The administrative area of the Ministry of Social Affairs is rank with incompetence, self-justification, parasitism and irresponsible squandering of taxpayer euros, co-chairman of the opposition Estonian Greens Züleyxa Izmailova writes.
News of 100,000 doses of vaccine and other medicines perishing on the social ministry's watch was hardly surprising. Rather, it was to be expected, considering the level of chaos at the ministry that the coronavirus pandemic has dragged into the light.
The ministry is literally groaning under the burden of years of unfinished work. The sad thing is that the people of Estonia are forced to suffer even more and pay for the sins of politicians and officials with their lives, health and property.
The minister's cozy position
It is even sadder that the ministry's sins do not end at work left undone. Next to incompetence and self-justification, parasitism and irresponsible squandering of taxpayer money are running riot in the ministry's administrative area. When the cat's away, the mice will play.
[Minister of Health and Labor] Tanel Kiik's administrative incompetence would have cost him his job long ago in more than a few other countries, while unwavering support from [Center Party chairman] Jüri Ratas is keeping him in place.
Rumor has it the reason Kiik is kept in place is that he has nowhere else to go – he does not have a seat in the Riigikogu waiting for him and the party food chain has no vacancies.
People in political circles are trying to guess the reason for Ratas' complete devotion to Kiik, as it is clear that the job of social minister is too much for Kiik.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform Party) is too meek to restore order and replace the incompetent minister. And while we could understand what was only mild criticism from the PM six months ago, the same words come off feeble today – saying that "vaccination needs better organization" is a statement without meaning as it will very likely not be followed by action or people taking political responsibility.
Vitally important strategic resources perishing during the Midsummer Holidays still only merits the worn response of "we will form a committee and investigate the circumstances." This is Kallas rolling with Kiik's Soviet era trick of curing every ill with a new committee that can be left to process matters until enough time goes by and responsibility begins to dissipate. In Scandinavian countries, the matter would have landed on the desks of investigative organs some time ago, instead of being entrusted to a chatroom committee with no power of decision whatsoever.
It is also unfortunate that State Secretary Taimar Peterkop, who has graduated from law school, is going along with such political and PR games. An independent state official should not help cover up the social ministry's omissions. In doing so, Peterkop is undermining people's already waning trust in the state and agencies.
Since enough has been written about vaccination chaos, poor planning, irresponsibility and rampant negligence, allow me to recall a few examples of squandering in closing.
The soft landing of former secretary general Tea Varrak
At the height of the first wave of the coronavirus, in March of last year, the ministry hired Secretary General Marika Priske's good friend, long-time member of the club of secretaries general Tea Varrak, who has previously worked as secretary general of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Education and Research. Basically, Varrak was given a soft landing when she was hired to advise the ministry on food waste. This during the emergency situation when people were isolating and many literally had nothing to eat.
Unfortunately, it seems that a similar soft landing is being prepared for Deputy Secretary General Maris Jesse who mourned not running for another term on ERR's "Otse uudistemajast" webcast but promised to stick around and help the ministry. Failed state officials in Estonia enjoy the status of intelligence chiefs for whom a soft landing needs to be ensured (because they know too much) in other countries.
What is baffling is that all of this is taking place on the taxpayer's dime, following Kiik's decision and with Kallas' blessing, in a situation where the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) is breaking records in the polls. Unbelievable political blindness, as if Reform didn't just spend years in the opposition. It is the same arrogance and detachment from reality they demonstrated before.
The second example concerns Health Board Director Üllar Lanno who apparently became the first member of the elite to be vaccinated ahead of schedule in Estonia. Lanno, in the middle of the second wave of the coronavirus, found time, money and staff resources to tirelessly vie against his former head of communications Simmo Saar. The latter revealed in December that Estonia completely lacks a vaccination plan.
Can there be any doubt by now whether it was Saar or Lanno and Kiik who were lying at the time? But the truth hurts, and Saar, after being forced to leave, challenged the decision in the labor dispute committee. The matter has reached the court by now.
Disputes over agency computers and returning the employee's personal files had cost the taxpayer €20,000 by early May. It is possible that the total cost has gone up since then due to the involvement of the court.
This in a situation where the Defense Forces has been robbed of its band and decided that uniform skirts are too expensive.
My information also suggests several civil initiatives, including funding for the Let's Do It world cleanup day have been called into question. In other words, the victims of national miserliness are becoming both more serious and more peculiar. At the same time, PM Kallas is glad to greenlight persecution of dutiful citizens.
Editor: Marcus Turovski