Rubesa blasts "lip service" paid to Rail Baltica by officials in parting shot

Here are some of the key quotes from outgoing Rail Baltica CEO Baiba Rubesa's eye-opening resignation statement September 27. In a twenty-minute address she painted a picture of half-hearted commitment to the project by officials, clear conflicts of interest and needs for a major structural and financial overhaul.

"I'm sure you wonder why I decided to resign now, less than a month before my contract with RB Rail expires in late October... frankly I had already planned to resign in the summer. The three beneficiaries were clearly failing to make relevant decisions on time for a project delivery organization and all that entails - but I remained longer in my position at the request of Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis."

"I have chosen to resign now to share with the citizens of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania my profound concern that the Rail Baltica global project is at serious risk of not being properly implemented due to the behavior and decisions by our joint venture supervisory board and beneficiaries."

"Regarding financing for the project, for about a year we have experienced stonewalling in the individual ministries of the highest order"

"Rail Baltica's current envisaged project organization model is blatantly contrary to the principles of good corporate governance and the conflict of interest encapsulated in the very roots of the project are the main reason behind the actions - or inactions - of involved parties."

ON EUROPEAN UNION

"There is a need for a tangible role for the European Union on cross-border projects. Financial support for Rail Baltica with CEF grants is at an extremely high level - 85% - but my experience is that the expectations and recommendations of the European Union as the main investor in the project are barely considered by national beneficiaries."

"There is a need for a professional and conflict-free supervisory board... the current structure creates an unwanted loop of supervision and inherent conflicts of interest that delay any decision-making process. In fact it creates a paradoxical situation where the national shareholders - who are at the same time implementing bodies - are responsible for the supervision of the joint venture, who is, in turn, tasked to supervise the same national implementing bodies. I hope you're confused.

To me, this is probably the saddest example of mismanagement in the history of public sector governance and I call on all three state audit institutions in the Baltic states to scrutinize this system in detail."

"the signals given to the European Union... is that the Baltic countries do not prioritize this regional project of the century but choose to revert to so-called national interests in their financial negotiations in the European Union and elsewhere.

"It's stunning to me that beyond paying lip service to Rail Baltica in high-level political statements we simply don't have proper financial support from the countries that will gain at least 6 euros on every invested euro once the project is completed. How can three governments be so short-sighted that they don't realize they are playing poker with a regional project?"

"I gather they [Baltic Prime Ministers] prefer to talk about finding a better CEO than myself - preferably one that is not from the Baltic countries - an audacious position in its own right."

ON ESTONIA

"One civil servant has repeatedly stated that we in the Baltic don't need the joint venture - if the Commission wants it, let them pay for it, while the current CEO of Rail Baltica Estonia has repeatedly stated that we are just building tracks and need to start construction soon, ignoring the vision for a new economic corridor or the need to drive innovation and digitalization for sustainable impact." 

ON LITHUANIA

"Particularly blatant is the case in Lithuania... the main funding will come from a commercial entity, namely the national railway company, LG. RB Rail and the global project this become a concrete part of LG's business plans... there naturally is a vested interest in Rail Baltica contributing to their business strategy, investments and costs in a manner that is solely beneficial to LG, but the Rail Baltica global project was initially designed to be independent of the legacy railway companies."

ON LATVIA

"Conflicts of interest are palpable here as well"

"Today Latvia is the laggard in even stating a position on how they will financially commit to the joint venture and global project. We have faced a vicious circle of mediocre interaction with the Ministry of Transport for details regarding the project."

"From day 1, whether under Mr Matiss or My Augulis, the ministry has failed to take decisions on time, stopped decisions at the very last moment, even voting against them, thereby ultimately harming the total project and failing to use the opportunities at hand. Currently we see that only short-sighted interests prevail."

 

 

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