Editorial: the next dirty trick


PHOTO: Caro / Scanpix

In buying up officials from the private sector, Tallinn city government has been a resounding success. The issue not really being euros paid for public service or motivation of servants. Rather, this is about using taxpayer money to purchase loyalty and indebtedness, and indirectly loading party coffers. 

When, in this March, Postimees published a letter by Centre Party secretary general Priit Toobal to Mayor of Tallinn Edgar Savisaar, wherein Mr Toobal – a person far removed from city administration – demanded the removal of officials who had neglected paying tithes to party purse, Mr Savisaar told the press conference: «Our electoral funds need replenishing as well, this is both public and obvious.» Mr Savisaar, at his haughty best, shied not back from boasting about it and had the bravado to thank media for showing an interest, as this would even serve to awaken party members why may have forgotten their payments. Taking a glance at Centre Party’s 2013 declarations, the largest donations ever come from city officials. 

To explain secrecy with public money by blaming state policy for not considering their opinions, and that Tallinn agrees not with the new Public Service Act in force since April – this is just plain despiteful.

This is yet another stand-off between the state and the city-state. Saving us from this ought to be the primary electoral promise of all other political parties. This, no doubt, has an impact on our economy, our city view, streets, kindergarten places and lots of other things.

Opacity, the problem that it is, has spread to Tallinn’s life and business culture. Which needs to be changed, so that entrepreneurs both domestic and foreign would want to invest here, creating jobs for our people.

No member of the city government has dared show up, to explain why it was now, elections looming, that the shower of bonuses was released – and why cover-up was attempted. Instead, they pushed city secretary to the limelight, the man trying to explain everything playing on letters of the law.

Who knows, the wording of the new Public Service Act may indeed have holes in it – interpretation of which may be intellectually stimulating and profitable to the narrow legal circle. The spirit of the law and the expectation of public at large, however, being obvious: may wages and bonuses paid to officials be known and understandable to citizens.

Instead, the city government has taken the road of paying money to select few – the amounts fairy-tale-like to the average taxpayer who helped amass the money – and then trying to wiggle its way, between letters of the law, to hide the act from public eye.

However: perhaps Mr Savisaar has the feeling this autumn may be his last time around, in serious Estonian politics. In that case, him throwing money around may be compared, perhaps, to the abundance of orders and honours lavished upon people by earlier Estonian presidents – during their last year in office.