Tallinn University of Technology (TTÜ, internationally branded Taltech) Rector Jaak Aaviksoo says the university may approach the prosecutor's office, after media reports last week of alleged fraudulent use of European Union funds by the institution's Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance (RNI).
"The reliability of TalTech has been called into question," Aaviksoo said Monday, BNS reports.
"The university and rector are without doubt the ones to be held accountable. What we must do now is convince our partners that we are carrying out our functions with integrity," Aaviksoo continued.
However, the prosecutor's office is considering launching proceedings regardless of Taltech's actions, according to BNS.
A piece in daily newspaper Postimees last week reported that information had been provided to the European Commission which artificially inflated working hours at TalTech/RNI, as well as money being paid as wages to individuals who did not participate in the relevant project.
Specifically, in 2016, the European Commission allocated €267,500 from the Horizon 2020 (H2020) program to RNI in connection with the OpenGovIntelligence (OGI) project.
Former RNI employee and current PhD student, Keegan McBride, had approached Aaviksoo in March this year with concerns, but no subsequent action was taken. McBride subsequently acted as whistleblower, with his information forming the basis of Postimees' article.
Taltech responded by saying that documents provided by the whistleblower, whose identity the institution said should have remained confidential, pending an internal audit following the allegations, were not proof of fraudulent activity.
On Monday Aaviksoo stressed the importance of the university protecting its staff and ensuring that researchers who perform their duties ethically don't become stigmatized. Aaviksoo also said he wishes to avoid a witch hunt.
"The facts and opinions published in the media have impinged on the reliability of the university," Aaviksoo said.
"For this reason, I decided following a discussion at the rector's department, that we should submit a report of criminal offenses to the prosecutor's office, even if we don't have any concrete tip-offs," he added.
He added that the university's board of governors has been informed of the current situation.
Aaviksoo noted that, so far as he was aware, all universities have experienced problems with filling in work hours timesheets.
Editor: Andrew Whyte