Opposition leaders seek answers on administrative reform-related issues

Four municipalities around Viljandi merged in 2013 already. The administrative reform is prompting dozens more such mergers across the country now. (Elmo Riig/Sakala)
10/25/2016 6:40 PM
Category: News

On Monday, the Prime Minister responded to questions from opposition MPs who sought answers as to why bills needed for the implementation of the administrative reform signed into law over the summer had yet to reach the Riigikogu.

18 essential bills had been promised to be sent to the Riigikogu before its summer break. Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, however, stated that guidelines for their drafting were only just provided at a cabinet meeting that took place at the end of August, reported ETV's news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."

Center Party Parliamentary Group Kadri Simson reminded the prime minister of the political statement he made to the Riigikogu whose message was that the administrative reform urgently needed to be passed. Simson added that the explanatory memorandum accompanying the Administrative Reform Act noted that amendments to the law would be submitted to the Riigikogu during Q2, and that these involved the handover of state functions to local governments.

Attached was a list of 18 laws to be amended, Simson recalled, asking why nobody in the Riigikogu had yet seen these amendments.

"The good news is that agreements on these topics were reached in the second half of August — this cabinet meeting was on Aug. 25, I think, I already mentioned this once already — and the guidelines for the writing and drafting of these laws have been provided," responded Prime Minister Rõivas.

Center Party Parliamentary Group member, former mayor of Võru and Võru City Council Chairman Anneli Ott said that such dawdling was disrespectful toward government leaders, and that the prime minister had promised in the spring that local government leaders would learn from the drafts, which were to be completed very, very soon, which tasks were to be expected of local governments and how they would begin to be financed.

"Most important is certainly the revenue base — which services are those which the local government must begin to provide in order for the public service to improve, which buildings must be preserved, what infrastructure needs to be updated, what doesn't need to be updated..." explained Ott. "But if these things are not agreed upon during the course of negotiations already then doing so later will obviously be more complicated."

In her opinion, first to be discussed should be the content of the reform, followed only thereafter by talk of merging local governments. She added that Oct. 1 was the deadline for local governments to begin merger talks, but the revenue base of local governments is only just now beginning to be discussed.

"These are clearly very much offset and demonstrate that the government does not care about the fact that local governments are currently [involved] in a very serious process and the Estonian people very seriously expect to know what is going to begin happening in their places of residence," added Ott.

Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas noted that there will be a total of six more important amendments and that they will be sent for a round of coordination between the ministries.

Chancellor of Justice: Local governments must be prepared to provide certain social services to residents

Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise has sent local government leaders a memo regarding the fact that according to the Social Welfare Act, local governments will bear the responsibility of providing ten social services to its residents: domestic services, general care services provided outside the home, support person services, adult personal care, personal assistance services, asylum services, shelter services, social transport services, the ensuring of housing as well as debt counseling.

In the case of all of these services, noted the chancellor, it will be up to the local government to ensure that these services are offered, to identify a specific individual's needs as well as identify which services could be of assistance to the person. As necessary, the local government must also help cover the costs involved in these services.

The local government will retain the opportunity to either provide these services itself, buy in the services from a service provider or cooperate with neighboring local governments in providing them. Should local governments run short on the funds needed to fulfill these obligations, the state will bear the obligation of providing additional funding as it has prescribed these obligations by law to the local governments.

According to Madise, legal clarity in this field is especially important in the context of the upcoming administrative reform. "Public services must be provided within a local government's new borders and changed population but [continue to be offered] in the best possibly way and in accordance with current legislation," she noted.

The Chancellor of Justice also requested of local government leaders to analyze the social services organized in their municipality or town and bring all necessary regulations into compliance with the law.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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