A recent National Audit Office (Riigikontroll) report which said state credit agency KredEx lacked clarity and objectives in issuing major loans during the coronavirus pandemic overlooks several key, important facts, KredEx says.
KredEx CEO Ivo Kuldmäe says the report contains unsubstantiated claims and in some places even contradicts itself.
The most important fact overlooked in the report came in the assessment of the status of national importance in the case of projects over €10 million euros in size, i.e. projects of national importance, which Kuldmäe said was defined by the government and not by KredEx itself.
"Whether a project is of national importance is decided by the Government of the Republic, not Kredex. In that regard, it is incomprehensible why the National Audit Office is directing its criticism concerning substantive compliance thereof at Kredex," Kuldmäe said.
KredEx chief: Speed was key when pandemic began
Kuldmäe went on: "The National Audit Office has pointed out in its assessments that the implementation of the measures has not been fast and effective enough, while simultaneously saying that the maximum distribution of money should not be a goal in its own right. Conclusions like this are confusing and incomprehensible."
Kuldmäe added that at the beginning of the crisis, speed had been of the essence, and was the main consideration that Kredex had in mind at the time.
Kudlmaäe noted that: "The National Audit Office argues that there is a need to monitor the market more and listen to business operators. Since the first days of March, KredEx has engaged in consistent, substantive cooperation with all major umbrella and support organizations of business, we have regular meetings with the Banking Association, we have had a dialogue with the Bank of Estonia and have taken into consideration also feedback received from business operators, both on the level of individual contacts as well as organizations."
The audit office found in its overview of KredEx measures alleviating the coronavirus crisis that the criteria and objectives for distributing nearly one billion euros of extraordinary loans and guarantees via KredEx and following the supplementary state budget issued in April 2020 have been vague and opaque.
Kuldmäe: Feedback nonetheless constructive
Kuldmäe also said KredEx had helped in resolving liquidity problems effectively, and said the audit office claim that business operators were insufficiently informed about changes to the terms and conditions of the measures was arbitrary, saying that over 20 webinars, media communication, digital campaigns and other methods had been used to put out accurate information.
The KredEx head nonetheless said the audit also contains a lot of constructive feedback.
He said: "We fully agree with the National Audit Office proposal that A systemic approach and a comprehensive outlook must be a priority in developing the crisis measures further. The state also must set clearer goals, and cooperation with KredEx is essential in this."
Foreign trade minister: Audit report important feedback, but KredEx has played key role during crisis
Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Raul Siem (EKRE) called the audit report an important piece of feedback, though noted Kredex's key role in helping businesses hardest hit in the pandemic so far; an importance which will continue to grow, he said.
Siem agreed that the authority had had to act quickly as the virus started to propagate in spring.
Siem said: "Since March, Kredex has been redesigning services on an ongoing basis, created new services for narrower target groups and made conditions more favorable for business operators, which has also sped up money reaching the applicants.
"It has to be taken into account that the crisis hit everyone by surprise; in a crisis things happen fast, and the needs of the market are in a constant state of flux. It is natural that under such conditions constant adapting of financial instruments takes a certain amount of time."
Siem added that work was being done to make KredEx work even faster and more flexibly in future.
Editor: Andrew Whyte