ENHANCING STATE CONTROL OVER LAND USAGE–A STRATEGIC GOAL OF THE NATIONAL LAND SERVICE
According to the Director of the National Land Service, several years of intensive ongoing land reform are approaching culmination, the Service having set itself a new strategic goal which is to safeguard powerful state control over land usage.
NLS Director believes that the Service is capable of accomplishing this goal and is ready to comply with the principle of defending public interests without taking into consideration either individual dissatisfaction or that expressed by a group of people.
The Director continues by saying that “the Service is not only capable but is obliged to resort to the termination of state land lease agreements, should the state land be not used or be used in other ways than those provided by legislation. In certain cases it is possible to come to a conclusion that tenants start using land as if it were their own property. Let me emphasize that state land is not private, therefore it has to be used in strict conformity with statutory requirements”.
He lays special emphasis on the fact that land is the highest value of the country, therefore its protection requires high-principled deliberation as well as in-depth co-operation among all administrative bodies of the state. As an example of this co-operation for the sake of protecting the public interest D. Kuprys mentions the investigation of a completed case in Klaipėda.
Ordered by the Prime Minister of the Republic and following the decree of the Minister of Agriculture, a corporate working group, comprising representatives from several institutions such as the Ministry of Agriculture, National Land Service and State Territorial Planning and Construction Inspectorate has been established. It has been ascertained during the process that in the city of Klaipeda the plot which had been leased in a non-auction way was larger than required for by the intended purpose of the buildings situated on that plot, as foreseen by Real Estate Cadastre record. Therefore the lease has to be changed by reducing the area of the leased land. As the plot tenants and Klaipeda municipality disagreed with that conclusion, the Service decided to take legal action referring to the Attorneys General with the aim of protecting the public interest.
NLS leader indicates two reasons for the occurrence of terminated /modified leases. As claimed by D. Kuprys, “the first one is more often than not caused by unfair and illegal intentions of land tenants at the point of the conclusion of lease agreements. The second one comes about through the failing competence of certain NLS specialists during the initial stage of document accordance for the sake of avoiding the emergence of such problems”.
He says, “It is in particular this second reason that troubles me as head of the Institution. Therefore I can assure that should it turn out through official inquiry that such a situation might have been caused at the fault of the members of staff, their personal accountability will be asked". As an example Danielius Kuprys refers to the aforementioned case in the city of Klaipeda, when an oversized land area, larger than necessary for the exploitation of the buildings on that plot, was leased by some NLS officials in a non-auction way. The responsible executives have been subjected to administrative sanctions. "In addition,” he continues '”should there arise at least slightest suspicion of the employee's private motives, legislation will be immediately involved".
D. Kuprys draws attention to the fact that in 2016 both single and systematic inspections were initiated by National Land Service in order to identify the instances of unauthorized occupation of the state's land as well as other violations of land usage.
One of the profoundest conntrol has been carried out in the regional parks of Verkiai and Pavilniai. A total of 210 inspections have been undertaken: 78 – in Verkiai Park and 132 in Pavilniai Park with as many as 133 violations (49 in Verkiai Park and 84 in Pavilniai Park). Among all 133 cases 2 violations have been classified as those of not-bringing land into the condition allowing its use according to its destination, 8 cases – of the use of land for purposes other than assigned, and even 123 cases of state land occupation.
In the opinion of the Director of the NLS, these examples are clear evidence that the recently-voiced suggestions to split the functions of the NLS, delegating their substantial part to municipalities are premature and ungrounded.
Danielius Kuprys is convinced that “the essence of such suggestions is to undermine the control of the state land use and its supervision. He says, “I would also like emphasize the fact that the Special Investigation Service (STT) in its risk-of-corruption analysis has recommended that we strengthen this comprehensive control. We fully agree with this kind of recommendation and are already able to see that a more rigorous application of our centralized control measures has increased the transparency of decisions and reduced the risk of corruption. For a variety of reasons municipalities are simply not capable of ensuring that”.