Ladies and Gentlemen,
Five years ago a new institution was established in Latvia – the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau which pursuant to the law is delegated quite broad authority in supervising state officials and controlling financing of the Latvian political parties.
The society looked at this event with hopes and welcomed the official commitment to pay increased attention to the above matters, to prevent and combat taking advantage in bad faith of an official position for one’s own benefit, and to use best endeavours to regain public trust in state institutions and officials.
During this time the Bureau has managed to form a professional team, to gain public trust and provide a well-functioning mechanism for prevention of corruption and for supervision of enforcement of the Law on Financing of Political Organisations.
Prevention of corruption is a widely discussed subject in mass media and an agenda issue of numerous public organisations.
The Bureau has showed good performance and, frankly speaking, has always been supported by the Government, including financial support.
Funding from the state budget has been increased every year – from 1.666 millions lats in 2003 to 3.46 millions this year. It is planned that next year’s budget of the Bureau will amount to as much as 3.68 millions lats.
We have witnessed several amendments to the legislation, alarming cases of interest conflicts, recently more and more persons are arrested for bribery and more criminal procedures are initiated.
It seems, all possible measures have been taken in order to root out corruption.
However, the society does not quite believe that corruption is really decreasing. Why?
It is a common opinion that surveys by which the corruption perception index is calculated are subjective and do not show the real amount of corruptive practices in the country.
On the one had, it is so. People who are more intolerant to unfair action of state officials will react more actively to every, even small sign of corruption.
We, Latvians, do not possess such historical experience as some traditional societies where bribes have been a normal, publicly accepted phenomenon.
We have seen the double-faced nature of the Soviet times but it was an occupation regime, a model of state and citizen relations which was strange and unacceptable to our mentality. I suppose memories about humiliations this regime brought to our people are one of the reasons for intolerance to odour of corruption in corridors of power.
I believe humiliation is the main feeling which denies corruption as a system, corruption as a “widespread phenomenon”.
Although the most part of the society, perhaps, has never faced concrete corruptive practices, bad feelings and disgust can easily be caused by hearing rumours about “stealing of the state”, jokes about road policemen or by neighbour’s advice on what sums should be paid to a judge.
In this respect we can be sure – our society will never accept corruptive practices as a standard.
Another question is how to make fight with corruption more transparent, open and convincing?
Why the Bureau whose name states that instead of combating prevention is the first element, is mainly seen in public as a group of secret agents in masks who offer marked banknotes and make arrests?
Why showing force and power, willingness to catch in the act and to punish is more valued than actions that detect and prevent potential corruption?
I am speaking about balance and sound use of resources.
The regime of secrecy and special authority are not less potentially corruptive pre-conditions than the status of state official. In such circumstances a dishonest person can adapt easily and use them for his/her own benefit.
I think this should be taken into account in order to improve transparency of KNAB’s activities. To this end, work of the Public Consultative Council could be more active and more informative.
Public involvement and interest in ensuring good governance practices are significantly more efficient instruments than hidden cameras in all offices of state officials.
This is a question which way we want to lead our country – to make a police state where officials do not accept bribes only because of fear, or a state ensuring open and fair governance based on mutual confidence and strong legislation?
I would like to congratulate the KNAB with five years of successful work and urge to also think about future.
Do we want a state where corruption is fought by military means, or a country where bad practices are rooted out by means of prevention? I support the second variant.
The Bureau requires further development by improving its activities aimed at corruption prevention and combating.
On behalf of the Government I can promise further support and interest in Bureau’s performance.