According to a report published by the Latvian chapter of Transparency International today, Latvia has good detail and quality of legislation to tackle corruption. However, there are two main deficiencies in some areas. Firstly, the practical implementation is lacking and secondly, there are some legal elements missing to make the overall legislative framework truly work. “Latvia made substantial progress in bringing its legislation up to the European standards in the years preceding its admission to the European Union but we’ve seen efforts slip after that. This should not be accepted as an excuse, and the government needs to make anti-corruption a genuine priority”, says Ms. Inese Voika, chairwoman of Transparency International Latvia.
The report assessed 13 key areas or “pillars” of the Latvian integrity and anti-corruption framework. The weakest of the 13 pillars of the National Integrity System in Latvia are Business, Public Sector and the Ombudsman.
The operation of business suffers from an excessive administrative burden - state institutions are keen on controlling and the process of consultation remains a bottleneck. The high share of grey economy compromises both the overall transparency and accountability of the business sector. The weak involvement of business in anti-corruption activities drags down the total score of the sector in the assessment.
Regarding the public sector, a considerable number of public officials who occupy positions sensitive to corruption are subject to particularly dangerous risks because of drastic salary cuts due to the economic crisis. Appointments of high-level public positions require overt or tact political approval and qualifications are not the main determinant of selecting an individual. However, the greatest drag on the public sector score is its failure to engage in public education and cooperate with civil society in addressing corruption issues.
It does not seem that the legislative majority has ever aimed at appointing the most professional, independent and active candidate for the Ombudsman position. The influence of the Ombudsman’s Office has been held back by a low public profile, the questioned personal authority of the Ombudsman, as well as weak public outreach activities.
The Supreme Audit Institution (SAO), the Central Election Committee (CEC) and Executive are Latvia’s strongest pillars, according to the study. These institutions are characterised as independent and transparent.
According to Ms. Voika: “The recent financial crisis had a damaging effect on some institutions but it also prompted some citizens to rethink the importance of the state and their own role in democratic politics. It is a changing civic consciousness that can bring practice up to the same level as the finely designed legal framework in the books.”
- Anti-corruption efforts must become a shared priority of the executive.
- Codes of ethics should be implemented and enforced at all governmental levels.
- A comprehensive and uniform whistleblower protection framework must be established.
- Procedures and practice need to be re-examined to identify possibilities for greater effectiveness and speedier adjudication in the courts.
Note to editors: The National Integrity System initiative is part of pan-European effort by 25 countries and is supported by the European Commission. More details:
- in English at http://media.transparency.org/nis/cogs/?Country=la
- in Latvian at http://media.transparency.org/nis/cogs/?Country=lv
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Transparency International Latvia
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