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Analysis: Moving the internal security academy expensive and risky

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PHOTO: Raul Mee

Moving the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences to Narva will cost approximately €10 million more than previously estimated. A number of teachers are likely to leave the school and certain specialties might not have enough students should the move plan be realized.

That is the conclusion drawn by a five-member working group of officials tasked with calculating the exact effects of moving the academy's Tallinn complex to Narva in mid-February.

The document that reached Minister of Internal Affairs Andres Anvelt this weekend is not brimming with optimism.

A team comprised of ministry chancellors and state real estate manager RKAS experts looked at four potential locations for the academy in the border town of Narva.

It turned out that the most financially sound option would be to construct the academy on a 45,000-square meter plot owned by the city on Puškin street for €47 million. The budget would include a 10,600-square meter study building, a student home for 720 cadets, as well as a sea rescue training pool, garages, and a bike shed on 1,100 square meters in total.

Tough for middle-aged cadets

The total cost of the move would exceed €53 million as the ministry would have to relocate the rapid response force of the Northern Police Prefecture currently based with the academy in Pirita, Tallinn. While sale of the plot in Pirita and support from the ASTRA measure can be used to cover some of the cost, €33.9 million would still have to be found from the state budget. That is €10-12 million more than previously estimated.

Were the government to give the green light in April, the school could start work in its new location in 2022 at the earliest. The academy would have to keep working in its old premises in Pirita in the meantime as reconstruction plans would be dropped.

The analysis points out a number of new aspects, more significant than the cost.

Information from the academy suggests 36.5 percent of cadets currently come from Harju County and 15.2 percent from Ida-Viru County. Moving the school to Narva could lead to a situation where this ratio would rather be similar to those of colleges of major universities in Ida-Viru County that have 90 percent local students.

“Some specialties of the academy would be placed in serious jeopardy in Narva,” the analysis concludes. The move would disadvantage distance learning. Most master's students are Harju County residents in their thirties who have families and jobs who would very likely decide against attending the academy were it located in Narva.

Studying in  Narva would also be a problem for the alarm center study group where the average age of students is 44. The group is made up of women most of whom have children and who will later work in Tallinn.

“It is certain that we will lose a rather significant number of students, while it would be difficult to give any precise figures. It is also possible we couldn't open several specialties and study groups for lack of the minimum required number of students,” the analysis reads.

Approximately 85 percent of current teachers have said in various polls that they would not continue working at the academy after the transfer. A lot of lectures are currently given by teachers paid by the hour who only teach on the side as they are practicing professionals in their fields. “Because the drive to Narva and back takes six hours, it is probable we will lose most of them,” the document suggests.

Security concerns cannot be overlooked. The main danger perceived would be for Russian special services to start recruiting cadets or employees caught in compromising situations or those who often visit Russia. “By moving the internal security academy to Narva, Estonia could be providing Russian special services with future security specialists and executives,” the analysis warns.

The document also mentions the danger of signals intelligence. The latter risk would manifest especially sharply were the decision made in favor of the so-called Kreenholm plot by the Narva river.

Authors of the analysis admit the move would have a few positive effects. It would offer more education options for residents of Narva, create up to 50 jobs, and complement the cityscape with a new building. The decision could also lead citizens of Narva to look more favorably on the Estonian state, while this would require a separate communication strategy.

Differences of opinion in terms of the rationality of moving the academy between the justice and interior ministries are also reflected sharply in the analysis.

Opinions are so conflicting that Justice Ministry Deputy Chancellor Priit Kama added his dissenting opinion to the document during the group's tenth meeting. The ministry believes both cost and negative effects of the move to be more modest than everyone else involved.

“The assessment according to which moving the Estonian Internal Security Academy to Narva would considerably reduce the number of potential students is not based on serious argumentation,” the ministry claims. People come for the specialty, not the location. “Because certain specialties can only be studied in Narva after the academy is moved there, the school's location should not put off young people who want to study the specialties offered by the academy.”

Karis to provide an assessment

The ministry also believes the school would retain study quality as teachers can be rotated, their salaries hiked, and new teachers sought before the move. Moving the academy is allegedly something the entire country needs as there is a shortage of internal security staff in the county and a lot of public servants there do not speak the official language well enough.

Even though the cost of the move was calculated by RKAS this time, the justice ministry believes the estimate to be inflated. For example, it would be possible to construct a student home for 600 people instead of 720. It would not be necessary to construct a pool for the academy as sea rescue could be practiced in one of three school pools in Narva. Sale of the academy's plot in Pirita could yield €13 million instead of €5-6 million suggested by RKAS as construction of the Mustakivi rd. overpass has not been decided yet. Whereas it is possible the overpass would raise the plot's value instead of reducing it.

The justice ministry has come up with an original proposal: to take charge of moving the academy to Narva. “In that case the academy would continue as an agency of the interior ministry; however, its real estate would be managed by the justice ministry that would ensure the transfer at optimal cost to be agreed on in advance,” the ministry suggests.

Auditor General Alar Karis is set to voice his position on the academy move in front of the Riigikogu again this afternoon. Information available to Postimees suggests Karis' position has not changed from three years ago: moving the Estonian Internal Security Academy to Ida-Viru County is not sensible as it would be expensive and do nothing to boost the quality of education at the academy.

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