RIGA - The civil protection and disaster management system in Latvia has been neglected and in total the system is not ready for efficient disaster and crisis management, the State Audit Office said in its report on operations of the civil protection and disaster management system improved in 2016.
The State Audit Office said that the whole system needs improvement in order to prepare for possible crisis, prevent them and manage efficiency, thus, reducing the negative impact of the disasters on human health, life and the economy.
State Audit Office's council member Kristine Jaunzeme said that the audit was carried out at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, while during its completion phase, Russia's war in Ukraine already started. The audit focused on the way the Covid-19 pandemic was managed, and how institutions performed in the area of civil protection in relation to plans on preventive and readiness measures in case of war and military threats.
The State Audit Office believes that one of the first things that should be done is development of the institutional model for disaster management so that responsibilities of the engaged institutions is clear, the institutions would have the necessary resources and capacity, and there are solutions for comprehensive disaster management in the country. The current system largely means that many institutions are engaged in disaster management, but nobody has the responsibility.
Since 2016, the civil protection system in Latvia has been decentralized - certain ministries or local governments are responsible for management of certain types of disaster. In order for such decentralized system to be efficient, united methodology, clear distribution of competences and coordinated action of all stakeholders is needed, the audit says.
The audit said that the approach for preparing state and municipal civil protection plans should be revised - they should include the measures needed in disaster management. The current plans are too general, there is not clarity what exactly should be done and what resources can be used.
Considering the changing geopolitical situation and the current security challenges, the audit reviewed information about the preventive and readiness measures in case of a war, military attack or such threats in relation to controlled mass evacuation or residents, food, first necessity goods and energy supplies, protection of cultural heritage, ability to manage uncontrolled movement of people and other measures. Out of 15 measures included in the list, four measures have been implemented, four are in progress, but seven measures have not been applied.
The responsible institution who should supervise implementation of these measures has not been appointed. The Interior Ministry only collects information from other ministries on implementation of the civil protection plan, but does not analyze it or the reasons the measures have not been applied, the capacity of the institutions and the necessary improvements.
Civil protection drills are necessary in order to test the readiness of the measures and cooperation mechanisms, training skills and readiness of personnel for crisis situations. The last civil protection drills were held in 2016. Organization of drills has been left as responsibility of each particular institution. The Interior Ministry and the State Fire and Rescue Department have no information about what drills have been implemented or planned.
The State Audit Office also noted that the ministries have not engaged municipalities in disaster risk assessment, even though municipalities may face every disaster named in the civil protection plan.
The State Audit Office also said that there is no funding earmarked for the country's material reserves. No budget funds have been allocated for the purpose in the past four years even though EUR 6-8 million have been required annually. The State Audit Office believes that funding for material reserves should be included in budget base financing instead of being demanded every year as a priority measure.