Latvia's anti-graft squad needs dozens of employees

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Latvia's dedicated anti-graft force, the Corruption Combating and Prevention Agency (KNAB) is currently working despite a serious lack of manpower, the agency's head, Jēkabs Straume, told Latvian Radio February 14.

At present, KNAB has around 150 employees tackling corruption and related crimes, but there are currently 29 vacancies unfilled, Straume said. 

"The head of every [state] department will say he has too few staff and not not enough budget, but I could say that of course we are not in the most optimal form," Straume said, adding that staff remained determined and focused on their tasks.

The lack of morale and in-fighting that has in the past hampered KNAB's work no longer seemed to be a factor, he said, particularly as some of the more disaffected staff had taken early retirement.

"I believe we will fill our ranks with new, professional staff and everything will be in order," he said.

"At the moment we lack quite a few - about 30 staff," he added, explaining that recruitment to such sensitive positions necessarily required that staff undergo extensive checks before jobs could be offered to them, a process which could take three or four months from initial interview.

As regards the current headline-grabbing investigation of the Rīga transport company and raids on the office and home of Rīga mayor Nils Ušakovs, Straume said:

"Our operatives are continuing their work on this investigation... before a criminal process starts there is a lot of work to do," but declined to go into detail as the probe is ongoing. 

He added that KNAB was keeping a watchful eye on parties' spending in the run-up to May's European elections.

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