RIGA - The Corruption Prevention Bureau’s (CPB) trade union on May 13 said it was angered by CPB Chief Vilnitis’ decision to fire his deputy, Alvis Vilks, without discussing it with the union, reports news agency LETA. The union’s board said that Vilnitis’ actions indicate that he is trying to settle a score with CPB employees, violating and ignoring their rights. Vilnitis justifies his action with false, unproven and controversial facts that are based on his own assumptions, ignoring conclusions and opinions of competent institutions, asserts the union.
The board believes that the decision to fire Vilks, as well as the disciplinary case against him, violates his rights, and adds that every single request from the union has been ignored so far. “The current situation is unacceptable in a law-governed and democratic state. Therefore the union urges the supervisory institutions to react immediately, since Vilnitis’ unlawful actions wreck CPB’s prestige and the state administration. Vilks has been honest and professional and was working towards achieving an independent and professional CPB,” emphasizes the union.
Transparency International Latvia - Delna believes that the actions by Vilnitis are unacceptable, and are evaluating the possibility of organizing a demonstration against the CPB chief and the unwillingness of politicians to find a solution to the crisis at the CPB, said Delna chairwoman Inese Voika last Friday, speaking in regard to the dismissal of Deputy Chief Vilks.
“The dismissal of Vilks clearly shows that the reputation of the CPB is damaged more each day that CPB Chief Normunds Vilnitis is allowed to continue heading the bureau,” Voika says. Delna believes that the actions of Vilnitis, in dismissing the experienced Vilks, are unacceptable when his own suitability for the post is very questionable and is currently being evaluated by a special committee.
“In the current situation, when Vilnitis continues to carry out possible unlawful actions, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, President Valdis Zatlers and Saeima members must use all legal instruments to bring the CPB into order,” Voika added.
Vilnitis decided, after examining the materials in a disciplinary case against his deputy, to dismiss Vilks from his job, effective May 13.
Vilks claims that Vilnitis’ decision is unlawful and that the case is just a pretext for his dismissal.
Prime Minister Dombrovskis commented on Monday that if now-fired Vilks believes the move was unjustified, he can take it to court. Dombrovskis explained that it is not in a prime minister’s powers to reverse Vilnitis’ order, adding that he has received no information on this matter directly from CPB management or the trade union at CPB.
The decision to dismiss Vilks was unlawful, the bureau’s former chief, now chairman of the Saeima Defense, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee Aleksejs Loskutovs (Unity) said in an interview in Dienas Bizness. “What is happening now makes me think that Vilnitis has decided to settle a score with Vilks, and it seems that Vilnitis realizes that he does not have much time left as the head of the Bureau, and he is trying to make use of what little time remains for him. Vilnitis’ replacement is increasingly likely, because now his actions are outright inadequate,” says Loskutovs.
He believes that it would be wrong to replace all three key Corruption Prevention Bureau officers. “We have to understand that if all three [Vilnitis, Vilks and Vilnitis’ other deputy, Juta Strike] are released, it would be a big step toward making the bureau less effective. And that is what the people who appointed Vilnitis as head of the bureau wish to achieve,” added Loskutovs.
The disciplinary case was initiated to examine Vilks’ conduct in implementation of PHARE 2003 national program’s project on developing and strengthening the capacity of the Corruption Prevention Bureau, where Vilks was accused of failure to act and reporting erroneous information. The investigative commission presented Vilnitis with a report informing of the circumstances of the case and offering suggestions regarding a disciplinary penalty on Vilks or closing the case.
Due to lack of grounds, the Prosecutor General’s Office refused to start a criminal case against Vilks. “This decision made by the Prosecutor’s Office was the right one. It confirms that there is no reason to believe that there were any violations made or losses suffered,” Vilks said.
Investigation in the disciplinary case was completed two weeks ago, but the conclusions were not then made public. Vilnitis last week had to decide whether to close the case or impose a disciplinary penalty on Vilks.
Internet portal Pietiek.com previously reported that the case dealt with a European Union project within the PHARE program that had not been completed and could result in a fine of 1.1 million euros to the Latvian state. Namely, the Corruption Prevention Bureau had not fully implemented the development of a local database and an integrated information system, which had been launched back at the time the Corruption Prevention Bureau was headed by Loskutovs. The Finance Ministry last December informed Dombrovskis about the problem, and also urged the prosecutor’s office to look into it.
The Corruption Prevention Bureau signed a contract worth 374,727 lats (534,200 euros) with Dati Exigen Group for implementation of the project in November 2005. Although more than five years have passed, the fourth stage of the project - connecting the bureau’s information system with the Interior Ministry’s Information Center, has not been done as yet.
According to the contract, the project should have been implemented by Sept. 25, 2006.
Vilks, who was in charge of the project, explains that connecting the Corruption Prevention Bureau’s information system to the Interior Ministry’s Information Center was impossible for technical reasons. Besides this, the program has been fully implemented, he said.
According to the PHARE program’s provisions, the project had to be implemented in full. Therefore, if the European Commission concludes that the project has not been completed, Latvia may be ordered to repay the Commission part of the amount that had been allotted for the project.
Meanwhile, on May 16, the authorities said they received new information about Vilnitis’ possible violations, and that the information is serious enough to extend assessment of suitability for office. The prime minister, however, would not comment on the violations, claiming that the information currently is classified.
On May 17 the government decided to extend the deadline by which the special commission must assess Vilnitis’ suitability for office until June 16.
Prosecutor General Eriks Kalnmeiers previously urged the Cabinet to extend the assessment date for suitability. On March 15, the government, without any debate, supported setting up a commission to assess Vilnitis’ suitability for office.