Bill would put president's office, other institutions funding in Riigkogu purview

Riigikogu main debating chamber.
Riigikogu main debating chamber. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

A draft bill would change the way in which constitutional institutions such as the president's office are funded, reducing, proponents say, these institutions' dependence upon executive power.

The deadline for the amendments to the relevant legislation is November, while Riigikogu Finance Committee Chair, Annely Akkermann (Reform), expressed hope that this will come into force in the first quarter of next year.

Akkermann told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera," (AK) that the new model should also preempt such scandals as that which enfulged the Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia, during the summer.

"Perhaps this summer incident also provided a bigger impetus for pressing on with this bill, though the issue in and of itself already predates that. Constitutional institutions are like the pillars of the state, so I think that their budgetary needs must be discussed by the Riigikogu," Akkermann went on.

That controversy, which broke in August, involved allegations of political horse-trading whereby the president's office would allegedly have received top-up funds in return for the expedited signing into being of various pieces of legislation being held up during an extensive filibuster in May to June.

Annely Akkermann (Reform). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Peep Jahilo, Director of the President's OFfice, also told AK that the financial autonomy of constitutional institutions has been on the table for a decade now.

Jahilo said: "A large proportion of constitutional institutions have fallen behind in their basic funding, and thus might require a lifeline."

"The way that their funding will be carried out, via the [Riigikogu] finance committee, unlike under the current system, gives cause for hope that there will be no more shortages going forward," Jahilo went on.

One such example of a shortage was the cancellation of a planned official trip to Australia by the head of state, President Alar Karis.

At present, constitutional institutions submit their requests for funds to the Ministry of Finance itself.

The new proposal as noted would see these requests rerouted to the all-party finance committee at the Riigikogu for discussion, the committee would then send the sums to the cabinet, for inclusion in the annual state budget process, AK reported.

This would also stop the constitutional institutions in question – the Office of the Chancellor of Justice and the National Audit Office (Riigikontroll) are two other examples – from being insufficiently independent of the government, opposition MP and finance committee vice chair Jaak Aab (Center) said.

"The fundamental issue is so far unresolved. Constitutional institutions should be autonomous and independent from the government, and this bill will resolve that," he said.

The finance committee held a joint meeting with the Riigikogu's constitutional committee to discuss the bill; the chair of the latter body, Hendrik Johannes Terras (Eesti 200), said that amendments to the bill in its current incarnation can be made until November 17

Once this is done, as per standard practice the bill will go to the main chamber for debating and voting; as noted Annely Akkermann, a former finance minister herself, expressed the hope that it would become law in the first three months of 2024.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Anne Raiste.

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