Latvian State Audit said that the report on Ministry of the Interior 2021 annual account underlined multiple capacity problems at multiple institutions that answered to the ministry – the Ministry of the Interior Information Centre, Provision State Agency and Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs.
Ministry of the Interior Information Centre has used up only two-thirds of the budget provided to the institution for 2021. More than EUR 10 million remain unused because the institution failed to implement multiple projects last year. The institution has also failed to use up the financing provided to increase wages, as reported by State Audit.
The institution has also failed to implement projects like Arrival/Departure System and ETIAS, improvement of the Schengen Zone Information System, the New Generation Integrated Home Affairs Information System (IIIS2) and others. This could impact performance of important functions of the interior affairs sector. Failure to use the financing provided by EU funds could also cause additional costs for the state budget.
During the accounting period the Ministry of the Interior Information Centre also failed to implement capacity enhancement measures to raise wages for the centre’s employees and attract new employees. More than EUR 1 million, which was intended to finance these processes, remains unused.
Of the 161 jobs, only 19 received higher wages. Of the 81 jobs that were planned to be reorganised into higher wage groups, only four were reorganised.
State Audit provided recommendations to the Ministry of the Interior to prevent delays with project completion terms within the centre, to improve the capacity of public procurements and to raise the competitiveness of wages paid to employees of the centre.
State Audit has provided recommendations to the Ministry of the Interior also in relation to the procurements carried out by the Provision State Agency. This includes the introduction of a mandatory requirement to coordinate technical specifications of procured goods and services with the institution that is the recipient of procured goods and services. It is also planned to include options to sign general agreements or contracts with multiple suppliers if there is urgency or if there are risks for successful completion of the procurement.
Inspection of the Provision State Agency’s implemented procurement of the fence to be installed along the Latvian-Belarusian border indicates that as a result of the agency’s ill-considered and ineffective approaches have only delayed the procurement and installation of the temporary fence along the border.
Although the procurement of a barbed wire fence was an urgent and important to ensure state security, the agency failed to define the necessary type of barbed wire and during price talks it was changed without taking into account results of the market study and set up unjustifiably short supply terms, causing the supply of the barbed wire to come later and for a higher price.
In many cases decisions in cases involving asylum seekers can be made sooner
In conclusion of the 2021 accounting period’s report, State Audit invited the Ministry of the Interior to enhance the capacity of institutions reviewing applications submitted by asylum seekers.
An evaluation of the review process of asylum seekers’ applications revealed that the general terms for reviews of applications set by the Asylum Law were followed in Latvia. However, in many cases State Audit concluded that the asylum procedure could be completed more quickly, reducing the wait time and state budget financing amount used to finance the stay of asylum seekers for the duration of the review of their cases.
The State Audit especially outlines that only in two out of 65 cases included in the review the State Security Service had provided reports within the 30-day term. In such cases reviews of asylum seekers’ situations took more than three months on average, which significantly slowed the process.
The audit especially focused on asylum seekers from Belarus, the number of applications from which had increased after the 2020 presidential elections in the country. Following the start of protests over election results, Latvia provided priority status to asylum seekers from Belarus in hopes of speeding up the review of their asylum requests. However, State Audit could not find confirmation that the process was, indeed, sped up in the end. Review of applications received in 2020 still took more than four months, whereas reviews of requests submitted in 2021 lasted more than three months.
The State Audit’s report does outline improvements when it comes to preventing problems uncovered in the previous audit. (BNN/Business World Magazine)