Suspicions of political favouritism in Lithuania over expensive furniture, refurbishment

A furniture set for 23 000 euros, a minister’s office refurbishment for 11 000 euros – these are sums from contracts of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry and the Lithuanian Culture Ministry, respectively, signed with members the parties the heads of these ministries happen to represent, according to Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT and journalists Edvardas Špokas and Jūratė Anilionytė.
As the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry building in central Vilnius has been undergoing extensive renovations and refurbishments, the ministry has purchased an antique furniture set designed by Jonas Prapuolenis, one of the most famous Lithuanian interwar furniture makers.
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It comprises a sofa, three armchairs, a settee, four poufs, a cupboard, and four tables – all at the price of around 23,000 euros. The ministry bought the furniture from Dainius Lanauskas, who is a fellow member of the foreign minister’s conservative Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democrats party. Although Lanauskas’ proposal was the only one that met the public tender’s requirements, the Foreign Ministry has issued a statement, saying that «until the signing of the contract, the ministry leadership did not know who the other side of the deal was». The ministry headed by Gabrielus Landsberis of the Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democrats argued that «by purchasing Lithuanian-made furniture of historical value, the ministry contributes to spreading the word about the history of Lithuanian diplomacy and design».
Culture Ministry learns it and U-turns on contract
A similar situation befell the Lithuanian Culture Ministry this week. It recently signed a 11,000-euro-deal to refurbish the office of Culture Minister Simonas Kairys. It turned out, however, that the seller was Kairys’ fellow Liberal Movement member.
To avoid the appearance of the conflict of interests, the ministry has announced it will seek terminating the contract, yet stating that «t doesn’t mean that we feel we’re in the wrong here».
NGO points to need for anti-favouritism
When organising public tenders, institutions should avoid even the appearance of corruption, says Sergejus Muravjovas, head of Transparency International Lithuania.
«Favouritism towards fellow party members is one of the most common forms of corruption in Lithuania,» Muravjovas says, which is why the public is particularly sensitive to such stories, even when there is no wrongdoing.
Šī raksta oriģināls lasāms LRT vietnē angļu valodā: