No political appointees found their way into the supervisory boards of Estonia's state owned companies, during the time of the outgoing state nominations committee's (Nimetamiskomitee) period in office, the committee's director, Kaido Padar, says.
Padar also noted that the upcoming elections mean that his nomination committee's replacement composition should be put in place before that, and not after.
Padar himself has also stood down at the end of the term, which began in 2020, as per the regulations.
The coalition government appoints some of the committee's members, while the secretaries general of two ministries also sit on the committee.
The committee's role is to oversee the appointment of supervisory boards (Nõukogu), which oversee all of Estonia's state-owned and public bodies, and including such disparate areas as energy, forest management, public health, transport and the arts.
Whereas the members of the nomination committee which started its work in 2017 had been nominally apolitical, the last composition also included Argo Luude and Reet Roos, both of whom reportedly have connections to political parties.
Padar said no political dimension had infiltrated itself into the committee however, though the lineup Padar headed also made supervisory board changes in any case, to reduce political exposure.
Appearing on ERR's webcast "Otse uudistemajast" Wednesday, Padar said: "One aspect, for example, was that we introduced a practice where, if an business person had supported a political party for four years, we would not accept them on a board.
"Another was that if he or she had sought office in, for example in local government elections, even if he or she was not a member of a political party [they would not be appointed to a board]," Padar went on.
"In my opinion the Estonian media is effective enough, and the country is small enough, that any such tricks would have become apparent. There were times when some ministerial advisers thought that they could put forward names and people who very much wanted to go to lunch, in order to recommend themselves," he noted.
The nomination committee's new composition is awaiting confirmation from the government.
Last week, this was left unresolved, since the Reform/Isamaa/SDE coalition had been unable to reach an agreement regarding Jüri Raatma, a candidate proposed by Isamaa for inclusion on the nominations committee.
Raatma subsequently withdrew his candidacy, and so Justice Minister Lea Danilson-Järg (Isamaa) now has to bring a new candidate to the government.
According to Padar, in the meantime, the two ministerial secretary generals who sit on the nomination committee will continue to deal with urgent issues. The more important should arrive in the summer, he said.
However, Padar said the nominations committee's new composition ought to be confirmed before the elections, since otherwise the break in the committee's work could turn out to be too long.
Appointing a new member takes at least two to three weeks, or even a month, he said, depending on the negotiations and the process.
The Riigikogu elections on March 5 will be followed by a period of negotiation between political parties aimed at forming up a new coalition agreement. This period can take many weeks.
When managing the nomination committee, it is key to understand the functioning of all supervisory boards, and their necessary competence and management experience.
The members of the nominations committee are paid a peppercorn sum of €100, and according to Padar, like the supervisory boards they oversee, people join it rather out of a sense of purpose, than for any particular gain.
"Very few said 'no' to the Estonian state. Instead, this comes from the mission itself," he went on, adding that nonetheless, the burden and responsibility of such supervisory boards remain relatively large.
Within the management of state-owned companies, political, social and communication skills play a large role, which is an important expectation of candidates, he added
There were few cases where the nominating committee could not assemble a supervisory board as it had. "We took a lot of time, and we worked hard to get the best lineups," Padar said.
Padar noted that he did not see any political interference in decision-making during his time on the committee. "There were no 'screwup' listings during our time in office, and we hope that there won't be any with the new team that takes office either."
The composition of the outgoing nomination committee was in office from January 2020.
The committee consists of two ministerial secretaries general, a representative of employers and three members proposed by the governing coalition.
The state has a share in 29 companies, 24 of which it is the sole owner, and four more of which it is the majority owner.
The former category would include the State Forestry Management Board, the RMK, while those in which it has a stake, but is not the sole proprietor of, include the Port of Tallinn (Tallinna Sadam).
Public broadcaster ERR has a supervisory board wholly separate from the management board, and which, in addition to three apolitical experts, includes an MP from the (currently five) political parties represented at the Riigikogu. This number may change after the March 5 elections and with the entry into office of the XV Riigikogu.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja
Source: 'Otse uudistemajast'