Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop says that political decisions are up to the prime minister, adding that could not comment on what rural affairs minister Mart Järvik's thought processes were, but that he had certainly exceeded his powers in interfering with the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA).
"The minister himself said that he saw no problem," Peterkop told daily Postimees (link in Estonian), when asked about the conflict of interest at the root of the 10-day investigation into the rural affairs minister's actions, whose results were published on Thursday.
"It's not my job to give advice," Peterkop said, when asked what decision Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) should come to over Järvik's position.
The committee of inquiry Peterkop headed was tasked with investigating Mart Järvik's decisions in connection with both the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA), under the ministry's auspices, and Listeria bacteria traced to a fish processing plant close to Tallinn, identified several violations as well as the exceeding of powers in Järvik's work as minister.
The inquiry report, released on Thursday, said that the committee had been unable to conclide why Järvik did not provide authorization to the PRIA to claim damages in a case where it was plaintiff in a case his adviser Urmas Arumäe was defence counsel in, whereas he had don in other, similar cases.
That Arumäe, who Järvik hired on a part-time basis in May, was also representing defendants in a case against PRIA, was a fact known to Järvik no later than May 22, the committee found.
The committee also found inconsistencies between Järvik's statements on when he became aware of Listeria bacteria traced to the M.V.Wool fish packing plant, and those of Arumäe, and also found that both men had overstepped their authority in interfering with the VTA's work, the body responsible for conducting sampling tests at M.V.Wool's two plants. The VTA is also under the rural affairs ministry's remit.
Last week, Järvik survived a vote of no-confidence brought against him by the opposition Reform Party. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas told ERR Thursday that a decision will be made next week as to whether Järvik can continue as rural affairs minister or not.
Editor: Andrew Whyte