Anti-corruption chief suspended

  • 2007-09-25
  • From wire reports

RIGA - Latvian Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis has launched an inquiry against Aleksejs Loskutovs, head of the Latvian anti-corruption bureau (KNAB), and suspended him from duty.

Kalvitis told the press Sep. 25 that the State Auditor's Office had found "continued and serious violations concerning the use and accounting of operative financial resources" on the part of the anti-corruption bureau.

The National Security Council is expected to discuss the alleged violations at its meeting on Sep. 26.

A commission set up by the government and headed by Latvia's chief prosecutor Janis Maizitis is expected to assess Loskutov's suitability for the post.

"The head of an institution is responsible for transparent use of financial resources and correct book-keeping, and the results of the audit, performed by State Auditor's Office, show that this was not ensured," Kalvitis said.

"These are continued violations concerning the use of financial resources. We are talking only about the use and accounting of operative resources," the head of the government said.

In his words, irregularities concerning the use and accounting of operative resources have been going on in KNAB for several years, but the reason for initiating the disciplinary case was the audit for 2006, the prime minister said.

Latvia's chief auditor Inguna Sudraba, meanwhile, told journalists that audits have been carried out at all investigative institutions, including KNAB, and the results were ready in June.

The chief auditor did not disclose whether the checks have revealed violations in other institutions as well, but pointed out that the state in general has problems with accountancy. "These are issues we have asked the Cabinet of Ministers to assess," she said.

Sudraba indicated that KNAB has had problems with managing its resources for several years, but that they were uncovered only recently, as this was the first audit of the use of operative resources.

Sudraba said Loskutovs had been informed about the violations.

Loskutovs and Kalvitis have a considerable history of disagreement.

The most recent conflict came in August when Kalvitis slammed KNAB for excessive self-promotion. Loskutovs responded by suggesting that someone close to the prime minister is deliberately providing Kalvitis with misleading information.

The anti-corruption chief did not rule out the possibility of appealing in court Kalvitis' decision to suspend him.

In an interview with the '900 Seconds' TV program,  Loskutovs said he found the latest developments unacceptable.

Loskutovs added that he would use his legal training and consult specialists to assess the legitimacy of his suspension.

He suggested that the prime minister's decision might be revenge for the anti-corruption watchdog's recent activities and that a more obedient KNAB head might be more convenient to Kalvitis. Loskutovs added that he had not managed to contact the prime minister after the announcement of his suspension, which he had learned of through media reports.

Whatever the true causes of the dispute between Loskutovs and Kalvitis, the fact that the man charged with rooting out corruption has himself been placed under investigation will do nothing to enhance Latvia's reputation abroad. Outsiders will likely dismiss the whole affair as being symptomatic of a banana republic rather than a modern, integrated system of government.