Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Centre) has promised to pay back the severance he received last year when he resigned from the same post after he was caught by police driving a vehicle with residual traces of alcohol in his system.
"When I was paid this compensation — I received it together with my final check — then I asked the Ministry of Finance whether this was in compliance with the law, and they replied that it was in compliance with the law," Aab told ERR on Thursday. "But as the Government Office has since then interpreted a situation in which a minister resigns to mean that this severance should not be paid, then in order to avoid further dispute, I will return this sum."
According to Aab, he is not interested in arguing over legal interpretations, and regardless considers it essentially fair that ministers who resign are not paid severance.
"I believe that this is also essentially right," he said. "If actions have been different in practice, if this interpretation is backward, then I don't want to argue. I also feel as though this is essentially right, and I will pay it back."
Nonetheless, the minister noted that it was not he that decided that he would receive severance, but rather officials at the Ministry of Finance, to which the Minister of Public Affairs belongs.
"Nobody asked me about it at the time, and the minister himself doesn't decide about it — this is decided by officials," Aab said.
Aab to repay under repayment plan
He admitted that he would not be able to return the more than €27,000 paid to him by the Ministry of Finance all at once, and will have to work out repayment details with the ministry.
"I likely won't be able to [pay the money back] all at once; I will likely have to conclude an agreement with the paying ministry, i.e. the Ministry of Finance," Aab said. "I have also spoken with [Secretary General Veiko Tali], saying that when I head in to the building, then we will go over how this will be technically possible."
The minister stressed that the Government of the Republic Act should be amended to ensure that such interpretations do not occur again.
According to Aab, according to previous interpretations of the law, if the prime minister proposed to the President of the Republic that a minister is dismissed from their position, then the Ministry of Finance found that there were grounds for paying out severance. This time, however, the Ministry of Finance provided a different interpretation, according to which no grounds exist for paying severance if a minister has resigned themselves.
Debate over severance paid to ministers arose after the question came up regarding whether Marti Kuusik (EKRE), who resigned just one day after being sworn in as Minister of Foreign Trade and IT in connection with accusations against him of domestic violence, would also receive severance in the amount of over €31,000.
Editor: Aili Vahtla