An atmosphere of impunity continues to prevail in the State Fire and Rescue Service and its subordinate College of Fire Safety and Civil Defence. It has been more than a year since the State Audit Office found that the Principal of the College had been illegally allowed to receive a retirement pension in addition to his salary. The damage to the budget is over 170,000 euros. Law enforcement authorities have admitted that the law has been breached, but criminal proceedings have been terminated due to the lack of the event of a crime. Consequently, the perpetrators will not be held accountable, nor will the damage caused to the budget be compensated.
In an audit in the Ministry of the Interior in early 2018, the State Audit Office found that the Head of the State Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) had transformed the post of Principal of the College of Fire Safety and Civil Defence into a post that can be held by someone without special service rank, although it is illegal.
This nuance allowed the Principal of the College to receive both a salary and a retirement pension, which is not legally due to an individual holding the position of Principal of the College. Immediately after the change of the status of the post, the new Head of SFRS recruited the former Head of SFRS who retired as the Principal of the College. In fact, the post of Principal of the College was transformed into the post that may be held without a special service rank in the interests of the individual concerned.
“Unlawful action cannot result in legal consequences. This is a blatant example of breaching regulatory requirements and causing significant budget losses in the interests of a specific individual. It is surprising that after the facts and explanations provided by the State Audit Office, law enforcement authorities have admitted that the law was violated, but they did not consider it a crime. Therefore, unfortunately, perpetrators will escape punishment, and the loss will not be indemnified. This is the case when we would use the recently enacted powers of the Council of the State Audit Office to decide on recovering losses from perpetrators,” explained Auditor General Elita Krūmiņa.
The State Audit Office informed the Ministry of the Interior about the illegal actions of the Head of SFRS already during the audit in January 2018, but they eliminated the illegality only in December 2018, when the Head of SFRS approved a new list of College posts by restoring the status of the Principal of the College as an official with a special service rank. The auditors estimated that more than 170,000 euros were paid in retirement pension from January 2012 to December 2017.
The State Audit Office also addressed law enforcement authorities regarding the findings of the audit, and the Internal Security Office initiated criminal proceedings. Investigators admitted that the Head of SFRS had breached both the Law on Special Service Officers and the Cabinet Regulations governing the procedure for determining the remuneration of special service officials. However, investigators did not see the event of a crime in his actions and terminated criminal proceedings.
The State Audit Office appealed the decision of the Internal Security Office to both supervising prosecutor and senior prosecutor. However, the Prosecutor’s Office made a point that the unlawful order of the Head of SFRS did not constitute the event of a crime itself, as it was made based on consultations with the management of the Ministry of the Interior and misapplication of the regulatory enactment.
The State Audit Office considered that the investigators’ arguments were superficial and unfounded. If the Head of SFRS had coordinated his actions with the management of the Ministry of the Interior, it does not make the violation legal either but involves even more officials in the violation. Moreover, it is not the salary but the retirement pension that was paid illegally, since it would not be appropriate for the Principal of the College according to the law. However, neither prosecuting counsel nor supervising prosecutor or senior prosecutor has evaluated this factor in particular, that is, the legality of receiving a retirement pension.