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Tuesday 25.09.2018 | Name days: Rauls, Rodrigo

RB Rail CEO: someone is publicly defaming me; accusations of lobbying Latvia’s interests are baseless

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN cooperation with Lithuanian correspondent Linas Jegelevičius

While Lithuania actively expresses dissatisfaction with the work performed by the CEO of RB rail Baiba Rubesa, ‘the accused’ tells BNN that an active defamatory campaign is being realized against her. She says it all started with the news regarding the distrust Lithuanian and Estonian shareholders had voiced against her.

The sky is growing mighty dark over Rail Baltica project. Many are waiting for the sun to shine – the sun being the 21 March meeting, during which Baltic shareholders will decide the future of the railway project.

Meanwhile, there have been a lot of criticisms and baseless accusations voiced in the public space in recent weeks, adding unnecessary emotional outline to the project. This makes it hard to separate truth from lies. According to experts – if Rubesa loses her post, Latvia will lose the chance to put another one of its representatives in this post.

Latvia’s position as a shareholder in RB Rail does not offer much clarity on the matter regarding Rubesa’s possible dismissal. In the vote regarding Rubesa’s dismissal, Andris Linužs, who is the head of European Railway Lines, abstained in the vote. His was only one of three votes in RB Rail – the other two belong to Lietuvos geležinkeliai and Rail Baltic Estonia. The neutral vote from Linužs can hardly be called support for Rubesa – it is more of a cautious observer’s position. When asked about his decision, Rubesa mentioned that «Linužs has not worked long enough in this post».

Lithuanian representatives voice disappointment with Rubesa’s work more often than others. One of the most common accusations voiced by them is that Rubesa lobbies Latvia’s interests. «She often ignored requests and statements made by shareholders during meetings. More specifically – opinions from Rubesa and shareholders differ greatly, especially when it comes to procurement of services for Rail Baltica. This did not happen once or twice, let me tell you. And this was not in relation to some insignificant details. She made decisions selectively and she would lean most often in favour of Latvia’s interests and the interests of Latvian businesses,» said an anonymous management level official in Lietuvos Geležinkeliai.

Rubesa told BNN in an interview that Rail Baltica contract for the project’s funding and realization model states that board and council members are not allowed to take part in procurement committees. This means she has no influence over procurement results. «With that said, it is foolish to accuse me of lobbying Latvia’s interests,» she said.

«I am a Latvian from Canada with international experience and reputation. I have worked in large foreign companies and smaller Latvian ones in the state and private sectors. I have used this experience in association with Rail Baltica when planning procurement procedures. They are based on procurement laws of all three countries. I represent interests of all three Baltic States. Because the project is 85% financed by the European Union, I also stand with EU Single Market principle and free competition. We have developed procurement procedures, ethics code and guidelines for Rail Baltica. All of them are available on our website,» said Rubesa.

She also mentioned that procurement contracts [not associated with administrative procedures] important for the project’s realization have been signed with only two Latvian companies so far – Geo Consultants in relation to surveying mineral materials and Latvian branch of Ernst & Young international audit company for the analysis of the project’s costs and benefits.

«There are contracts signed with German, Spanish and French companies that actively work with associates in Lithuania, as well as partners from Baltic States [such as Estonia’s Civitta, which participates in the development of the business plan]. RB Rail and I myself have actively promoted procurement opportunities at international conferences to get as much interest from potential partners as possible. This is why I support Rail Baltica’s Industry Suppliers’ Day, which was organized during the Global Forum. Its goal was to promote the Baltic company and meet with international companies to form partnership,» said Rubesa.

It should be mentioned that Rubesa had previously reported a third party’s interference with the work performed by RB Rail. After a meeting of shareholders, Rubesa announced that the management board has faced opposition from certain council members and true beneficiaries towards Rail Baltica project’s founding principles. «Certain RB Rail council members sit in two seats. They are simultaneously Rail Baltica shareholders, realizers and potential suppliers. We constantly experience interference from higher ups in procurement processes and personnel selection for the board of RB Rail,» said Rubesa.

She did not mention any names. It is entirely possible that a lot of pressure came from Lithuania.

Lithuanian representatives are skeptical about this public announcement. Lietuvos Geležinkeliai spokesperson Mantas Dubauskas, after going through Rubesa’s statements, told BNN that «instead of publicly complaining», Rubesa should instead turn to shareholders to resolve problems.

It should be said that State Police Economic Crimes Prevention Office has commenced an investigation in relation to Rubesa’s public statements.

Relations between Rubesa and Lietuvos Geležinkeliai have not always been so tense. In an interview published 1 February, on the same day as the vote to dismiss Rubesa took place, the CEO of RB Rail praised Mantas Bartuška, saying that she values his communication style.

«Mantas was the first of railway managers with whom I had discussed [Rail Baltica] the project,» Rubesa told Delfi.lt.

When reminded of this episode, the spokesperson for Lietuvos Geležinkeliai said that Bartuška has nothing to comment on in relation to Rubesa, adding that the CEO of the Lithuanian railway company was encouraged by what he had read in the press, when Rubesa called him capable and easy to approach with Rail Baltica-related questions.

Rubesa told BNN that when it comes to Lithuania, the most painful question for shareholders and Lithuania’s ministry is the improvement of the European-width railway infrastructure from Kaunas to the Polish border to make sure it complies with parameters set by Rail Baltica Global Project.

«During talks regarding EU co-financing in February 2016 and the signing after that, ministries of all participating countries were in agreement to perform an independent, study in relation to the possibility of improving the already constructed railway section. When the first results came in, this is when the attacks against me commenced from shareholders and ministries,» said Rubesa.

«Considering the high risk of a conflict of interests, we had produced a vision based on the order from RB Stabyba to resolve the situation reported by Baltic Corporate Management Institute. But this is by large a matter of responsibility of Baltic ministries,» Rubesa continues.

There is currently no information to suggest shareholders could reach an agreement in relation to the organization of Rail Baltica project at the 21 March meeting or of the decision-making process could be postponed until 22 March, when RB rail Supervisory Council plans to discuss Rubesa’s possible dismissal.

While touring Vilnius in the middle of February, European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc warned that Baltic States should reach an agreement in relation to the European standard railway width project as soon as possible. Otherwise they risk losing funding.

«There is a very clear rule in in the EU – use it [funding] or lose it. There is no other way. I have multiple projects to supervise. Realizers of those projects would gladly use the money provided to you,» said Bulc during a discussion in Vilnius on 12 February.

«Do not forget – you are provided with 85% of funding. Tell me, which project in the European Union is co-financed on the same level. Please, don’t miss this opportunity and make sure we are all in agreement,» said the European commissioner.

«I’m not saying who is right and who is wrong – we have to find a solution and move forward. Now, please, come together and talk,» she added, asking Poland to be more involved as well.

A journalist from Lithuanian Verslo Žinios, who has covered this scandal since its beginning, told BNN that arguments used by RB Rail CEO while in the crossfire sound more ‘convincing’ than arguments used by Lithuanian and Estonian shareholders.

«Sources I have spoken with in attempts to find out more about the disagreement [between Rubesa and shareholders] were too evasive and used generalized statements. Their arguments about Rubesa not taking their side are worth nothing – they have to back their claims. I personally believe that Rubesa’s argument about certain RB Rail board members sticking to narrow national interests and attempting to get loyal people to posts sound more believable,» said the journalist.


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