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Tallinn candidates: Dubious school maintenance contracts to be reviewed

Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

Over the last ten years the city of Tallinn paid more than €100 million to five companies for the maintenance of schools. With the local elections coming up in October, candidates for mayor are saying they would review these contracts and end them where necessary.

Michal: All services bought by city need to be subject to public tenders

Reform Party candidate for mayor, Kristen Michal, told daily Eesti Päevaleht that these contracts needed to be ended in a way that would cost the taxpayers as little as possible, and all services bought by the city to be subject of public tenders to make sure that the city got the best offer, and to work against nepotism in the city’s administration.

Aas: Refinance contracts to get better interest rates

Acting mayor and the Center Party’s candidate, Taavi Aas, said that the city administration had made a proposal to refinance contracts concerning the maintenance of the city’s schools, as the interest rates offered by banks were more favorable now than the interest specified in the contracts.

“International rating agencies have raised Tallinn’s credit rating over the last years, so it is possible now to get loans at reasonable conditions to renovate schools,” Aas said.

Aas has been a member of the city’s administration for a long time and is the only one of the currently named candidates who isn’t talking about the need to review school maintenance contracts for potential nepotism or corruption.

Vakra: “Watertight plan” to finance school maintenance needed

Social Democratic candidate, Rainer Vakra, told the paper that though it was great that thanks to these contracts plenty of school houses had been renovated, in the longer term they were wasting taxpayers’ money. The city paid unreasonably high prices for the services it was getting, Vakra said.

“I’m planning to outline a watertight plan together with financial specialists how to guarantee quality while spending less money. Doing that we’ll start with what is best for Tallinn and its residents. Where needed we’ll end the schools’ contracts,” Vakra said.

Helme: Three to four times as many schools could be maintained with this money

Martin Helme, the candidate for the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), said that these contracts needed to be terminated anyway. “The maintenance contracts of Tallinn’s schools are exceptionally disadvantageous to the taxpayer and in their current form need to be terminated in any case. If nothing else helps, then with the help of the courts,” Helme said.

According to Helme, the money that is currently spent on these contracts could be used to renovate or maintain three or four times as many schools. “Whether we’re looking at corruption or simple waste of money needs to be clarified, but naturally the managers of companies that are making millions with these contracts will tell anyone how beneficial they are to everybody,” Helme remarked.

Päevaleht also approached the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) for a statement, but received no reply.

Potential independent candidate involved in school maintenance

Businessman and president of the Estonian Olympic Committee, Urmas Sõõrumaa, is one of the people profiting from said contracts. He has also been a supporter of the Center Party for years. Sõõrumaa recently announced that he was considering running in the upcoming elections, potentially on an independent list that may or may not include suspended Tallinn mayor and former long-time Center Party chairman Edgar Savisaar.

Sõõrumaa’s businesses involved in the maintenance of city real estate has on several occasions been criticized as yet another example of the Tallinn Center Party section’s tendency to hand out contracts to its own people. Külli Taro, a public administration expert who frequently comments on Estonia’s local politics, has recently said that Sõõrumaa should be made to cut all his ties to city services providers in case he should be elected to public office.

Another long-time Center Party member, Arvo Sarapuu, faced accusations in mid-May this year of having meddled with the city’s waste disposal system as well as its environmental administration in order to nudge business towards a company his family controls. He has since left politics, but is under investigation.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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