The Director of the state National Heritage Protection Board (Muinsuskaitseamet) has resigned amid questions over expenses while performing the role, as well as a difference of opinion with the Ministry of Culture over the board's role and task, it is reported.
Liisa Pakosta, who was only appointed to the post in April and is a former gender equality commissioner, was under an internal investigation by the Ministry of Culture, which oversees the heritage board, with regard to work-related trips and hotel stays.
Tarvi Sits, the ministry's secretary general, told ERR that cooperation with Pakosta has not been going smoothly, and after a meeting today, Monday, Pakosta opted to submit her resignation.
Sits said: "We discussed cooperation and their problems, as well as the newly completed audit regarding her assignments. And after this discussion, Liisa Pakosta came to the conclusion that she will submit her resignation letter."
"We have a different understanding about the challenges facing the heritage protection board and the fulfillment of its tasks. In the view of the Ministry of Culture, the director general's public statements have been contrary to international principles within the field of heritage protection," Sits added, mentioning restoration work at the Livonian Order Viljandi Castle and of Narva's Old Town as examples.
Pakosta is due to leave the post on October 16, while the government office's top management selection committee is set to start the competitive process to find a replacement.
The ministry had said last week that it would be announcing the results of its audit this week, while Pakosta herself said the audit's main aim was to ascertain whether the costs of her domestic missions in July and August were optimal and efficient, adding that no infringement of regulations or economic expenses to the state had taken place.
Pakosta noted that on some days during the work assignments in question she had taken her child with her, but had paid for any arising costs from her own pocket.
Sits stopped short of saying Pakosta had been intentionally misleading over the use of expenses, though noted that staying at the most expensive hotel in town on the grounds that it was of cultural interest was not reasonable.
He said: "She sees it from her point of view, including in the case of the working trips. Using the most expensive hotel in Viljandi just because it is a cultural monument is [however] not justified. If accommodation is generally at the exact same price, why not pick one which is a cultural monument, but there was in fact a noticeable price difference. In these areas, the drafters of the audit and Liisa Pakosta definitely have a difference of understanding."
Pakosta said that the work trips had been intended to touch base with board staff in a total of 14 offices nationwide; questions had arisen when Pakosta had stayed overnight before or after a meeting, allegedly using public funds to cover the cost of stay.
The expenses under scrutiny totaled just under €560 and related to nine work trips, ERR reports.
An article further outlining expenses had also appeared on the story on Monday, on the website of daily Eesti Päevaleht.
Prior to being appointed heritage board director, Liisa Pakosta was long-term Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner, a role she held since 2015.
She was an Isamaa MP in the XII (2011-2015) and XIII (2015-2019) Riigikogu compositions.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov