State secretary: PPA top officials suspicions are 'unfortunate'

Taimar Peterkop.
Taimar Peterkop. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

While the recent suspicions of fraud relating to top state agency officials is unfortunate and will have the effect of reducing trust in law enforcement agencies and even the entire public sector, it does not mean the practice of rotating officials for periods of secondment with other state agencies is a bad one, State Secretary Taimar Peterkop says.

"Certainly based on the information that has been published so far, the credibility of both the authorities and the public service has been hit very hard. This is very unfortunate," Peterkop said Thursday.

The actual rotation practice, whereby officials do stints at state agencies other than their long-term employer, is "quite common", however, he added, and "is also a very good thing in and of itself, because it allows people to move between different professions, gain wider experience, reduce the risk of independent fiefdoms building up (the Estonian term is in fact "silos"-ed.), build up connections and understand other organizations better."

By way of example, the organization he himself heads up, the Government Office (Riigikantselei) and where, according to him, many different institutions have rotated their people. "When they go back to their institutions, they bring with them knowledge of how the government works, how decisions are made. In essence, it is a very positive thing that they rotate between different offices in this way."

With regard to the recent case which came to light this week and which involved the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) chief, Elmar Vaher, only law enforcement agencies and the courts can deal with the matter, Peterkop added, urging caution in rushing to judgment and reminding people of the principle of being assumed innocent before being proven guilty.

Vaher has since been stepped down and replaced by Egert Belitšev as PPA chief on an acting basis.

Why PPA officials should retain full benefits and seniority records when, for instance, on a period of secondment with the Ministry of the Interior, or another institution, Peterkop said that it was relict of a former way of doing things .

"Once upon a time, it was related to being in service, but now, as far as I know, more or less all of these special pensions have been abandoned. So this represents a sort of reckoning with the past," he added.

Elmar Vaher is alleged to have facilitated the continued registration of MTA department director Eerik Heldna as a PPA official even as the latter had been working for the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) intelligence center for around a year at the time (in April 2019). This was mainly done to preserve Heldna's full pension benefits.

Central Criminal Police Director General Aivar Alavere, PPA Internal Control Office director Priit Pärkna and Central Criminal Police Operations Office director Toomas Lõhmus, among others, are also implicated in the saga, Egert Belitšev says.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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