Suspicions of secrecy around demolishing Soviet monument in Rīga

The Rīga City Council has found a company to demolish the Soviet 'Victory' monument in Uzvaras Park. Under the pretext of the risks of provocation, the Council does not currently disclose who it will be and how much the job will cost. Latvian Radio reported August 3 that allegedly not everyone had the opportunity to apply for the job and there is a suspicion of secrecy.

The Saeima decide in May to set out by law that local governments would have to demolish Soviet-glorifying objects in Latvia. The most known and publicly visible site to be demolished is the monument in Pārdaugava, Uzvaras Park. Rīga decided on its demolition at a meeting on May 13. Later, vice-mayor Vilnis Ķirsis (New Unity) said that it was not easy to find a company due to the impressive size and substance of the monument.

In mid-July, Rīga  announced that the demolition of the monument would cost at least two or even three million euros, but the real cost would be clarified by the chosen builder. However, two and a half months after the council's decision, it is still not known how Rīga sought the builder.

The possibility of reaching a €3 million agreement was also noticed by Ingus Purgalis' company, “In Nordic AB”, which operates in Sweden.

“We figured out that we would start [in the competition].” Then we figured out a plan. [..] We followed closely and waited for the competition,” said Purgalis.

But no public procurement was announced. A few weeks ago, they themselves started to ask the Rīga City Council until a lawyer said on the phone that there was no way to apply for competition.

Purgalis said: “What doesn't seem right is that we haven't had the opportunity to apply for competition and get information to be able to calculate [costs]. Because a healthy contest is when you have several options and different prices and you can choose the best."

Riga has not looked for the company either at the Builders Partnership or the Construction Council, according to the head of the two organizations, Gints MIķelsons. The charity organization Ziedot.lv which collected  EUR 268 thousand in the spring for the cause, also does not have explanations for spending. “Ziedot.lv will want us to be able to justify these estimates openly to our donors, and to ensure that these costs are proportionate and comparable,” said the head of Ziedot.lv.

Latvian Radio could not obtain any information from the Rīga City Council itself either, as the communications head Uģis Vidauskis stated he had signed an agreement of non-disclosure. The municipality would comment on it 'at its own time, possibly at a briefing on Thursday'.

Head of the Procurement Monitoring Bureau Artis Lapiņš said that the Bureau had not followed whether the Riga City Council has invited entrepreneurs to offer their price for demolition work, but he expressed hope that the Riga City Council has a desire to meet the requirements of the Law regarding the deadlines for demolition of the monument, as well as to receive the best possible offers.

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