Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE) says that she expects a full audit of the use of public funds by a company which organizes some of Estonia's largest popular music events to be presented "in the near future".
Shiftworks, a company operated by Helen Sildna and which organizes the annual Tallinn Music Week (TMW) and Station Narva events, was the subject of media attention this week after incomplete auditing meant the culture ministry was unable to get a clear picture of Shiftworks' use of public funds.
This prompted the National Audit Office (Riigikontroll) to call for the freezing of public funding to Shiftworks until the matter is resolved.
Minister Hartman told ERR Friday that: "Our goal today is still to audit the institution which we have given state money to, and to first obtain data on how it has used this money. This is our primary goal."
"We have also met with the representatives of the organization, and we hope that they will provide the requested information. We are already considering the next step if they do not do so,. but we are certainly not saying here that we will do nothing more; that we will not take action. We found some issues here, and we hope to resolve these issues," Hartman went on.
The minister stopped short of confirming whether it would follow the audit office's recommendation in freezing public fund payments to Shiftworks, but said that the ministry still wants the audit to start "this spring" (spring essentially started in Estonia this week-ed.), with the answers to the questions needed in the near future, and not at year end.
As reported by ERR News, Sildna was unwilling or unable to cooperate with ministry auditors, after which she was given a period of grace in which to put Shiftworks' financial affairs in order, with no scheduled grant money to be withheld during this period.
Meelis Kompus, head of the Ministry of Culture's department of communication and international cooperation, also told ERR that the ministry will agree with Sildna next week on deadlines for the relevant accounts to be made available.
Should the relevant documentation not be submitted by the deadline(s), the ministry will initiate the process of reclaiming the public grants, Kompus added.
The audit office said earlier this week that state or local government support automatically creates a reporting obligation, with these payments to be frozen if and when that obligation is not met.
The office added that such an eventuality is fairly rare in Estonia.
The audit office also said it had no plans to conduct an audit of the culture ministry itself.
That the National Audit Office itself felt moved to speak on the matter at all hints at its likely severity.
Shiftworks, formerly Musiccase, has in the past been connected with issues relating to finance, most notably in 2018, when payments to partners were delayed for lengthy periods of time. This was, by Sildna, put down to the rapid growth of TMW at the time, and it complex funding model.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov, Tõnu Karjatse