Birthday bash forces minister to quit

  • 2008-04-21
  • Mike Collier in association with BNS
RIGA - Latvia's special assignments minister for electronicgovernment affairs, Ina Gudele, has resigned in response to a scandal that saw taxpayers' money used to celebrate her birthday in lavish style.

Gudele handed a resignation letter to PrimeMinister Ivars Godmanis April 21, but avoided talking to the media.

The minister reportedly quit during a break in a government meetingand did not take part in the second half of the meeting. Gudele walkedinto the premier's office, left her resignation letter there and exitedthe Cabinet of Ministers building without providing any further explanation.

The Greens andFarmers Union (ZZS), which is a partner in Latvia's ruling coalition, isexpected to select a new candidate for the ministerial post this week.

The secretariat of the e-affairs minister on June 12, 2007, planned aseminar on the development of e-services development. Instead the state money was spent on Gudele's birthday party at one of Riga's best hotels.

After the news was made public last Wednesday, Gudele announced that shepaid back into the State Treasury almost 800 lats (EUR 1,138) used to provide the cocktails and canapes that would eventually be her downfall.

The issue was discussed last week at a meeting of the Greens and FarmersUnion's board. The minister confirmed her readiness to resign from her position, but the board of herparty unanimously decided that her actions did not merit her departure and she should continue her work.

The party is developing something of a history for questionable financial transactions. Last year, Greens and Farmers Union member and parliamentary speaker Indulis Emsis eventually resigned after giving false testimony to police regarding the theft of a bagful of dollar bills he was toting, reputedly in order to buy a tractor.

The Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau have initiated aprobe into the Gudele case.