VILNIUS – Lithuania's Transport Ministry should have known it was allocating funding for asphalting Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis' street in Vilnius District, ex-Transport Minister Rokas Masiulis says.
He told BNS that the prime minister did not pressure him on the allocation of funding for this street when his was transport minister. In his words, the funds from the road program reserve are redistributed to be used by the end of a calendar year. This is way funding is allocated for projects municipalities are sure to finish by the end of the year, the ex-minister said.
"Before submitting it to the government for approval, the ministry needs to check if that will be done. At least it used to be done always when I was minister," the former transport minister posted on Facebook.
"The fund absorption possibility should have been checked this time as well. Therefore, I believe they knew what the funds were being allocated for. Did the prime minister know about this situation? If not, then the question is why he was not informed? In any case, the situation looks bad. It is deplorable we have come to this," he added.
Masiulis had in mind the government's decision to redistribute the funds of the road maintenance and expansion program and eventually 300,000 euros was allocated to the paving of Upes Street in Vilnius District where Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis lives.
The Transport Ministry says the specific street was not mentioned in the government resolution as no specific funding object was stated in the document, with the document only stating that the funds would be allocated to Vilnius District Municipality. The latter received additional funding in late October, despite the fact it had not submitted a specific application regarding Upes Steet, nor mentioned a specific amount.
Skvernelis claims he did not get involved in the matters related to the street paving. He says he didn’t know the funds allocated by the government resolution would be allocated to paving the street near his home.
Masiulis told BNS he knew about Upes Street when he was minister as "road workers immediately know who lives on that street", but the prime minister did not pressure him to allocate funds for this street.
"We talked with him about that street in the context of other matters when we spoke about the paving of gravel roads, and we discussed about criteria for streets to be asphalted," the former minister said.
"My argument always was that, for example, Upes Street had no chance of being asphalted by the local municipality as the latter didn't have enough funds and traffic intensity on the street was low. There are considerably more intensely used streets in Vilnius District that fall under the criteria first," Masiulis said.
In his words, the authorities of Vilnius District would have risked with their own funds if they asphalted Upes Street, therefore, they needed the government's guarantee that funds for the street would be allocated.
"I remember telling the prime minister as well that as long as you are prime minister, you street won’t be done for sure just because you are prime minister and that would be a scandal in any case," Masiulis said.
The former transport minister also warned about the nomenclature shadow rising over the transport sector again. In his words, the shady paving of Skvernelis' street and additional funding for the election constituencies of Transport Minister Jaroslav Narkevic and his party, the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance, are damaging the state's reputation.
Masiulis had in mind the government's decision in October to allocate a third of the redistributed funds of the road maintenance program to repairing streets in Vilnius and Trakai Districts, with the latter including Narkevic's single-member constituency.
"It's unacceptable and it's a big step backwards. Are we going back to the nomenclature times again when those "with access to the government" enjoyed the biggest benefit?" Masiulis said.
Narkevic replaced Masiulis as transport minister after the EAPL-CFA joined the ruling coalition.