VTEK: Lithuanian transport minister breached law by lunching at subordinates' expense

  • 2020-01-22
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Lithuanian Transport Minister Jaroslav Narkevic breached the law by allowing enterprises under his ministry's control to pay for his lunch, the Chief Official Ethics Commission (VTEK) ruled on Wednesday.  

Narkevic says the violation is minor and will consider contesting the ethics watchdog's decision in court.

According to the commission, Narkevic placed himself in a conflict of interest situation last year when his lunch in Minsk was paid for by the Klaipeda port authority and his bill in Abu Dhabi was footed by the Lithuanian Road Administration. 

Jurgita Jerkin, a senior advisor at VTEK's Investigations Department, said during the commission's meeting that the law forbids civil servants to accept gifts if this may give rise to a conflict of interests. 

Since the port and the Road Administration are subordinate to the Transport Ministry, the minister is bound to find himself in a situation where he has to made decisions related to the enterprises, according to the advisor. 

"This should have led to the minister's decision to refuse such a gift from the subordinate entities," she added.  

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has repeatedly called on Narkevic to resign, but the minister says he does not plan to do so after VTEK's ruling, saying the violation is insignificant. 

"I don't think it's of that scale, because I would have decided otherwise," he told reporters. 

Narkevic said he would consider appealing against the commission's decision.  

The minister sticks to his position that his lunches with the heads of the subordinate enterprises were working meetings and that the footing of the bills was not aimed at getting any favors from him.  

"Probably nobody is talking about the possibility of bribing me for 10 or 70 euros. I'm absolutely unbribable," he said.  

According to media reports, Rokas Masiulis, Narkevic's predecessor, twice had lunch at the expense of state-owned enterprises last year, too. 

The ethics watchdog decided on Wednesday to close an investigation into Narkevic's failure to properly declare his wife's property rental business and his failure to declare the fact that he is the head of the Trakai branch of the Association of Poles in Lithuania.