Auditor general: Decision needed for how much to pay for crisis readiness

Janar Holm.
Janar Holm. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

It is possible to procure more equipment to be ready for crises, such as winter storms, while society should be consulted on how much money should be spent on preparing for exceptional situations, Auditor General Janar Holm said.

Heavy snow that ravished the western Estonian islands late last week and the mainland on Monday caused thousands of households to lose power and traffic to be chaotic for a time. Auditor General Janar Holm said on the "Esimene stuudio" evening talk show on Tuesday that while citizens can demand better crisis preparedness from the central and local governments, the relevant question is whether the taxpayer is also willing to pick up the tab.

"No country can be fully prepared for any crisis at all times. We can spend to procure enough equipment and have enough labor on hand – but is society willing to pay for this level of preparedness? Not always. I believe there are areas where this bar has been lowered from a previously manageable height. The important thing is to learn to do better in the future," he said.

"We need to decide as a country to what extent we are willing to ensure this cozy and safe environment. We need to tell people that more can be done if you're willing to pay," the auditor general added.

Holm said he wants to commend Elektrilevi employees scrambling to restore power in Saaremaa forests, adding that a part of the damage could have been avoided were trees not growing so near to power lines. He suggested that the DSO and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications should put together a realistic plan for gradually addressing shortcomings.

"We do not have to do everything at once. I'm sure there are lines where modernization is more urgent, that cater to more consumers. /.../ I heard that it would cost billions to move all power lines underground. /.../ Talking about conclusions, Elektrilevi and the economy ministry could put together a document outlining how much a different level of crisis preparedness would cost and what it requires."

The auditor general also said that citizens have a role to play in crises, instead of just sitting in their armchair waiting for everything to operate as per usual.


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Editor: Marko Tooming, Marcus Turovski

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