Estonia has a clear and present need for an institution like the Enterprise and Innovation Foundation (EISA), though it may require somewhat of a reboot and an audit of some of its expenses, Minister of IT and Economic Affairs Tiit Riisalo (Eesti 200) says.
As reported by ERR News, EISA's 2022 annual report contained a number of expenses which might be described as being of dubious practical use.
Examples include a shungite relaxation area at a Pärnu hotel (shungite is a mineral found in northwestern Russia), master classes and mentoring for tourism firms, and an organizational song, dubbed the "JAH laul" (the "Yes song"), supposed to encapsulate EISA's values.
EISA is the product of a merger between Enterprise Estonia (EAS) and KredEx, the state loans agency, though rather than making cost savings – part of the rationale for the merger taking place – these have in fact risen.
Minister of IT and Economic Affairs Tiit Riisalo (Eesti 200) is responsible for EISA from a ministerial perspective, and, according to him, Estonia needs the organization, regardless of its name.
Riisalo said: "If you are asking for a reason, first of all, it is a significant implementer of economic policy instrument. And we don't have too many of those."
That the intended synergies had not yet been attained at EISA was difficult to explain, Riisalo said.
"I also don't think it's a wasted task; it just needs to be managed better, and finding a new manager is an important process," he went on.
Attempts to find a new manager for EISA, have not yet proven successful, he added.
Moreover, when a new EISA director has been found, this needs to accompany a reboot of the organization and an audit of the expediency of some of the expenses incurred, he added.
EISA has a two-fold role: On the one hand, to deal with the funds that come from the Estonian state budget, the smaller component of its role, and on the other, to deal with EU social and refinancing funds, which is the more significant part of the organizations' work, Riisalo said.
Moreover, this work requires an institution to do it, he added.
"In a broader sense, if we look at what has happened with EU funds, we can definitely find some laughable examples, but in the big picture, this has been done effectively and there have been very cases of having to refund money," he went on.
Riisalo did not wish to comment on specific expenditure examples, saying this required in-depth analysis at a time when many people are on vacation.
There are both good and bad instances of EISA spending, he added.
Riisalo has had repeated contact with EISA employees since becoming a minister in April, and said that these were all "reasonable and rational."
Over €350 million in investments have been brought to Estonia via the participation of EISA, he noted.
Riisalo said Monday that several candidates had been found to become EISA's new director, to replace Lauri Lugna, who stepped down in March. Kristi Tiivas, who recently left EISA's supervisory board (Nõukogu), has been tipped for the job.
Editor: Andrew Whyte