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SEVERAL WAYS TO IMPROVE LATVIA’S INDICATORS IN THE CORRUPTION PERCEPTION INDEX ARE IDENTIFIED

To help understand the reasons for Latvia’s stagnation in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) and to explore possible ways of reducing corruption, Transparency International Latvia (TI Latvia) hosted a discussion panel on 18 February, 2021. With a view to providing insight into the problems and to point to concrete solutions, participants included justice and corruption experts and practitioners with day-to-day responsibility for fighting corruption and investigation, prosecution, and conviction in cases of offence, as well as representatives from Latvia’s business community.

Latvia’s indicator in the Transparency International CPI increased by 1 point compared to 2019, reaching 57 points (out of 100), with Latvia ranking 42nd together with Cyprus and Costa Rica. Although this increase could be considered a step in the right direction, Latvia’s CPI has been stagnant for a long time and is too low, as well as lagging behind other European Union (EU) and Organization for European Co-operation and Development (OSCE) countries. Moreover, a CPI of close to 50 points signals that the country has a weak anti-corruption system and a corrupt environment. TI Latvia’s analysis of the CPI shows that there are three areas where Latvia needs to step up its efforts to catch up with the rest of the Baltic and EU countries: Latvia’s ability to convict high-level officials in corruption-related cases, business integrity and political integrity.

Discussion participants:

  • Jānis Bordāns – Minister of Justice
  • Aigars Strupišs – Chairperson of the Judicial Council
  • Māris Leja – Chief Prosecutor of the Investigation Division of Critical Cases of the Criminal Law Department of the General Prosecutor’s Office
  • Jānis Omuls – Chief Prosecutor of the Prosecutor’s Office for Investigation of Criminal Offenses in the Service of State Institutions
  • Jānis Ilsteris – Prosecutor of the Specialised Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime and Other Sectors, President of the Latvian Association of Prosecutors
  • Dace Valgere – Senior Inspector, Strategic Planning Division, Internal Security Bureau
  • Māris Vainovskis – Head of the Investment Protection and Judicial Efficiency Working Group of the Foreign Investors’ Council in Latvia
  • Agnese Alksne – Chairperson of the Board of the Corporate Social Responsibility Platform
  • Anna Alošina – Head of the Strategy Department of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau
  • Inese Kušķe – Consultant to the Public Administration Policy Department of the State Chancellery.

 

The discussion was moderated by Lolita Čigāne, international consultant in the field of good governance, elections and interest representation.

The experts discussed Latvia’s next steps toward better results in CPI – what political decisions to take and what to do to improve Latvia’s situation. Overall, although Latvia’s 2020 CPI index is not encouraging, it points to directions in which the government needs to step up its efforts to fight corruption in order to close the gap between Latvia and other Baltic and EU countries. Based on the views of the key speakers, TI Latvia puts forward a number of solutions in each of the discussion areas:

Latvia’s ability to convict high-level officials in corruption-related cases

  • For convictions to work effectively, it is necessary to improve the cooperation mechanism between investigators, prosecutors and judges. Cooperation should provide for the involvement of the Prosecutor’s Office in the investigation phase as soon as possible, including in cases where the prosecutor intervenes in the investigation process before criminal proceedings begin, in order to understand what procedural steps need to be taken and what evidence needs to be gathered in order to bring the case to a conviction. Cooperation should include joint training for investigators and prosecutors.
  • The Prosecutor’s Office proficiency in economic, financial and corruption crimes must be strengthened through relevant specialised education. Improvements have already been made in this area. In January 2021, a new unit was established within the Prosecutor’s Office, responsible for investigating criminal activity in state institutions. This unit will henceforth monitor and prosecute cases investigated by the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau, the Internal Security Bureau and the State Revenue Service, including violations related to the financing of political organisations (parties).
  • The Supreme Court needs to actively explain the reasons for protracted criminal proceedings against high-ranking public officials and to provide a solution to the prolonged trial of officials.
  • E-processes should be implemented to reduce the duration of investigations and legal proceedings and to solve problems related to the maintenance and circulation of documents in paper form.
  • Training of judges and development of standard court practices are needed to ensure that court decisions are consistent with those in similar cases.

 

Integrity in business

  • Adherence of Latvian companies to the corporate responsibility code must be promoted to ensure effective company management and transparency of operations, for example, to reveal the company’s strategy, internal culture and ethics, as well as more nuanced issues, such as board election and composition, lobbying activities, etc.
  • Entrepreneurs should be encouraged to be proactive in their efforts to prevent and detect corruption and to introduce and enforce anti-corruption policies in their companies, such as codes of ethics and internal alert systems.
  • The Procurement Monitoring Bureau should include anti-corruption and corporate reputation criteria in its procurement guidelines.

 

Political integrity

  • A comprehensive lobbying regulation framework is needed to allow for fair representation of the interests of different groups in society in public decision-making, especially in relations with legislative representatives.
  • Measures to prevent conflicts of interest need to be strengthened by requiring disclosure of the private interests of senior state officials’ relatives.
  • Public involvement in political parties should be promoted. In Latvia, only 1.1% of the population belongs to any political party. This figure is low compared to Lithuania and Estonia, where it fluctuates around 4%.
  • The close link between the political and private sectors needs to be broken. Entrepreneurs, acting as consultants (external advisers) to ministers, often participate in political decisions affecting their own sectors.
  • A training program on ethics and corruption should be implemented for public officials (2021-2027).

 

These recommendations also take into account the proposals for improving the performance of the Prosecutor’s Office based on a study of the State Audit Office and the OECD audit report published in the beginning of 2021 and summarised in the report “Performance of the Prosecution Services in Latvia: A Comparative Study”.

The recommendations arising from the discussion organised by TI Latvia are essential to promote the rule of law and a corruption-free environment in Latvia, as well as to promote business confidence in the judiciary. Their further implementation is important in the fight against corruption and would bring Latvia’s CPI closer to the EU average.

Additional information:
Inese Tauriņa, Director of Delna, inese.taurina@delna.lv

 

This activity is financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants programme “Active Citizens Fund” and it reflects the opinion of the Transparency International Latvia.

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