Select Committee awaits details of rapid test procurement procedure
The Riigikogu's State Budget Control Select Committee met on Wednesday for a closed session, in which it discussed the investigation into the Ministry of Education and Science's awarding of procurement contracts for rapid coronavirus tests. However, so far no details about the procedure have been disclosed to the committee.
Last week, the Ministry of Finance closed a misdemeanor procedure launched to investigate the circumstances behind the Ministry of Education's awarding of contracts for the procurement of rapid coronavirus testing kits for schools in 2021.
The investigation found, that while there were irregularities in the Ministry of Education's implementation of the Public Procurement Act, then-Education Minister Liina Kersna (Reform) was not liable.
Committee chair Tõnis Mölder (Center) said, that Wednesday's meeting was closed, because the matter involves a large number of documents, which are only for internal use and cannot be shared publicly at this time. All parties involved in the procedure still have the possibility to appeal against the original verdict.
During the meeting, State Budget Control Select Committee was given an overview of the procedure, though no further details were disclosed.
"We understand that perhaps (the details) don't need to be made available to everyone in Estonia, however, the State Budget Control Select Committee is still very clearly a statutory committee, which is supposed to deal specifically with oversight issues related to the use of funds. In our view, we have every right to have the full text in our possession at some stage," Mölder said.
According to Mölder, the members of the committee will be able to consult the minutes and final text from the misdemeanor proceedings in December, once the deadline for appealing the decision in has passed.
The full list of parties involved in the proceedings is also currently classified and the committee does not have access to it. "What we do know for certain, is that a very large number of witnesses have been heard. We also understand that the witnesses have the ability to appeal. Certainly, the main person who has the possibility to appeal against this misdemeanor procedure is still Liina Kersna," said Mölder.
In addition to the misdemeanor proceedings launched by the Ministry of Finance, the Prosecutor's Office also opened criminal proceedings in June to investigate the circumstances under which the contracts for rapid covid tests were awarded.
"As committee chair, my wish is still to get as accurate a picture as possible, as soon as possible, of the information, which the Ministry of Finance now has," said Mölder, adding that he believes the details should be shared with all members of the committee on order for them to decide how to proceed.
"My personal view is, that there should definitely be a discussion within the committee about this issue," he added. "I think that the public also deserves for there to be an open session, in which all parties can get thorough answers to these questions," Mölder said.
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Editor: Michael Cole