Long-serving rural affairs ministry deputy secretary general stepping down ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Ministry of Rural Affairs building in Tallinn.
Ministry of Rural Affairs building in Tallinn. Source: ERR

Long-serving Ministry of Rural Affairs Deputy Secretary General Toomas Kevvai is resigning from his post. Kevvai had been deputy secretary general for 23 years and worked at the ministry since 1994.

Kevvai said via a press release that he had given a lot of thought to his decision.

"I promised myself that I had already put myself forward for the position for the last time. As I have been working in the ministry for almost 26 years, it is high time to look around and face new challenges," he said.

Arvo Aller, Minister of Rural Affairs (EKRE), said structural change in the ministry would have allowed Kevvai to have continued in his post, but he wanted a change in his life, which has to be accepted.

The government approved the Ministry of Rural Affairs' new structure on March 12. The changes reorganized the functions of the two deputy chancellors, which means that the current Kevva-led deputy chancellor for Food Safety and Research will continue to focus on food safety. 

The research and development section will be transferred to the Deputy Secretary General for Fisheries Policy and External Relations' remit, which will continue to be led by Undersecretary Siim Tiidemann.

The need for change stemmed from the government's earlier decision to set up the Agricultural and Food Administration (X), which will begin work in January next year.

The need for change stemmed from the government's earlier decision to set up the Agricultural and Food Administration (Põllumajandus- ja toiduamet ), which will begin work in January next year.

Toomas Kevvai has worked in the Ministry of Rural Affairs since 1994, and since 1997 as Deputy Secretary General. The latter role has given him responsibility for almost all areas of the ministry. Kevvai's last day at the ministry is March 31.

Arvo Aller will announce a competition in the near future for the replacement; Hendrik Kuusk, head of the food safety department, will be acting Deputy Secretary General until then.

Last November, then-Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik (EKRE), initiated an amendment aimed at removing Kevvai, but in January Järvik's replacement, Aller, announced that this would be abandoned.

The ministry was at the center of two controversies in late 2019. Mart Järvik stood accused of conflict of interest. One involved a former adviser, Urmas Arumäe , who was at the same time working for defendants in an EU subsidy fraud case in which the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA), a rural affairs ministry body, was the plaintiff. The other concerned the extent to which Järvik had known about alleged listeria contamination at a fish packing plant prior to the company, M.V.Wool, being forced to suspend its activities while its two facilities were sterilized and subject to other checks by the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA), also under the rural affairs ministry's remit. Järvik was released from office in late November, as was Secretary General Illar Lemetti, who Järvik had been trying to remove from office.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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