Layoffs and structural changes at the state National Heritage Board (Muinsuskaitseamet) have not resolved all the issues they set out to, the departing acting head of the agency says.
The board was in the red to the tune of €200,000 at the end of last year, acting head Linda Lainvoo says, faced with the choice of furloughing staff unpaid for a month-and-a-half, cutting their pay or laying them off altogether.
She said: "We chose layoffs from between these three difficult options, since the salary level is so low anyway that the first two options would fall apart, and people would have left," he said.
Culture ministry communications adviser Hannus Luure told ERR that the deficit was not a direct reason for the resignation of the last full-time heritage board chief, Siim Raie.
Luure said: "Several new positions were created and people were hired whose costs had not been budgeted for," adding that the deficit had grown to the extent that it could not be made up for from other parts of the ministry's budget.
Nonetheless, Linda Lainvoo said, layoffs do not mean that the concerns are behind us, and more, not fewer, staff are needed.
She said: "This situation is absurdly sour. The problems remain, we can just pay the salaries for the rest of the year ,until the end of the year. I don't see a significant victory anywhere."
Lainvoo finishes work at the board on June 30 this year, to be replaced by Liisa Pakosta.
Siim Raie told daily Postimees in early April (link in Estonian) that one of the main reasons for his departure was that while the culture ministry constantly added new tasks, including the issuing of a rising number of metal detector licenses, to the agency's workload, the resources needed to fulfil these did not accompany that.
At that time, the budget deficit was not mentioned.
Six people were laid off following the announcement that measures would need to be taken, which was made on January 17. The ministry said the measures were aimed at streamlining the organization and not just in response to the budget issue.
Siim Raie announced his resignation at the end of last year, saying that the agency required fresh blood and a new chief, a line which the ministry agreed with
Liisa Pakosta will leave her current role as commissioner for equality, and start working as director of the heritage board on July 1 this year.
Editor: Andrew Whyte