In a letter addressed to the State Audit Office and signed by Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš and Minister of Culture Nauris Puntulis, the recommendation made five years ago to develop a clear procedure for awarding free-of-charge invitations to nationally significant events financed from the state budget was rejected. The Cabinet of Ministers also rejected the request to disclose information about the invited persons.
The State Audit Office considers that any public institution that receives public funding and uses it for organising events should list the persons or institutions invited openly. Such disclosure of the information already held by the organisers of the event would not entail any additional administrative burden, but would be in line with the principles of good governance and would foster public confidence in the use of public funds and in the compliance of the decisions made by state governance with the public interest.
A letter on almost eight pages was received in reply to the call of the State Audit Office addressed to the Prime Minister to launch a broader debate on awarding invitations to budget-financed events. Having referred even to the progress towards “zero bureaucracy”, inviolability of privacy, and personal data protection in the letter, the State Audit Office was told that existing regulatory enactments already provided the procedure for awarding free-of-charge invitations. In its turn, when publishing the list of invited people to all the events organised for taxpayers’ money, the public right to receive such information might be disproportionate with the individual right to privacy.
“This response is an unpleasant example of bureaucracy and writing a formal reply, and it demonstrates the unwillingness of the government to strengthen open and fair state administration even in a straightforward case. Five years of institutional “football” have passed, and the issue of invitations from the decision-making level of the State Chancery has entered the Ministry of Culture once again, where apparently nothing will change. Latvian population, who have to pay in addition for tickets for theatre performances, concerts, Song Celebration, and other events in good faith, will only be able to observe and wonder who is more equal than others in the audience and why,” stated Auditor General Elita Krūmiņa.
– Link to the reply letter approved by the Cabinet of Ministers on August 20 http://tap.mk.gov.lv/lv/mk/tap/?pid=40475352.