State Audit says recent reform has brought more work and no results

State Audit Office reported on February 16 after an audit of the penalty execution system that after a 2020 reform, which was supposed to make penalty execution more effective, institutions have ended up with more work and no improvements in penalty payment rate.

The Law on Administrative Liability came into force on July 1, 2020, imposing several changes to the process of enforcing administrative fines.

The audit found that 10 out of 27 public administrations imposing administrative fines (apart from local governments) had observed their workload increase after the reform.

Since 90% of all fines imposed are for administrative violations in road traffic, the State Police (VP)'s work is most affected.

Previously, VP imposed enforcement fines if they had not been paid within a year of the date on which the penalty decision came into effect. The new regulation provides for enforcement within a month and, at the same time, faster restrictions on the receipt of services in road traffic for the infringer. Now the VP has to take a series of administrative actions that didn't have to be done before.

While the GP invests significantly more resources, the results do not significantly improve: in 2018 and 2019, before the reform, 79% of penalties were voluntarily paid, and in 2021 and 2022 only 71%. Of all administrative penalties imposed, 16% were not paid at all in 2018 and 2019, while 14% were not paid in 2021 and 2022. After the introduction of average speed cameras on Latvian roads in 2023, the proportion of administrative fines for violations in road traffic is increasing.

In order to ensure the new system, in 2022, the VP additionally involved 23 employees in overtime work, and it is planned to attract additional resources.

The State Audit concluded that the decentralized penalty execution process requires considerable resources for the authorities. The 27 institutions responsible in part for administrative fines employ 1,570 people of different levels and competencies, most of whom (79%) are officials who provide the basic functions of the institution. By centralizing the enforcement of administrative penalties, this function should be limited to 73 full-time employees and could, according to the auditors, be halved.

According to the State Audit Office, this could save the resources of the State budget, accumulate in one place the competencies necessary for the performance of the function, and ensure a fairer and more equal treatment of persons who have been administratively punished, because now, depending on the institution, the average number of days in which fines are transferred for enforcement after the expiry of the voluntary enforcement period varies from a few days to several months.

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