RIGA - Latvia’s government dismissed State Revenue Service chief Dzintars Jakans, accused of corruption, in order to replace him soon with a protege of the prime minister’s party New Era. A political analyst, however, said the corruption suspicions raised against Jakans have been exploited as an excuse to weed him out because of his affiliation with the People’s Party.
Despite the economic crisis, the revenue service has already been working for four months without a director, and the squabble around his fate reminds one of a provincial theater.
Minister Einars Repse (New Era) shelved Jakans in October 2009 and started an investigation of his work. As a result, Repse said that Jakans systematically covered up for some criminals and acted in favor of certain businessmen.
Considering this fact, the government decided to transfer Jakans to the Finance Ministry’s customs tax administration department. This is a department that does not exist yet, but will be created during the reorganization of the State Revenue Service in the spring. The decision to transfer Jakans to the would-be department was made pending an investigation carried out by a special Finance Ministry taskforce.
“Everybody will suffer a lot after the loss of Mr. Jakans. We will try hard to survive this,” said Repse with a smile and a hint of sarcasm and added: “Jakans committed five serious violations. Besides, he permanently refused to comply with my decisions.”
Jakans has said he is absolutely innocent and did his job in good faith.
“I have done nothing to blame myself for. It is illegal to dismiss me while nothing has been proven, therefore I am going to make my so-called ‘job rotation’ as an issue. It is a political conspiracy against me. It is obvious that Repse is trying to get rid of me and that I will be kicked out from his ministry the next day. He is also going to fire all my assistants in the State Revenue Service in order to seat his proteges,” said Jakans.
“Mr. Jakans is a citizen of this country and he has a right to make it an issue anything he wants. However, it is almost impossible to make out this case,” said Repse.
Jakans was recommended for this post by the former Finance Minister from the People’s Party, Oskars Spurdzins in 2004, therefore he is considered to be a party partisan. During these years several stories in the local media have appeared about Jakans being possibly corrupted by the People’s Party members, however, nothing has been officially proven.
Since Jakans’ dismissal, People’s Party members have been trying to defend him and voted against his departure as head of the State Revenue Service.
“It was not quite clear that Jakans did a good job for the People’s Party before they fervently started to protect him. They blew their cover,” said Aigars Freimanis, a political analyst and director of opinion poll agency Latvijas Fakti.
Meanwhile, Latvian Justice Minister and People’s Party member Mareks Seglins said the party was siding with Jakans in respect to legal concerns regarding the manner in which he was let go.
“We are defending Jakans because we want everything to happen in accordance with the law, but Repse’s decision to transfer Jakans to a different post is illegal. There is no other reason,” Seglins said.
Repse said he is going to suggest acting State Revenue Service head Nelija Jezdakova for the position permanently. The government plans to vote for her within the next few weeks. Nobody except the People’s Party has objected, so most likely she will be named for the post.
Jezdakova is not officially a member of New Era; similarly, Jakans was not a member of People’s Party.
“It certainly was political revenge from New Era to the People’s Party and their loyal staff policy. There are always a lot of people sitting in the lap of political parties, people who are eager to take a position and then pay for it by being extra loyal to the party’s leader. It is a common practice in Latvia, and New Era is not an exception,” said Freimanis.
“Repse is not a friendly chief to all civil servants, unless it was him who seated them. It was obvious that conflict was going to happen since the new government was approved in March 2009. The only question remained was how exactly it would move. Repse decided to choose the most humiliating and painful way for Jakans.”
Considering the fact that Jakans was transferred to a non-existing department, this circular firing squad looks like a provincial theater, Freimanis said.