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President of Latvia: assessment of Prosecutor General’s Office performance conducted by the State Audit Office and OECD reveals that a broad reform is needed

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On 11 January, President of Latvia Egils Levits took part in an online press conference during which the Ministry of Justice and State Audit Office presented the report ‘Effectiveness of investigations and trials of the criminal offences in the economic and financial area’, underlining the significance of the assessment and audit, as well as praising the State Audit Office for collaborating with OECD experts on the report.

In his opening remarks at the press conference President of Latvia said: ‘Public assessment of the performance of Latvia’s Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) and efficiency of criminal justice system presented today by State Audit Office is a unique study. OECD experts who took part in this audit have the international experience and vision of how PGO should operate, what it should do and what criminal justice system should look like to be able to fight the economic crime efficiently. This audit is a result of collaboration between local PGO experts, legal scholars, other officials and experts. Such collaboration has given us a comprehensive and detailed description of the performance of PGO, its institutional structure, toolkits and criminal proceedings’.

President Levits also pointed out that Latvia needs to seriously rethink the role of PGO in the institutional framework of Latvia and update its toolkit: ‘Performance of Prosecutor General’s Office has been unsatisfactory until now. Reforms are needed to improve the prosecution work results. However, as any other reform, these measures need to be precisely calibrated. I know that the new Prosecutor General is well aware of this. He is perfectly capable and willing to embark on the reform. But Prosecutor General’s good will and personal qualities are not enough. There also needs to be institutional support and precise legal framework. Therefore, parliament and government must also be involved. It would be unacceptable for legitimate and democratically elected government to shy away from its responsibility for a democratic institution, as recommendations on how to make PGO’s work better, proposed by the State Audit Office, suggest.’

President also commented on one of the issues mentioned in the report, the misunderstood independence of PGO. ‘Independence of PGO is not the same as judicial independence. Venice Commission has clearly established this distinction. However, since PGO is part of our judicial system, there should be institutional tools for monitoring what PGO does. So, we need to precisely define what role PGO plays in our legal system and the overall institutional framework of our country.’

President also underlined that, as the report suggests, there should be very clear understanding of what internal independence means in case of PGO. Prosecutor General should have broader powers when it comes to ensuring PGO’s efficiency, including the right to issue directives, handbooks or guidelines/instructions for prosecutors on how to handle cases and fit into the overall workflow of the organisation.

President echoed Justice Minister’s idea about the establishing of academy for judges and prosecutors. Continuing education throughout their professional life is a key attribute of prosecutor’s profession. President underlined that the best way of ensuring further education of judges and prosecutors is by establishing a dedicated training institution instead of one-off courses. This is also one of the recommendations made by the State Audit Office in its report.

In conclusion, President of Latvia Egils Levits praised State Audit Office and OECD for their study: ‘Such assessments are not typical for State Audit Office and it shows that State Audit Office is perfectly capable of continuing with other performance audits of government departments and thus boost the capacity of government institutions. Big thank you to Ministry of Justice for coming up with the idea for such audit and Ministry of Justice and OECD for successfully completing it! Good luck to all the officials who will oversee the implementation of these reforms to make the work of PGO even more efficient!’

11.01.2021. Valsts prezidents Egils Levits piedalās Tieslietu ministrijas un Valsts kontroles revīzijas ziņojuma publicēšanas tiešsaistes preses konferencē


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