Riigikogu Speaker Lauri Hussar (Eesti 200) believes one way to reduce misunderstandings connected to the use of Riigikogu MPs' fuel cards would be to lower MPs' expenses and cut out bureaucracy related to the processing of expense claims. Recently, two unusual cases have come to light involving the use of fuel cards by Riigikogu members.
A fuel card can be used by a Riigikogu MP as part of their expense allowances.
Last week, the Estonian central criminal police initiated criminal proceeding to investigate EKRE MP Kalle Grünthal's use of Riigikogu fuel cards, after it emerged that the card in his possession had been used to pay for an inexplicably large amount of fuel. On Monday, news portal Delfi reported that Eesti 200 MP Juku-Kalle Raid had used a fuel card on two occasions in August, despite not having a car or driver's license.
"Good practice for a member of the Riigikogu, states that a member of the Riigikogu uses state resources in a prudent and economical manner. In accordance with the law, a member of the Riigikogu is reimbursed for expenses related to their work. If those expenses are not related to the MP's work, they should be returned. Riigikogu member Juku-Kalle Raid (Eesti 200), has provided explanations to the public regarding the use of expense allowances to organize the visit of the Special Envoy of the Dalai Lama," Hussar said.
Hussar also mentioned the fact that Raid is the chair of the Riigikogu's Tibet support group. Sonam Tsering Frasi, who visited Estonia in early August, is the Dalai Lama's special representative to Northern Europe, Poland and the Baltic states, and their meeting in southern Estonia was "undoubtedly, substantive and clearly linked to Raid's role as chair of the Tibet support group in the Riigikogu."
"Regarding the issue regarding of Riigikogu MP Kalle Grünthal's expense allowances, the public has not received any explanation and so, here, we will have to wait for his explanations or the outcome of the criminal investigation," Hussar added.
The Riigikogu Speaker also stressed that in accordance with the principles of good practice for Riigikogu members, MPs must refrain from actions which may damage the Riigikogu's reputation. "If it transpires that an MP has received expense allowances for a high amount of expenditure that is not related to their work duties, then this directly damages the reputation of the Riigikogu and certainly warrants moral condemnation," Hussar said.
"As for changes in the expense allowances for members of the Riigikogu, they are currently 30 percent of a Riigikogu MP's salary. I have proposed the idea of reducing this to, perhaps 15 or 20 percent and stop administering them. This is an issue that needs to be discussed in the Riigikogu's parliamentary groups and we need to reach a common position among the parliamentary groups in order to implement it," added Hussar.
In response to ERR's request for a comment on the issue, the Chancellery of the Riigikogu said that the use of expense allowances, including fuel cards, is down to the discretion of MPs.
"Compensation of expenses related to the work of a member of the Riigikogu is provided for by the Status of Members of the Riigikogu Act. Pursuant to Section 30 of this Act, the Board of the Riigikogu has established by its decision a more detailed procedure for the reimbursement of expenses incurred in connection with the work of Members of the Riigikogu. If the Riigikogu deems it necessary, it may amend the rules governing the reimbursement of expenses incurred in connection with the work of a Member of the Riigikogu. According to the law, the Board of the Riigikogu may amend the more detailed rules outlined by the board. The Chancellery of the Riigikogu bases the reimbursement of expenses on the law and the rules established by the board," said Urmas Seaver, Urmas Seaver, head of the Office of the Riigikogu's PR department.
Editor: Michael Cole