Finance committee deciding on protection money rules on Tuesday

Money.
Money. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Riigikogu's finance committee is deciding on Tuesday whether to continue with new rules on the controversial regional investment funding scheme, the so-called protection money, whose issuing accompanies the state budget process. The coalition Reform Party will also be a part of distributing the funds this time around, although they have refused to participate in previous years.

The Reform Party has previously criticized the system of distributing protection money - issued to parties in proportion to their representation for them to spend on regional projects of their choice - and declined to participate in the system.

However, the Riigikogu group's chairman, Mart Võrklaev, says that MPs now want to make investment proposals, while detailed rules have been established to increase transparency. The new rules are going to be discussed in the committee on Tuesday.

Reform had long criticized the practice as a form of corruption; the funding could be viewed as a means of greasing the wheels of the state budget process, currently ongoing at the Riigikogu.

The new framework of rules is an important step for making the funding system more transparent. "The main principle is that MPs will present the proposals with their names. All members have the right to not participate," Võrklaev said.

The new rules require the non-profit organizations to submit last year's fiscal year report and when imposing this, the MP needs to avoid conflict in interests.

"An important keyword compared with previous terms - all members are equal," Võrklaev. When a MP doesn't make a proposal, the money will stay in the state budget and won't be divided between others," he said.

The Reform Party's general position has been that the protection money shouldn't be distributed, however, if a MP wishes to do it, he has free hands this year.

"Whether the possibility will be used by the faction, we'll see at the start of the new week," Võrklaev said.

The Center Party will decide on the topic by next week. Center Riigikogu group chair Jaanus Karilaid says that it is too early to talk about exact sums.

Helir-Valdor Seeder, the chairman of the Isamaa Party said that the new system is not unusual, as the rules for determining investments are often set differently.

"Nothing has changed much here. The amounts have been different, this year, as I understand it, the coalition has agreed on an estimate of €30,000 euros per member, which will be distributed proportionally between the factions of the Riigikogu," Seeder said.

"It is expected that each MP will submit his proposals to the finance committee. This has been the case in previous years. It has been submitted to the Finance Committee by MPs or a faction and the finance committee has formalized it as an amendment," Seeder said.

Seeder said that the Isamaa faction has taken note of the new order and is waiting for the approval of the finance committee to submit the proposals of its members. "We have not yet submitted any proposals and we have not agreed on anything in the faction," he said.

Parliamentary parties will submit amendments to the state budget for local investments between the second and third readings of the state budget, by November 19 this year. If last year €6 million was earmarked for this, this year the amount to be divided between the political parties will decrease to €3 million.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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