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2019.12.04 13:04

Lithuanian PM faces pressure over 300,000-euro street paving near his home

Saulius Jakučionis, Jūratė Damulytė, BNS2019.12.04 13:04

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda on Tuesday called on the country's Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis to turn to the Chief Official Ethics Commission (VTEK) over the 300,00-euro improvements to a street near his home.

Several weeks ago, the government endorsed the Transport Ministry's proposal to allocate additional funding for asphalting roads in Vilnius District, and almost all of the additionally-allocated 300,000 euros for went towards paving the street where Skvernelis lives.

Read more: 300,000-euro upgrade of Lithuanian PM's street raises questions

"The prime minister could easily resolve this issue by turning to the Chief official Ethics Commission and asking it to consider all circumstances," the president told journalists in London.

The VTEK has already asked the government and other institutions for information regarding the incident. The watchdog will then decide whether to launch an investigation into possible ethics violations.

The prime minister says he was not involved in issues related to the road paving, and was not aware the funds would be allocated to pave the street near his home.

Transport Ministry could be to blame

Lithuania's Transport Ministry should have known it was allocating funds to asphalt the street near the PM's house, said ex-Transport Minister Rokas Masiulis, adding that the PM never pressured him to allocate specific funding.

"I remember telling the prime minister that, as long as you are the PM, you street won’t be done [as it] would be a scandal," Masiulis said.

The paving of Skvernelis' street and additional funding for the election constituencies of Transport Minister Jaroslav Narkevič and his party, the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance, are damaging the state's reputation, according to Masiulis.

"It's unacceptable and it's a big step backwards. Are we going back to the nomenclature times when those 'with access to the government' enjoyed the biggest benefits?" he said.

The government's decision in October to allocate a third of the additional funds for road maintenance included
Narkevič's single-member constituency.

Narkevič replaced Masiulis as the transport minister after Polish-minority party joined the ruling coalition.

The additional funds for the road programme are allocated for projects municipalities are sure to finish by the end of the year, the ex-minister said.

The ministry oversees the fund allocation before submitting proposals to the government, therefore, "I believe [the transport ministry] knew what the funds were being allocated for," Masiulis posted on Facebook.

"Did the prime minister know about this situation? If not, then the question is why he wasn't informed? In any case, the situation looks bad," he added.

According to Masiulis, Vilnius District authorities needed the government's guarantee that the funds for the street would be allocated.

The transport ministry says it only knew the additional funding would be allocated to Vilnius District Municipality. It then received additional funding in late October, despite not having submitted a specific application regarding Upės Steet, where the PM lives, nor mentioned a specific amount.