This spring, Ventspils City Council released a misleading report that funding of EUR 1.5 million for the construction of a new swimming pool was denied because of the letter sent by opposition deputies to Saeima’s Education, Culture and Science Committee’s Sub-Committee for Sports. In it, opposition deputies question the use of funding allocated for sports. Not it has become known that part of the funding was used in breach of contracts signed with Education and Science Ministry. It is entirely possible that this was the reason why funding was denied, Ventspilnieks.lv reports.
It should be said that the aforementioned EUR 1.5 million was intended not for the construction of a pool but for the project’s technical development. The project itself is not even started. After looking at the dramatic situation with teachers’ wages, Education and Science Minister Ilga Šuplinska said at the time that ‘the moment we run out of options to support human capital, we put money into construction, into concrete’. The minister explained that sports structures are put on hold until budget affairs have been sorted out, because the explanation that ‘it’s not like teachers are forced to tighten their belts wait, but a building cannot wait’ fell on deaf ears in Ventspils. Additionally construction of sports structures that had already commenced and were close to completion were not put on hold by the ministry.
More than half a million was spent inappropriately
The portal reports that in spite of the fact that the letter sent by opposition deputies mentioned nothing about them being against the swimming pool and rehabilitation centre, the ruling majority in Ventspils City Council decided to immediately use it to mislead residents. Ventspilnieks.lv stresses:
«No one provided any explanations for the fact that Ventspils uses financing allocated for sports on other activities.»
However, the audit report performed by Latvia’s State Audit for Education and Science Ministry’s annual report paints a different picture. The report admits that in 2018 a considerable portion of the financing allocated for projects in Ventspils was not used in accordance with initially agreed upon plans. More than half a million of the EUR 2 350 000 allocated by Education and Science Ministry was used inappropriately. In 2018, the ministry and Ventspils City Council signed two cooperation contracts and irresponsible use of funding has been observed in both cases.
The money was spent not on the construction of BMX winter sports base, but on track maintenance with hoes and shovels
Based on the audit report, Ventspilnieks.lv offers a detailed review of what the money was intended for and how the money was used in the end. The portal writes that the audit report offers clarity why Education and Science Ministry will look at investments in Ventspils’ sports objects with a more reserved approach in the future.
The first contract provided for spending EUR 824 968 on a new BMX winter sports base; EUR 194 686 on the construction of BMX summer sports base service building; EUR 46 545 on reconstruction Olympic Centre Ventspils sports hall’s floor and expansion of the weight-lifting hall; EUR 161 057 on new infrastructure and equipment for athletics and soccer stadium. EUR 90 255 was intended for restoration of the swimming pool’s infrastructure.
EUR 232 489 was allocated (and EUR 122 585 was returned by the ministry to the state budget as closed budget assignment) for the construction of a new 50 m swimming pool along with a rehabilitation centre.
According to the requirements of the second contract, EUR 367 499 was intended for the modernization of the basketball hall’s athletic portion, procurement of new equipment and new infrastructure. EUR 131 851 was allocated for the procurement of modern equipment for the ice rink. EUR 300 650 was allocated for the modernization of the athletic and soccer stadium’s tennis court modernization. All objects, specific tasks and funding amounts are listed clearly, Ventspilnieks.lv explains.
The portal continues: «But according to the report from the State Audit, Ventspils has not done much to follow requirements of those contracts. At least EUR 139 055 of the first contract was used not on the project, but on maintenance of Ventspils Olympic Centre and different services not associated with set objectives. For example, the EUR 33 939 allocated for the upkeep of BMX winter sports base was paid to real estate company Ventspils nekustamie īpašumi, because the company represented Education Office during the implementation of construction projects.»
At least EUR 8 794 was used not for the construction of BMX summer sports base service building, but on maintenance of BMX track, paying for such expensive tools like shovel, hoe, street brush, wooden supports, etc.
At least EUR 22 704 was used not on athletic and soccer stadium’s new infrastructure and equipment, but on maintenance of athletic and soccer stadium, paying for restoration of seats, repairs of the protective fence, repairs of the roof of the storage building, etc. At least EUR 33 334 was spent to maintain Pārventa Sports Complex and EUR 40 284 – on restoration of the water adventure park’s athletic hall. None of these activities were detailed in contracts signed with Education and Science Ministry. This means the ministry has the right to demand repayment of the inappropriately used funds to the state budget, the portal reports.
The State Audit notes that at least EUR 38 236 was spent not on the basketball hall’s modernization or equipment procurement, but on maintenance and different repairs; at least EUR 58 644 was spent on ice hall’s maintenance and repairs, whereas EUR 900 was spent in repairs of athletic track field’s synthetic surface. The audit also revealed that the project On Modernization of Athletic and Soccer Stadium’s Tennis Court, for which EUR 300 650 was allocated, is controversial and unclear. On top of that, it is not clear how exactly the funding was supposed to be used, considering that the athletic and soccer stadium is one piece of infrastructure and tennis courts are another.
Requesting next millions will be problematic
Ventspilnieks.lv explains: «It should be clear now that a considerable portion of state funding was spent on regular economic expenditures, ongoing repairs, etc. This means it is hard to agree with Olympic Centre Ventspils that Ventspils municipality has stayed true to its promises and duties.»
State Audit’s report mentions a large number of violations that will make it harder for Ventspils to request more funding from Education and Science Ministry. State Audit’s report proves that Ventspils opposition deputies’ requests for comprehensive audit of all sports structures in Ventspils are fully justified, Ventspilnieks.lv concludes.