence in a couple of months. «It will be a complicated period of time, considering how many parties there are in the country and how many desires they have. Because, as we are aware, Defence Ministry wants more funding, Interior Affairs Ministry wants more funding. Everyone wants more money to spend. Time will tell how things turn out.»

«The most important task I intend to work on is reduction of budgets and funding for ministries to satisfy the desires we’ve set forth. It is unlikely we’ll have more money to spend, because the general picture is that there could be a decline in 2020, because financing from the European funds will drop significantly,» says the Saeima deputy. He voiced KPV LV party’s position that ministries will be the ones to ‘tighten their belts’ and review their expenditures.

Opposition submits proposals during Saeima meetings; this is why it is not possible to assess how much they might cost

When reminded that before elections the party had promised to review all proposals regardless if they were submitted by coalition or opposition parties, Ģirģens says: «Yes, but they are being improperly developed.»

He explained that deputies are able to present ideas to coalition partners on Mondays. «Then proposals are handed to ministries and factions of other parties.» Ģirģens notes

He adds that a good example of proposals from the opposition being taken seriously would be the proposal regarding the 40-hour work week for students from third countries, which has been approved. «This was a successful proposal from the opposition. It passed through the entire process and everything is fine.»

«As for other proposals – they are mostly submitted during Saeima meetings, when deputies also vote on them and there is no real way to assess and consider how much they would cost and where funding would have to be found to afford them. We’ve discussed in the committee that it is necessary to teach the whole process with all estimates so that we are able to support their [opposition’s] ideas,» stresses the deputy.

Working in the EP, we need to forge cooperation with all Baltic States to be able to influence everything

Speaking about potential work in the European Parliament, Ģirģens stresses that he has no doubts – if deputies with an unclear national consciousness enter the European Parliament, he will find it very hard to work with them. Additionally, Ģirģens believes such MEPs would have a difficult time working for the benefit of Latvia’s residents.

In regards to inappropriate candidates to work in the EP as Latvia’s representatives, the politician said that not long ago Latvia was visited by representatives of Crimean Tatars, «who voiced profound regrets that we, Latvian residents, are able to vote for representatives that question Ukraine’s ownership over Crimea and Latvia’s status as an independent country.

No surprise, they mentioned Tatyana Zhdanok, who is a very poor example for our country: how we are able to elect such people,» says Ģirģens.

He also says guests from Crimea praised Sandra Kalniete, who is very actively involved in the political fight for Eastern Europe and Ukraine. «Because things are not always bad,» says the deputy.

He also stresses that «what is most important is establishing cooperation at least among Baltic States, because the eight votes available to Latvia make it very hard to influence processes [in the EU]».

Saeima deputy notes the most important topics for him include public expenditures and use of EU funds. The European Parliament is the institution that is able to control and effectively work with use of EU funds in member states. «This is the topic that is the closest to me. I already cooperate with European Court of Auditors, which supervises how efficiently finances from EU funds are used.»

Ģirģens notes that efficient use of EU finances is an especially topical problem for Latvia, and when European Court of Auditors reports information on how well or poorly EU finances are used in Latvia, members of his committee take measures and work with State Police and Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau to resolve problems. «There are also mechanisms on Europe’s side than can influence public procurement field.»

Kremlin journalists in Latvia’s Saeima

Although there are no cyber-threats apparent for Latvia in European Parliament elections, because electronic voting is not used in Latvia, the problem of fake news remains topical nonetheless, says Ģirģens.

«Fake news usually come from Russia’s side. Before an event even happens, people’s opinion is formed a year or year and a half in advance. The same happened with Ukraine.»

He explains that there are questions brought before the Public Expenditures Committee by members of the media that listen to opinions of specific political parties and then publish information without also including opinions of people from other parties.

The deputy believes it is necessary to carefully consider how justifiable it is to let such people into the Saeima. «Because we all know that after that there will be manipulated information provided to the people. A couple of days ago I read such news. In the article authors carefully interview people who provide exactly the information Kremlin wanted to spread.»

He also stresses that one of the topics definitely worth discussing in detail is how justified is it to include in the base package of television in Latvia channels that are loyal to Russia’s policy – shouldn’t they be added on demand for an additional fee?

The politician says representatives from Stratcom organization responsible for monitoring media space and fake news distribution came to a meeting of Saeima’s Internal Affairs and Defence Committee. They had concluded that disinformation is real. Ģirģens adds that the spread of fake news and the consequences they create is actively discussed by the Foreign Affairs Committee together with Internal Affairs and Defence Committee. «Perhaps we were not aware of this problem at first, but it is becoming more and more serious as time goes by.»


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