The State Audit Office has conducted an audit to assess the implementation of the reformation of the state institution of forensic science. The reform aims at developing the institution of forensic science and common infrastructure of forensic science institutions, reducing the deadlines for execution of forensic analyses and the time of investigation and trial of cases, as well as increasing public trust in impartiality of the evidence obtained in forensic science.
- The reform of the institution of forensic science has been relevant for more than ten years in Latvia by searching for the most suitable solutions to prevent duplication of functions, develop the institution of forensic science and use the state budget funds more effectively.
- On 14 July 2020, the Cabinet of Ministers decided on the establishment of a single institution of forensic science by merging the Forensic Bureau of the Forensic Science Department of the Criminal Police Headquarter of the State Police (Forensic Science Department of the State Police) into the State Forensic Science Bureau until 31 December 2025.
- The Cabinet of Ministers has determined a transition period of five years for the establishment of the single institution of forensic science, during which the reform preparation and implementation works will be carried out. In the opinion of the State Audit Office, the resolution of principal issues for the successful progress of the reform should not be postponed to 2026 or later when the single institution of forensic science will start its operation.
Ms Kristīne Jaunzeme, Council Member of the State Audit Office, summarised the conclusions of the audit, “Unfortunately, we have concluded during the audit that the reformation of the state forensic science is not conducted in accordance with the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers. The progress reached in the first two years of the implementation of the reform shows that the Forensic Science Department of the State Police and the State Forensic Science Bureau have largely planned their infrastructure and development separately, the cooperation of the institutions is insufficient, and the established reform monitoring mechanism is ineffective. If the reform continues to be implemented in the following years as it has been, not only the successful course of the reform but also the achievement of the goals of the reform is at risk.”
Departmentalism has a negative impact on the progress of the reform
Despite the Cabinet Decision on the establishment of the single institution of forensic science and the construction of an existing building ensemble located at Invalidu Street in Riga for its needs, the Ministry of the Interior is implementing the European Economic Area Financial Instrument project simultaneously, within the framework of which, among other things, it is planned to rebuild the premises of the Forensic Science Department of the State Police located at Bruninieku Street in Riga, including laboratory premises. In the assessment of the State Audit Office, there is a risk that part of these expenses will be a non-eligible spending of state budget funds because the construction project cannot be realized in the planned way taking into account the Cabinet Decision on the establishment of the single institution of forensic science. In addition, there is a risk that these expenses will not be considered eligible expenses of the project and one will have to find additional funding in the budget.
Also, only in July 2022 (at the time of the audit), that is, more than a year and a half after the designing of the building ensemble of the single institution of forensic science began, the State Forensic Science Bureau and the Forensic Science Department of the State Police started cooperation by defining and assessing the needs of both institutions in the building ensemble of the single institution of forensic science. As a result, since until then each department had considered and provided only for its own needs, there is no longer enough space in the premises of the single institution of forensic science for the establishment of all the laboratories that should be appropriate for existence on Invalidu Street in Riga. Unfortunately, the practice of each department taking care only of its own needs separately also occurs when making purchases, developing information systems and in other areas. For example, the Forensic Science Department develops the Expertise Laboratory Information System (ELIS) separately by stating that the Department did not know before the start of its development that such an information system would be necessary to ensure the functions of the State Forensic Science Bureau while denying the opportunity to participate in testing the system and improving its functionality during the development process before the development has not completed yet and no additional funds have been raised to adapt the system to the needs of the State Forensic Science Bureau or the single institution of forensic science.
The State Audit Office considers that the irregularities in institutional cooperation and actions contrary to the goals of the reform found during the audit indicate insufficient interest of the Forensic Science Department of the State Police and the State Forensic Science Bureau and insufficient monitoring of the progress of the reform.
Unfortunately, contrary to the Cabinet Decision, those specialties of forensic science in which the expertise performed by the institutions overlap are not evaluated and reviewed. Likewise, institutions do not cooperate in the training of forensic experts in those specialties in which there is a small number of forensic experts and a risk of losing forensic experts as a result of the establishment of the single institution of forensic science. In general, there is no active cooperation between the State Forensic Science Bureau and the Forensic Science Department aimed at the introduction and implementation of the reform.
The monitoring of the reformation should be improved significantly
In accordance with the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Minister of Justice has established the Reform Supervisory Council for the monitoring of the implementation of the reform, whose task is to control the execution of the activities mentioned in the timeframe of the reform measures and analyse potential risks. The monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the reform established in practice has not been effective enough so far because several significant risks have been identified late in the course of the reformation, the implementation of several measures is delayed, several problematic issues have not been resolved. The involvement of the Reform Supervisory Council in informing the Cabinet of Ministers about the progress of the reform is essential.
After the audit, the State Audit Office will address the Prime Minister by calling him to evaluate the opportunities of determining specific measures to be carried out within the framework of the reform of the institution of forensic science, officers in charge of implementation of the latter, and the deadlines for their implementation, as well as to establish the obligation of regular reporting to the Cabinet of Ministers on the progress made in the implementation of the reform to prevent the risks of inefficient use of state budget funds and to ensure that the necessary preparations for the successful establishment and start of operation of the single institution of forensic science would be carried out no later than 31 December 2025 during the implementation of the reform.
In general, the State Audit Office is of opinion that the resolution of prominent issues for the successful course of the reform shall not be postponed until 2026 or later when the single institution of forensic science will start operating.
Recommendations of the State Audit Office #PēcRevīzijas
After the audit, the State Audit Office has provided three recommendations to the Ministry of Justice in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior aimed at achieving the goals of the reform. The deadline for the implementation of the recommendations of the State Audit Office is 1 October 2023.
About the State Audit Office of Latvia
The State Audit Office of the Republic of Latvia is an independent, collegial supreme audit institution. The purpose of its activity is to find out whether the actions with the financial means and property of a public entity are legal, correct, useful and in line with public interests, as well as to provide recommendations for the elimination of discovered irregularities. The State Audit Office conducts audits in accordance with International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions INTOSAI (ISSAI), whose recognition in Latvia is determined by the Auditor General.
100 years of AUDIT STRENGTH
On 16 August 2023, the State Audit Law will turn 100 years old. With the adoption of this Law, the State Audit Office from a formal de facto institution founded on 2 December 1918 became a de jure independent, collegial supreme audit institution of the Republic of Latvia. The State Audit Office is one of the independent state institutions enshrined in the Satversme (Constitution) of Latvia. The Constitution was signed by Roberts Ivanovs as the secretary of the Constitutional Assembly, who was then confirmed as the Auditor General. He worked as the first Auditor General for 12 years. His signature confirmed the text of our Constitution alongside that of Jānis Čakste.
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