Decision on tax chief put off as coalition tensions surface

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The government has postponed a decisive vote on appointing State Environmental Service's head Inga Koļegova as the director general of the State Revenue Service (VID) until next week following objections to her candidacy by the Unity political party that briefly seemed to put the ruling coalition itself in peril, reported LETA  and LSM Tuesday.

All four Unity ministers participating in the government's meeting Tuesday voted against appointing Koļegova as the Revenue Service's chief.

This means that, according to the coalition agreement, the vote on the matter had to be put off for a week, but not before Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis and Unity's Economics Minister Arvils Aseradens had a clash in the cabinet that resulted in a half-hour time out and a decidedly frosty atmosphere for the rest of the meeting.

During the exchanges both men said the coalition agreement itself was on the line. 

As reported, Unity's leader Andris Piebalgs, who is not a minister so did not participate in the cabinet meeting said after a party members' meeting with Koļegova yesterday that Unity would not support her.

"The reason is not so much her professionalism as the fact that the candidate has to have absolutely impeccable reputation," said Piebalgs.

Although business deals involving Kolegova and her brother exchanging large sums of cash are legal, they are "very, very hard to understand," he added. While there is nothing actually to accuse her of, the head of the Revenue Service must nevertheless have an absolutely faultless reputation, said Piebalgs.

Meanwhile, the National Alliance, another coalition party, said yesterday that it would support Koļegova's candidacy, provided that her performance will be assessed after a year. The Union of Greens and Farmers, of which the Prime Minister is a member, also expressed support for Koļegova as the next Revenue Service's chief.

Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola said that Koļegova had all the necessary qualifications, experience, and knowledge to become a successful head of the Revenue Service as well as "backbone" to push through badly-needed reforms.

Koļegova has transformed the Environmental Service into an institution that is respected by businessmen and works for the good of society, the finance ministry said.

As reported, Ināra Pētersone, who had been serving as the director general of the State Revenue Service since October 2013, stepped down in late June.

A tender to appoint new chief for the Revenue Service ended with none of the four candidates shortlisted in the second round of tender found to be fit for the next round.

However, things took another dramatic twist after the end of the government meeting with Kučinskis telling a press conference that a vehicle belonging to Kolegova's brother - the one with whom she had the complex business relationship - had been detained at the Latvian border, though he did not specify by whom or for what reason.

He did however hint that he thought the matter was not unrelated to Unity's actions earlier in the day, saying "I am disappointed that such games continue to be played and that there seem to be people within Unity who do not seem to be interested in changing things."

"I had hoped we had good ministers from Unity, but I am not interested in playing such games," said Kučinskis. 

The stopping of the car was a "provocation" and the work of "forces... that wish to continue with their current way of life" he said, referring to corrupt officials within VID - but without naming anyone.

Usually noted for his calm temper, Kučinskis appeared genuinely incensed at several points during the cabinet meeting and afterwards, suggesting tensions within the three-party ruling coalition are close to breaking point.

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