Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (henceforth – the Bureau) has been able to identity a number of important problems during the three years of its existence, which distort fair use of the power entrusted in the officials for the interests of the State and the society, has taken measures to fight against the consequences caused by corruption and has facilitated the introduction of corruption prevention systems in state and municipal institutions. The Bureau has been very active also in drawing up of various legislative initiatives and promoting their adoption both in the field of financing of political parties and monitoring of income of public officials.
The year 2005 will be definitely marked in the history of combating the corruption with the first detected case of political corruption, which was related to bribery during the election of the mayor of Jurmala City. Revealing of the circumstances in the case to the public showed the strong disapproval of such illegal action among the citizens and, hopefully, has raised awareness also among representatives of the political elite.
In general, the scope of work of the Bureau has increased considerably. The progress achieved by our officers in charge of investigations in detecting an increasing number of cases of corruption or conflict of interest, fosters the trust of the society in the work of the Bureau and reaching a common understanding that the impunity of law breakers is not possible anymore.
The opinion poll of the population of Latvia in 2005 witnesses a strong increase in the confidence in the work of the Bureau. The public mentions the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau among the ten fairest institutions in Latvia.
Scope of work has increased considerably also with regard to disputing and appealing of decisions made by the officials of the Bureau in administrative violation matters. Taking into account the fact that activity of persons found administratively liable in defending their legal interests in a higher institution and in court is only increasing, the amount of work in this area will most probably not decrease.
By evaluating the amount of work of the Bureau, it must be also taken into account that the number of public officials is constantly increasing in our country. Subsequently, is increasing the number of those persons monitoring and supervision of whom is in the competence of the Bureau. Currently, it has risen almost to 70,000 public officials.
Meanwhile, it is recognised that the level of legal awareness in the Latvian public administration and the society is quite low, as well as unawareness of own rights or responsibilities. There are examples of negligent attitude by some officials towards the duties that they are entrusted to perform, insufficient control of their work, lack of knowledge about legal and regulatory norms, as well as sometimes unwillingness to get better acquainted with them. As result, often public officials carry out their duties in a situation of conflict of interest out of lack of knowledge or due to negligence. It is also caused by weak internal control of institutions and the fact that heads of many institutions do not fulfil their duties established by the law in the area of prevention of conflict of interest, thus slowing down the prevention of conflict of interest and corruption.
The tasks set out in the National Programme for Corruption Prevention and Combating for 2004-2008 envisage assessment of possible corruption risks in each state and municipal institution and implementation of internal anti-corruption plans. However, the Bureau has found out that there are still a number of institutions that are negligent to the implementation of these tasks and such plans have been elaborated formally in some cases and they have not become efficient internal control mechanisms. Heads of institutions stress insufficient financial resources as one of the obstacles for introduction of an efficient internal system: establishing of an internal control system is creating additional workload in their institution and need for new job vacancies.
Drawing on its experience, the Bureau has identified several legal provisions that have become obsolete and insufficient in the current situation, for instance, in Law “On Prevention of Conflict of Interest in Actions of Public officials”. There are cases when due to insufficient legal regulation, it is not possible to charge public officials found guilty with liability for their violations, allowing them to avoid being sanctioned.
Besides, application and enforcement in practice of particular provisions of the Criminal Law, the Law on Financing of Political Organisations (Parties), and Laws “On Pre-election Campaigning before the Election of Saeima (Parliament) and the Election of the European Parliament” and “On Pre-election Campaigning before the Election of Local Governments” cause important problems, and the public gets an impression that activities of officials remain unpunished and that only the poor and the weak rather than wealthy and strong ones are brought to trial. Therefore, in order to diminish such risks as much as possible, the Bureau is drafting amendments to the existing legal acts and develops new draft laws that could create sound and sufficient rules in the areas, which have been not regulated until now.
Since the beginning of operation of the Bureau in 2003, the monitoring of political organisations (parties) financing has improved considerably both in terms of its legal and regulatory basis and the practical application. Work in the area of monitoring of financial activities of political parties has been one of the priorities for our Bureau. Recent studies indicate that there is a comparatively high level of “state capture” in Latvia: a situation when political organisations, as a result of necessary financing, become closely dependant of various economic groups. In this light, important amendments to the Law on Financing of Political Organisations (Parties) were adopted prohibiting donations of legal persons to parties and restrictions in respect to pre-election expenses of parties were stated. Due to the above-mentioned reasons, the year 2005 has been significant for the monitoring of political organisations financing, since the first elections after adoption of the said amendments were held in March.
Another important step for improvement of the financing of parties could be the adoption of the new Law “On Pre-election Campaigning”, but it is still being delayed. The draft law provides a procedure in accordance with which mass media shall ensure free campaigning of candidates to election, place campaigning materials in the media during the pre-election period, and – a particularly essential provision for the Bureau – includes a list of indicators of pre-election agitation and provides for the monitoring.