Speech at the Foreign Advisory Panel meeting
Alvis Vilks, Deputy Director on Prevention Matters, Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau
Foreign Advisory Panel meeting, 28 May 2009
I am Alvis Vilks and it is my pleasure to address this meeting.
Before I outline current situation and look into future from the corruption prevention perspective, let me have a brief look at work of KNAB in previous year. It might be useful taking into consideration that FAP meeting was not launched in 2008.
One of our accomplishments last year was adoption of proposal on regulation of lobbying providing that basic principles of transparency, equity and integrity of lobbying shall be part of state and municipal institutions' codes of ethics and relevant normative acts. According to this version, the public official shall deliberately inform about persons who contacted the institution with the aim to influence the decision-making. Public officials have the duty to ensure impartiality in access to information and decision-making process. How to implement this provision?
First of all, public institutions have to provide information on their web pages about lobbyists participating in working groups and consultative councils. All draft legal initiatives (laws and amendments) have to include justification in writing in order to be passed by the Parliament. In cases when decisions are taken by the Government, explanatory note has to include information on those organisations which were invited for consultations. The same applies to work of municipalities- regulations issued by local municipalities have to include also annotation.
As the director mentioned working group led by KNAB has developed draft concept on financing of political parties suggesting three possible solutions. One of the three proposed options is providing state financing for political parties starting from 2010 and it was approved by the Cabinet of Minister. This provision would apply to parties which have passed threshold of 2 % unless parties violate provisions regarding financing of political parties, pre-election agitation or the elections in general. State funding can be used for pre-election campaigning, premises, communication services and similar positions amount of which is proportional to number of voters.
Sadly, implementation of this proposal is pending due to economic situation when allocation of more than 550 thousands of (half a million) lats to political parties is hardly possible. And next year elections to the national Parliament are held.
Verifying declarations of political parties for previous elections to the Saeima the First Party of Latvia and the Way of Latvia (LPP/LC) was requested to pay to the state budget illegally received donations and campaigning money which exceeded the established threshold. Total amount to be recovered by this party is more than half a million lats. Looking at the situation in general parties are not keen to pay illegally received donations. From the time KNAB was established in 2002 we have discovered that nearly 2, 5 million lats was illegal financing received by parties and only 15 % of this amount was paid back to the state last year. Most of the cases are disputed at the court.
Our meeting is launched at very intense and challenging time for KNAB in the light of elections to local municipalities and European Parliament on 6 June. Many of you have probably noticed posters of parties on streets of Riga and other elements of pre-election campaigning in mass media. What we do is monitoring of pre-election campaigning and according to the provisions adopted in the beginning of this year we have mandate to interrupt agitation of any of political parties if it is in conflict with requirements of the law (Law on Pre-election Campaigning before Elections to Municipalities and Law on Pre-election Campaigning before Elections to the Saeima and the European Parliament). However, definition of pre-election agitation is easy to interpret and we expect difficulties in applying this provision as well as serious discussions with parties. Another problem we faced during the previous elections to the Parliament is campaigning from so called third persons who claimed not to be related to parties. Currently no campaigning is allowed by third parties except by members of political parties who are allowed to finance campaigning not exceeding threshold of 2700 lats unless they are candidates. Also, natural persons are allowed to donate 18 000 lats per year. If you ask me, it is a lot of money for Latvia, especially in the situation we are today.
Further, we have also expressed our concern to the Prime Minister Mr. Dombrovskis regarding the procedure for receiving rights to generate electric power by using renewable sources. Discussion on this topic is highlighted in mass media for some time as there are already allegations of corruption and conflict of interests. We see several risks of corruption in the procedure itself and role of the Ministry in this process is to be further clarified.
Finally, another important event in Latvia this year is reformation of municipalities which will be effective right after elections to municipalities. It is expected to merge small parishes with larger ones and to establish administrative regions. As the result of elections and the reform there will be a new target audience obliged to follow provisions of the law “On Prevention of Conflict of Interest in Activities of Public Officials“. We expect a lot of requests for consultations and of course, we are ready to deliver anti-corruption training based on issues of prevention of conflict of interests and ethics.