The fight against corruption remains a priority for the newly elected Latvian government. Since taking office on 7 November 2002, it has already taken a number of pro-active and radical steps to address the issue, both in relation to legislation and implementation.
Corruption, smuggling and organized crime are officially regarded as direct threats to state security and further economic development.
Current situation, results and further steps
Latvia continues to implement initiatives to improve its anti-corruption policy. OECD anti-bribery efforts through the Baltic Integrity Programme (also called the Baltic Anti-Corruption Initiative) will continue in 2003. These involve regular consultations and review meetings. Latvia has also engaged in dialogue with the OECD Committee on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises (CIME) Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions, to determine ways to further align its activities with OECD objectives.
The new Saeima (Parliament), elected on 6 October 2002, has for the first time established a permanent Standing Committee on Supervising the Prevention and Combating of Corruption, Smuggling and Organized Crime (hereafter referred to as "the Committee"). The Committee is responsible for national policy in the fight against corruption. Priority areas of concern for the Committee include: income declarations by public officials, state procurement, and corruption in the court system, smuggling, and organized crime. As one of its first activities, the Committee has held a meeting with the General Prosecutor's Office to determine what further improvements to legislation are necessary.
The Committee works closely with the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (hereafter referred to as "the Bureau"), which was established in 2002. The Bureau has been fully operational since 1 February 2003. Currently there the CPCB employs 80 personnel in Riga and another 40 in regional offices. By the end of 2003 the number of central office staff could exceed 100, with regional staff numbers to be increased gradually. The CPCB budget for the year 2003 has been approved at LVL 1.7 million.
The Bureau-s work is based on the three pillars of corruption prevention, combating corruption and public education. In accordance with its mandate, the Bureau has developed a strategy for preventing and fighting against corruption. The strategy has been considered and approved by the Committee.
To implement the Strategy the Bureau has elaborated a series of Corruption Prevention and Combating Priorities for 2003-2004. As a next step, the Bureau is currently developing a National Program which will include detailed tasks and timeframes and define the institutions responsible for corruption prevention, combating and education. Detailed proposals have been developed on obtaining assistance from abroad, from international institutions and on a bilateral basis.
Latvia has had positive experience in addressing corruption and related issues jointly with the U.S. and through numerous co-operation initiatives with other countries and international institutions. This has led to the creation of a Foreign Advisory Panel.
The Panel is chaired by representatives from the Prime Minister's office, with the participation of the Chairman of the Standing Committee and representatives of the Bureau. Potential has been identified for co-operation with the World Bank, the European Union and a number of countries on a bilateral basis.
The government is committed to further improving the legal framework for combating corruption and ensuring that it is implemented.
Amendments to the Law On Financing of Political Parties were adopted by the Saeima on 6 June 2002 and came into force on 27June. The amendments provide for the establishment of a control mechanism over the financial activities of political parties.
The Law On Prevention of Conflicts of Interest in the Activities of Public Officials has been in force since 10 May 2002.
The new Law On Public Procurement has been approved by the Saeima and has been in force since 1 January 2002. Amendments to the Law On Managing of the State Shares in Enterprises stipulate that state proxies must be nominated in as part of a transparent competitive process.
The new Criminal Procedure Code, designed to increase effectiveness and to expedite and improve international collaboration in criminal procedures will be submitted to the Government in the coming months.
Latvia is committed to continue alignment of its legislation with international anti-corruption instruments.
The Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention was ratified on 7 December 2000. The Saeima adopted Amendments to the Criminal Law, necessary for implementation of the Convention on the second reading.
A Letter of Agreement between the Government of Latvia and the Government of the United States of America has been signed on establishment of and support for a project designed to promote criminal procedure reform, combat corruption and secure state borders.
The government acknowledges the importance of partnership between public and private institutions in corruption prevention. On-line access to draft legislation and compulsory consultations with NGOs ensure transparency in the preparation of anti-corruption legislation and the formulation of national strategy. The non-governmental organisation Delna, the Latvian affiliate of Transparency International, plays an active role in promoting transparency in public institutions. The Law On Public Procurement was elaborated based on Delna's recommendations.