SDE demands fundamental reform of Tallinn city company supervisory boards

Jevgeni Ossinovsk, with Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart in the foreground, at Tuesday's city council chambers vote on the 2022 Tallinn budget.
Jevgeni Ossinovsk, with Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart in the foreground, at Tuesday's city council chambers vote on the 2022 Tallinn budget. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Center's coalition partner in Tallinn, the Social Democratic Party (SDE), has given Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart until the end of August to come up with proposals for a comprehensive reform of city company supervisory boards. Kõlvart says that a week is not enough but promises to discuss all issues.

Outgoing Tallinn Deputy Mayor Andrei Novikov was elected to the board of Tallinn City Transport AS (TLT) while practically ignoring the company's supervisory board. This suggests that municipal companies are still using practices not in accordance with the spirit of the law, Jevgeni Ossinovski, chairman of the Tallinn City Council, wrote to Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart.

Novikov was elected to the board of TLT in late July and announced his resignation as deputy mayor and departure from politics the same day. Novikov was picked by a committee, while Ossinovski (SDE) believes the decision should have been made by the company's supervisory board, pursuant to law.

The process exhibited shortcomings that characterize the management culture of Tallinn companies and foundations in general, Ossinovski wrote in a letter to coalition partner Kõlvart (Center).

The Business Code provides that the board of a company is appointed by its supervisory board, while the competition was in this case carried out by a committee formed by the mayor, Ossinovski pointed out.

"This procedure was not approved by the supervisory board. This seems to be standard practice, as opposed to a single incident, and is clearly contrary to the idea of the law," he said.

The supervisory board was first notified of the candidate during its sitting.

"At least one supervisory board member asked for the documents based on which decisions would have to be made before the sitting. The request was not granted. The supervisory board also had no way to make sure Novikov, as the only candidate put to it, was the best out of 67 original applicants. It is clear that members of the TLT supervisory board were reduced to a rubber stamp, which makes it impossible for them to perform their duties," Ossinovski suggested.

Ossinovski finds that this is not how things should work and that the supervisory boards of Tallinn companies and foundations and the principles for their formation need to be reformed. "While the new coalition has improved the political balance and level of expertise of several supervisory boards, we are forced to admit today that these steps have been insufficient," he said, demanding Kõlvart put in place new principles to rule out political bias and make sure persons employed are up to the tasks of management and supervision.

Novikov has served as deputy mayor since 2017 and was, until recently, a member of the TLT supervisory board.

Tallinn terminated the contracts of TLT board members Deniss Boroditš and Otto Popel in May after both attended several trainings on the taxpayer's dime. Their contracts were signed by Novikov.

Andrei Novikov will assume the duties of board member in August, with former Health and Labor Minister Tanel Kiik (Center) taking over as deputy mayor.

Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart has previously said that Novikov was picked through a politically independent competition, and that criticism from the Social Democrats of how it was not coordinated with them is out of place.

Kõlvart: There are differences

"No fundamental [reform] model will be created during this week, that much is clear," the mayor said. "I believe there are some differences of opinion regarding this topic."

Kõlvart said that the appointment committee was professional and the supervisory board reserved the right not to approve Novikov for the board seat. "That means the interests of the city have been represented in line with regulations and the law, as it is up to the supervisory board whether to approve candidates," he offered.

Ossinovski did not say what would happen were the city government fail to propose solutions by the end of August but suggested the matter is one of principle for SDE.

"There must be a solution, there can be no question," the council chairman said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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