State Audit chides Cabinet for shuffles at Free Port authorities

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In light of the economic importance of Latvia’s free ports in Rīga, Ventspils and Liepāja and State Audit agency (VK) recommendations to bring new blood into their administrative boards, the Cabinet of Ministers Tuesday approved the appointments of several new board members, reported news wire BNS.

However VK representative Aivars Ērglis criticized the changes pushed through at the government meeting Tuesday morning. He pointed out that the installation of new members of the board at the Liepāja, Ventspils and Rīga Free Port authorities was done in the same ‘politicized’ spirit that has troubled their development process so far.

In his remarks to the Cabinet Ērglis reminded the ministers that two consecutive governments now have failed to do away with the elements of ‘political’ reward built-in to free port authority board positions, which tend to come with attractive remuneration packages as well as opportunities to affect economic processes behind the scenes. He cited the unsuccessful efforts of Transport Minister Anrijs Matīss to bring the issue beyond mere discussion to actual implementation:

“Unfortunately this is just kicking around the issue according to old habits. We do not see how these particular individuals have proven their competence and persuaded the decision-makers as to their ability to improve work at the free ports,” he said, asking rhetorically: “Has the work of the previous two governments been entirely forgotten? Shouldn’t what’s been started be brought to a conclusion?”

Transport Minister Matīss on his part said the current ruling coalition hadn’t given its support to the proposals prepared by the ministry. “I’ve always insisted that the competitiveness and administration of the ports must be improved. But when the government’s declaration was being drafted, the proposals did not receive support. When the support is there I’ll be prepared to submit them again… At this point I don’t see either a reason or the possibility why the ministers shouldn’t change their representatives on the port authority boards, whom they trust and consider to be professionals,” he said.

Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma expressed her satisfaction with the changes.

On the board of the Riga Free Port Authority the Cabinet replaced Economics Ministry (EM) representative Ģirts Greiškalns, Transport Ministry (SM) rep Džineta Innusa, and Environment Ministry (VARAM) rep Artūrs Bebris with Artis Stucka (EM), Kaspars Ozoliņš (SM) and Baiba Broka (VARAM). Finance Ministry rep Baiba Bāne will continue her work on the board with Riga City Council representatives mayor Nils Ušakovs, deputy mayor Andris Ameriks, Ivars Jakovels and Mihails Kameņeckis.

Meanwhile, Innusa was moved to the Ventspils Free Port Authority board, while Ozoliņš switched over to the Riga port board. Gatis Ābele (EM) and Edijs Vaznis (VARAM) replaced Sandra Sondure-Kukule and Ojārs Briedis there, respectively. Venstpils local government reps on the port authority board remain Aivars Lembergs, Jānis Vītoliņš, Guntis Blumbergs and Didzis Ozoliņš and the Finance Ministry’s rep Sandra Bukane will also stay on.

At the Liepāja Special Economic Zone (SEZ), which includes the local port authority, the government replaced former EM state secretary Andris Liepiņš, installing the ministry’s state secretary Mārtiņš Lazdovskis in his place. Finance Ministry rep Jolanta Plūme will continue on the board, which includes local government leaders Uldis Sesks, Gunārs Ansiņš and Jurijs Hadarovičs, in addition to three business representatives Aloizs Norskis of the Liepāja Consumers’ Association, Jānis Vilnītis of Liepājas papīrs pulp mill and Andris Ozols, director of Latvia’s Investment Development agency.

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