Suspicious army procurement did not pass security checks: LTV's De Facto

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The 220-million worth procurement for food supply for the Latvian National Armed Forces (NBS), which is under suspicion of unfair practices, has not undergone the safety checks needed, Latvian Television's De Facto reported on March 27.

Procurements in defense sector have a separate law. For these procurements, security authorities are involved when selecting candidates in the tender. If the commissioner is the Defense Ministry, its subordinate, or NBS, the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIDD) checks the candidates first, banning them from participating if security risks are identified.

The procurement for food supply for the army at war and peace conditions, which has drawn the attention of the current Defense Minister, was organized in accordance with standard public procurement law, meaning no security checks were done.

The Defense Ministry is currently looking to terminate the contract with the winner, Zītari LZ. State audit and MIDD will also be involved in this decision. Checks on the procurement committee members are ongoing.

"We found a number of irregularities and a lot of weird things," said Defense Minister Ināra Mūrniece (National Alliance). Two officials have already been suspended after the initial investigation. 

The procurement was carried out at the time of the former Defense Minister Artis Pabriks (Development/For!). According to De Facto, the winner company Zītari LZ owner Modris Supe has donated a substantial sum (EUR 4,500) to Pabriks' party in the last two years. The army signed the contract with Zītari LZ in December when the new government was already in place, with the planned sum of EUR 220 million, with the possibility to increase it to EUR 330 million. The Ministry's State Secretary Jānis Garisons has said previously that he found out about the sum on the media because the ministry's procurement plan only foresaw EUR 8 million.

The Saeima opposition used the procurement scandal to demand the resignation of Mūrniece and Garisons, but the majority of the Members voted against it. Mūrniece stressed that neither her nor Garisons had signed the procurement contract. According to Mūrniece, it was Garisons who notified the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) about suspicions in the case. 

The KNAB started an investigation on March 3 about alleged statements of untrue facts in a declaration, abuse of position, and disclosure of confidential information. Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has tasked the Defense Ministry to look for possibilities to terminate the contract. Currently the contract is in force and the army has paid about 200 thousand eiros to Zītari LZ. 



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