Taltech internal audit finds no evidence of EU funding fraud ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

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Taltech rector Jaak Aaviksoo (centre) and vice-rector Renno Veinthal (left) at Monday's press conference announcing an internal audit found no evidence of fraudulent activity at the Ragnar Nurkse Department of  Innovation and Governance.
Taltech rector Jaak Aaviksoo (centre) and vice-rector Renno Veinthal (left) at Monday's press conference announcing an internal audit found no evidence of fraudulent activity at the Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance. Source: ERR

An internal audit by Tallinn University of Technology (branded Taltech internationally) has found no evidence of systematic fraud or corruption concerning EU funding, Baltic News Service reports. The committee handling the audit did however identify violations of university regulations and agreements.

Renno Veinthal, Taltech vice-rector for research, said that the principle violation the committee had found concerned an absence of work timetables. This on its own was not sufficient to indicate fraud, he said.

"Fraudulent activities cannot be identified because a relevant timetable as a document does not exist," he said.

The committee also found that there was no evidence that staff at the Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance (RNI), part of Taltech, had been remunerated for work which they had not actually carried out. TalTech staff get a basic wage and are not paid stipends, the committee said, according to BNS.

"It is an obvious violation of the university's rules and definitely negligence that we can see here," the vice-rector said, adding that: "The committee found nothing illegal." 

Media reports late last month said that a whistleblower, Keegan McBride, a former RNI employee, had gone to Taltech rector, Jaak Aaviksoo, with concerns about irregularities in payments and work sheets back in March. When no concrete action seemed to have been taken, McBride took his concerns to daily Postimees.

McBride also had recordings of conversations he had had with Aaviksoo regarding the case, but he did not hand these over to the committee, BNS reports. McBride did however give the committee documentation he had already supplied the media.

The audit committee also met those staff members named as allegedly receiving remuneration for work which they had not actually engaged in.

Aaviksoo's line has been that no criminal wrongdoing had taken place at RNI. However, a prosecutor's office criminal investigation was launched early last week, stated as being sparked by the media reports and not by concurrent approaches to the office by Aaviksoo for such an investigation to start.

On Friday an open letter from several Taltech alumni including two former rectors called for Aaviksoo to step down from his post, which the latter rejected.

According to ERR's online news in Estonian, a European Commission audit of Taltech and its funding is likely also to follow. Speaking at a press conference Monday, Aaviksoo also denied any attempts at a cover-up in the matter.

He also said that this was not the first time Taltech had to pay back EU project funds due to rules violations.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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