Ethics chief: Ministry secretaries are responsible for monitoring funds

Council of Ethics of Officials head Heiki Sibul.
Council of Ethics of Officials head Heiki Sibul. Source: ERR

The anti-corruption buck stops at any government ministry with that ministry's secretary general, head of the Council of Ethics of Officials (Ametnikueetika nõukogu) Heiki Sibul says. Sibul made his remarks in the context of fresh allegations that former education minister Mailis Reps (Center) misused ministry funds and resources for non-official purposes.

Sibul told ERR that: "The chancellor is, of course, the person responsible for this."'

At the same time, the whole system relied on trust, and this was in place, he went on. "It is clear that any ministry and any stage agency monies must be used purposefully, and in accordance with budget. People are in the main are honest and are aware of this general principle."

Laidmets was making his remarks in the context of a recent report that in early 2020 then-education minister Mailis Reps used ministry funds to host her own birthday party at an upscale Tallinn restaurant, with the tab running into several thousand euros. Reps stepped down late on the same year, due to other alleged irregularities in the use of ministry resources, including her official car.

Reps stepped down as Center's deputy chair and its Riigikogu party group in the wake of the latest reports, though she remains an MP.

Education ministry secretary general unavailable for comment to ERR Thursday

Since Heiki Sibul had said the buck stopped with ministry secretaries general, ERR approached the individual who holds that role at Reps' former ministry, Mart Laidmets, but he was unavailable for comment Thursday.

He had however denied that there was a culture of corruption at the education ministry.

Laidmets said in February that: "There has been some confusion that needs to be clarified about what has happened over the four years [Reps was minister]. But things have certainly not happened along those lines [of corruption]."

He also said that anti-corruption measures had been made clearer within the ministry, in the wake of the earlier allegations surrounding Reps' use of ministry resources, naming Eve Sild as head of an internal audit department responsible for best practices.

"[Sild] must also present an action plan for this year. Plus if there are any other problems, she should also be approached," he went on.

In any event, Laidmets is stepping down from the role to take on a new job, albeit temporarily, as deputy director general of the education and youth board (Haridus- ja noorteamet ) next month. He will be replaced by Kristi Vinter-Nemvalts, ERR reports.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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