Watchdog raps Latvian fire service over ‘unlawful’ pension payments

3 Sep 19

An “atmosphere of impunity” prevails in Latvia’s fire service, according to the country’s State Audit Office.

More than a year has passed since the watchdog found the director of the College of Fire and Civil Defence had been illegally given a retirement pension in addition to his salary, the watchdog said last week.

But law enforcement authorities terminated criminal proceedings, despite saying the law had been violated, the State Audit Office (SAO) pointed out.

The SAO said the illegal pension has cost the state more than €170,000 since 2012.

It also highlighted that in January 2018 the head of Latvia’s State Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) had changed the post of college director into a post that could be filled by someone without special rank.

This allowed a “nuance”, as the SAO called it, which meant the director could be given both a salary and a retirement pension.

Immediately after changing the job, the head of the SFRS hired his retired predecessor to the role, who then received both his pension and his salary.

Auditor general Alita Krūmiņa said: “Unlawful conduct has not led to legal consequences.

“This is a blatant example of a person's breach of regulatory requirements and significant budget losses.”

Krūmiņa said it was “surprising” that law enforcement authorities did not consider it a criminal offence, despite admitting the law had been broken.

The Internal Security Bureau’s senior prosecutor told the SAO this was because the decision was based on discussions with the Ministry of the Interior.

To this, the SAO said: “This does not make the violation legal either, but involves even more officials in the violation.”

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