Government members divided over president's office scandal

Source: Riigikantselei

Members of the government are split over allegations that a senior presidential adviser linked the promulgation of government laws to more funding for the president's office.

Wednesday's "Aktuaalne kaamera" spoke to leaders of the coalition parties - Reform, Eesti 200, and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) - to find out their views on the matter.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said she found out about the conversations between Minister of Finance Mart Võrklaev (Reform), the ministry's Secretary General Merike Saks, and the president's adviser Toomas Sildam around Midsummer, shortly after they took place.

"It's not one side's accusations against the other side, it's what happened. There is concrete evidence of that. I think it is one of those things that was perhaps normal years ago but is not normal now. Just as it is not as common to make some comments, for example in workplaces, that may have been acceptable in the past," she said.

Toomas Sildam. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

SDE chairman and Minister of Interior Lauri Läänemets said he finds it hard to believe the president's office would try to make a deal. The minister said he had only just learned about the conversations.

"Rather, there is something else behind it. Since the coalition partners had not heard anything about it for two months, and it came out during the course of some other conflict, I find it hard to believe that it is anything serious. And if it is anything serious, then my advice is this – if law enforcement agencies are not approached, then the comments should be retracted," Läänemets said.

Lauri Hussar, Eesti 200 leader and chairman of Riigikogu, said the parliament's State Budget Control Select Committee should gather the facts and see if there has been a miscommunication.

He suggested, in order to avoid further incidents, budgets should be prepared in the Riigikogu.

President of the Riigikogu Lauri Hussar (Eesti 200). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

"The budgets of the constitutional institutions would be set by the Riigikogu and the proposals would clearly come from the Riigikogu's Finance Committee. This would also help to avoid problems in the future, such as we have now seen here in the media," he said.

Kallas said reducing overspending is more important than changing the current system: "No one can spend more than the taxpayer has."

"They also have to stick to the budgets presented, and ultimately it is up to the parliament to decide," the prime minister said.

Earlier on Wednesday, former Minister of Justice Lea Danilson-Järg (Isamaa) suggested the president's independence day reception could be cut to save money.

Kallas said this proposal had not been discussed by ministers.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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