Seimas panel wants external audit of national broadcaster's finances

Seimas' acting commission for scrutiny of the national broadcaster's (LRT) operations holds if first meeting

The Lithuanian parliament's acting commission for scrutiny of the national broadcaster's operations decided at its first meeting on Thursday to turn to 14 institutions for information about LRT, asking the government to earmark money and call a tender for LRT's external audit.

"We are turning to the government for the money and initiation of the public procurement procedure so that some audit company could make an assessment. An international audit would probably be the best, however, the purchase and the conditions are subject to discussion," the commission's chairman, MP Arvydas Nekrošius of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, told journalists after the meeting.

The information is first of all requested from LRT and other entities, including parliamentary committees, the Special Investigations Service (STT), the Public Procurement Service (VPT), the State Audit Office and the Chief Official Ethics Commission (VTEK).

"We agreed to turn to various institutions, fourteen of them, and ask for all possible contracts, appendixes to contracts from LRT, and we will turn to other institutions for separate inquiries," said Nekrošius.

LRT was asked to present copies of contracts signed in 2013-2017, materials of LRT council meetings, the Center of Registers was requested to provide information about shareholders of production companies and shares of LRT top executives, VTEK was asked to look into declarations of interests and provide materials of earlier inquiries, if any.

The State Audit Office was asked about its plans to look into the LRT operations, as well as to provide conclusions of earlier audits.

As proposed by Agnė Širinskienė of LFGU, the commission will collect public information about LRT.

"The reality is that people are writing on Facebook, sometimes sending certain documents, therefore, it would be good to have a center to collect the information," said Širinskiene, the leader of the parliamentary Committee for Legal Affairs.

The panel decided to create an email account for residents to write to the commission.

The commission's next meeting is scheduled for next week. Among those invited to attend are LRT CEO Audrius Siaurusevicius, his deputy Rimvydas Paleckis and LRT council chairman Žygintas Pečiulis.

"We will mainly discuss the LRT management structure, management bodies, procedures and technical issues," said Nekrošius.

At the end of the fall session, the parliament set up an ad hoc commission for LRT operations. MPs say the commission should help to find out whether the national broadcaster is making proper use of the budget. Lawmakers note that the LRT Council failed to provide some of the information they had requested, citing confidentiality clauses in its contracts as the reason, and that the answers it did give require detailed analysis.

The commission will see whether the LRT management structure, its functions and division of competences is in line with the European practices of national broadcasters and ensure transparent LRT operations and proper conditions for implementation of condition for national broadcaster.

The MPs will also verify whether the governmental resolution, which has been unchanged for 15 years, did not allow lack of transparency in procurement procedures, facilitating corruption environment and avoidance of public procurement procedures by LRT . Furthermore, the commission has been authorized to establish whether the prices of services paid by LRT to producers is in line with market conditions, etc.

Critics see the condition as pressure on the media and a revenge on journalists for inconvenient questions to the ruling party. People behind the commission say they are interested in LRT finances only.

The parliament has instructed the panel to complete the probe by June 1.

Source: BNS
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