Richness of Life: Environmental agencies merger would wipe out oversight

Under a government-planned merger, a separate Environmental Inspectorate would cease to exist. Source: Postimees/Scanpix

If the government's intention of merging the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate comes to fruition, oversight in the field will cease to function, the nonparliamentary Richness of Life Party said on Friday.

This week, the government announced a state reform plan according to which 20 state institutions, agencies and ministry departments will be merged into six consolidated agencies, and with it, the intention of merging the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate has come up once again, spokespeople for Richness of Life told BNS on Friday.

According to party spokesperson Helen Orav-Kotta, however, this poses a problem for Estonia's environment, as should the merger be carried out, a conflict between the two agencies' activities will be unavoidable.

"The functions of the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate overlap in part, but on top of that, both agencies also fulfill completely different tasks," Orav-Kotta said. "The main tasks of the Environmental Inspectorate are similar to those of the police — its main purpose is to conduct supervision to ensure that no criminal activities occur in nature. In the planned merged agency, the Environmental Inspectorate would essentially supervise itself. Why hasn't a merger of the Environmental Inspectorate and the police been discussed? That way, the Environmental Inspectorate would gain authority, and the name of the institution would line up with the actual activities the inspectorate is supposed to conduct."

Late last year, pro-forest environmental NGO Eesti Metsa Abiks wrote in an article published by daily Postimees that the Environmental Inspectorate is already struggling to contest economic activity bearing signs of environmental violations if said activity has been endorsed by the Environmental Board. A full merger of the two agencies would result in an effective absence of a control mechanism over the issuance of permits for the use of environmental resources by the Environmental Board.

"The goal of the state reform cannot just be merging agencies solely for the purpose of reducing their number," Orav-Kotta said. "It has to result in the improved quality of public services, reduced bureaucracy, improved accessibility of services and the swifter delivery of solution to people and businesses. Decreased expenditures from the State Treasury must also be a priority. Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Centre) has given no such guarantees."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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