Prime minister: Disbanding party finance watchdog would improve supervision

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas in the Riigikogu.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas in the Riigikogu.

Disbanding the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK) would lead to improvements in the supervision of party financing, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) says.

Facing questions at the Riigikogu Wednesday, the prime minister noted that the dissolution of ERJK has been previously discussed by the coalition, across all three parties – Center, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa.

"My personal perception is that the quality of the monitoring of party funding needs to be improved and made more effective," Ratas said, according to BNS, echoing comments made by Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder Tuesday that the shake-up would make the supervisory process more trustworthy, in his words.

Ratas added there is no reason to doubt the competence of the audit office, which is due to take over this task.

As reported on ERR News, the three coalition parties on Monday initiated the disbanding of the ERJK and delegating its tasks to the National Audit Office of Estonia (Riigikontroll).

"In my opinion, the supervision of party funding can be taken to a higher level," the prime minister said, adding that his own party, Center, which in recent years has stood as a defendant in the long-running corruption trial of its co-founder Edgar Savisaar, would, far from evading adequate supervision over its finance, be more tightly monitored under the proposed system.

The bill aimed at disbanding the ERJK stated, according to BNS, that a more professional supervision over party finances was needed.

"To that end, the ERJK will be replaced by the National Audit Office, as the new watchdog body," the bill's explanatory memorandum read.

An additional concern over the ERJK was its independence.

"Political influence over ERJK members is not ruled out, as the committee also includes parliamentary party members who cannot be members of the Riigikogu or the Government of the Republic," the explanatory memorandum goes on. 

The bill also covered the reorganization and hiring of new personnel that bringing party financing supervision under the audit office's purview would require.

ERJK chairman Liisa Oviir  is a member of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE). However, the body also has board members from Center (Kersti Sarapuu), EKRE (Siim Pohlak) and Isama (Priit Sibul).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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