Huge payouts traced to Rīga transport "consultants"

An audit of the affairs of scandal-mired municipal company Rīgas satiksme (RS, Rīga transport) has revealed an astonishing number of large payouts to "consultants" on a range of matters. Coincidentally, many of these consultants also happen to have close ties to the ruling Harmony/Honor To Serve Rīga alliance that holds the majority of seats on the city council.

The astonishing catalog of questionable cash comes from an audit carried out by the Ernst&Young accountancy firm, and seen by LTV, as efforts continue to establish exactly how RS has been spending its money in recent years.

At least 11 of the consultants have strong links to suspended mayor Nils Ušakovs and the ruling alliance, including:

  • Former Harmony city councillor Nikolajs Zaharovs collected 122,000 euros over three years for consultancy work on alternative fuels.
  • Former Russian radio journalist and public relations specialist Konstantīns Gaņins pocketed 113,000 euro for advising on the company's corporate image.
  • Honor To Serve Rīga councillor Andris Bērziņš collected 110,000 euros over three years as a consultant on labor issues.
  • Irina Semjonona chalked up 65,700 euros over two years for advising on funds and financial programs.
  • "Patron" magazine editor and old friend of Ušakovs Dmitrijs Ličkovskis pocketed more than 81,000 euros for creating content for the public transport information system.
  • Journalist Irena Poltoraka also got more than 81,000 euros for providing content for RS information stands.
  • Olga Portnova, Ušakovs' assistant, was also 81,000 euros to the good for creating content for RS social networking accounts.
  • Ušakovs' press officer Laila Īvāna got more than 75,000 euros, also for social network content.
  • Rīga city election commission chairman Juris Kokins' consultancy fee on transport and parking issues was more than 75,000 euros.
  • Igors Puntuss, who is the son of the chief of Rīga city council's housing and environment department director Anatolijs Aļeksejenko trousered around 63,000 euros for his work on getting funds from the European Union.
  • Longtime Harmony Rīga city councillor Igors Kuzmuks got more than 54,000 in two years for his work on health promotion and sports.

In total, such consultancy work had cost Rīga transport - and hence taxpayers - nearly a million euros (around 923,000 euros) over the last three years, LTV said.

Ernst & Young's audit of "Rīgas satiksme" has been evaluated by the Public Expenditure and Audit Committee of the Saeima. After reading the documents, several members called for police action. However, representatives of the Harmony faction in Saeima blocked this idea.

However, the content of the audit has still not been released to the general public and LTV's information is based upon "unofficial" sources. Nevertheless it is known that the report has revealed several shortcomings in the company's work, resulting in losses of tens of millions of euros in recent years .

Separately, cases are also ongoing involving allegations of rigged tenders at RS.

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