Officials' use of private jets at public expense to be tightened up

In future, public officials will fly less often with private planes, Latvian Radio reported November 30, citing a plan by the State Chancellery.

The reason is the sharp reaction of the public to the 36 flights made by current Minister of Foreign Affairs Krišjānis Kariņš (New Unity) during his tenure as prime minister, which together cost more than 1.3 million euros to taxpayers.

More than 600,000 euros came from the state purse and more than 700,000 from European Union (EU) sources for Kariņš' private plane use since 2019. The General Prosecutor's Office has reportedly started an investigation into the leasing of aircraft. All EU-paid flights were to or from Brussels. On the other hand, Kariņš flew to Portugal, Germany, France, Denmark and Ukraine using Latvian state money. 

Kariņš started using private flights with state money in 2021, when the Covid-19 pandemic was raging. In some cases, regular flights were not available as services were greatly reduced during the pandemic. The State Chancellery said that each time it was assessed whether Kariņš could reach the intended destination by commercial flight. 

Director of the State Chancellery Jānis Citskovskis stated: "Often, you cannot draw conclusions from the destination alone that you could have flown on a regular flight. Yes, you can often fly, but perhaps spending the day sitting and waiting somewhere or at a transfer point [is not the best use of time]... the primary task is to make the most of the Prime Minister's time. All those decisions or meetings that don't happen, often the impact could be much greater than the direct cost of the flight."

However, the public's dissatisfaction with the use of private flights has caused the existing procedure to be reconsidered.

"This week, there will be an order on how to evaluate and decide on whether to use a special flight and in what cases. After this public feedback, it is likely that there will be some exceptions," Citskovskis noted.

A private plane was also used by the current head of the government, Evika Siliņa (New Unity), to return from the European Council meeting in Brussels a month ago at a cost of 26,000 euros. Her office told Latvian Radio that in the future Siliņa will use commercial flights as much as possible.

As previously reported, after studying the data of the State Chancellery, the LTV program "De Facto" was not fully convinced of the usefulness of every trip. In several cases, it seemed that the expensive flights were used so that Kariņš could return to Latvia on Friday evening, De Facto suggested.


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