Karins' special flights were legitimate, but there were mistakes - Patmalnieks

  • 2024-04-12
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - Former head of then Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins' (New Unity) office, now Saeima member Janis Patmalnieks (New Uity) remains convinced that special flights taken by Karins were legitimate, but admits two mistakes.

Patmalnieks told LETA that all the business trips taken by Karins were to defend Latvia's interests.

The use of special flights for heads of government is a common practice in Europe and the world, said Patmalnieks. Most European prime ministers do so. Not only in Germany or Great Britain, but also in Lithuania, Poland, the Nordic countries and elsewhere. This practice exists in many countries in order for the head of government to be able to fully perform his or her duties, he emphasized.

According to Patmalnieks, the State Chancellery organized Karins' foreign trips with the conviction that they were legitimate, and this is also what Karins himself believed. Such special flights had been used by former presidents and prime ministers for several decades, said Patmalnieks. During the pandemic, when the availability of commercial flights decreased, the practice of using special flights on a regular basis began.

Patmalnieks believes that the first mistake was that the Cabinet of Ministers' regulations on public officials' travels were not amended. "It should have been clearly defined that special flights are allowed - without any room for interpretation," he said.

"Special flights were considered in those cases where, based on the State Chancellery's analysis, commercial flights did not fit into a visit schedule or were not available. The findings of the State Audit Office that there were alternatives to special flights are a consequence of the fact that the State Chancellery did not have an internal procedure for taking decisions on the organization of official trips. The absence of a clear internal procedure is the second error rightly pointed out by the State Audit Office," said Patmalnieks.

"The prime minister and his office have always acted to the highest standards and have not been involved in decisions concerning the use of financial resources. Political officials in public administration cannot even buy their own stationery or subscribe to a newspaper - financial resources are always handled by the institution's financial department and the head of the institution," said Patmalnieks.

While Karins' official trips were organized by the prime minister's office, the State Chancellery had to make sure that the trips were organized in accordance with law, plan the budget and pay the bills.

According to Patmalnieks, clear public criteria for officials' special trips should be established in the future, so that the public could be assured that the prime minister's objectives are being achieved through the most efficient use of public funds. Latvia's neighbor countries have gone through and resolved this debate, and Latvia can do it too, he believes.