Investigations in Lithuania don’t resolve problems

Bernardas Gailius
DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

Bernardas Gailius

It appears that what could be called “rule by investigations” has reached a culmination in Lithuania. Audit or other internal investigation or in extreme cases, or law enforcement investigations, have become the most important instrument of public policy or state company management.

Nevertheless, these investigations do less to resolve problems than to create them. Most of the investigations are simply unfair. Those with power investigate those, who do not have power or recently lost it, Bernardas Gailius writes in the lzinios.lt

Of course, the investigator has more power. That is how it should be, for example when police officers investigate criminal activities. But when the discussion of political opponents takes on the form of an investigation, the negative impact of power spoils the whole system.

An excellent example of a spoiling investigation is the investigation initiated by Seimas Budget and Finance Committee chairman Stasys Jakeliūnas into the circumstances of the 2009-2010 crisis. There is no basis to doubt that this is a political move, intended for the elections and aimed squarely against opponents.

What are those investigations about?

This investigation is useful for not only the “Farmer” party, but also specifically their presidential candidate Saulius Skvernelis. Without any serious basis, the prime minister becomes the “judge” in S. Jakeliūnas’ disputes with the Bank of Lithuania and can exploit this situation to strengthen his position in the elections. However, the government should not be a police officer toward the supposedly felonious opposition. That’s unfair.

Another problem of investigations is linked to fairness as well – they always create the public illusion of resolution. However, you may present a performed investigation, to external observers it will still seem that significant work has been done and problems were found that can be resolved. Observers are left with the impression that the continued resolution of problems is just a matter of will. But this is not necessarily true.

Just take a closer look at the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports institutions’ audit that has been at the centre of attention recently. The same one that Rokas Masiulis left for Algirdas Monkevičius. Seemingly, everything has been done, the problems counted and the new minister just needs to decide, who to fire and who to leave in office.

Is this an illusion?

But this is an illusion. The real problem of these institutions and most of civil services is inadequate manager wages. A. Monkevičius will not find the people needed to change the situation in these institutions. It is objectively impossible. Either the new managers will be inadequately competent and thus cunning subordinates will lead them on. Or the managers will come to be rid of old profiteering schemes and establish new ones.

But the investigation has been performed, the illusion of resolution has been created. Thus, the minister has no other option, but to act out resolution. By the time it turns out that his actions have changed nothing, just look, the elections will be over already. But even if institution heads are paid suitable wages for which competent individuals can be hired, the problems found during the investigations may not be resolved. The third flaw of investigations is that the so-called cleansing creates baseless tensions for new leaders.

Investigations and publicity

The more scandalous the investigation, the more the public sphere pressures the new leaders to do everything unlike before. To work more transparently and to demonstrate better results. Meanwhile, companies and institution’s work environments often remain unchanged and soon it turns out that a large part of the previous leadership’s decisions was a reaction to objective conditions. In such a situation many a manager starts to conceal problems and demonstrate paper results.

It would appear that this is the situation that occurred with AB Lietuvos Geležinkeliai. New National TV and Radio broadcaster (LRT) investigations continue confirming that after the company’s “cleansing”, the new leadership simply made new names for old decisions.

It is completely logical. Lithuanian railway tracks remain Russian and thus inevitably much of the equipment is Russian. And we have freight from Russia. Thus, no Lietuvos Geležinkeliai leadership can avoid cooperation with Russian companies.

Another objective circumstance is the public procurement procedures in Lithuania, which, to understate, are poorly thought out. For many public sector managers, it is a headache, but in a company the size of Lietuvos Geležinkeliai, this pain becomes unbearable.

And this is where the constant need to establish secondary companies that evade public procurements stems from. And then you return to internal deals. Even if they are described or formed in some different way.

It is not wise for the new leaders to deny or hide cooperation with Russia and the internal contracting system. But after all, these are the “sins” of their predecessors, so open acceptance could bring on public discontent, which must be avoided at all cost. The inevitable pressure formed this way after investigations to change an intolerable situation often pushes new leaders into new cons.

And this is an excellent basis for new investigations. Currently this is how Lithuania is governed. Investigations are performed, wielding power irresponsibly, and creating the illusion of resolutions, which makes us all participate in those illusions one way or another. I fear that nothing good can come of this. The situation will have to change. Just not necessarily for the better.

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