Editorial: new cars leased by state purely to park?

PHOTO: PantherMedia / Scanpix

€19.3m of yearly savings by state on account of official cars – as reckoned by public servant Tauno Tuisk in his Master’s at Tallinn University of Technology. This is over a quarter of the amount spent by state and local governments on vehicles. The calculated economy being so striking, one wonders: why isn’t it all being executed already? Or, at least, in the nearest-term pipeline?

Based on his calculations, Mr Tuisk claims the official state cars are used ineffectively. Their average travel (16,424 kilometres last year) is that of the usual household – commuting to work and a little bit extra.

One can vividly imagine the department head whose official car stands in the agency parking lot during the day and in driveway back home. He has been able to choose the specs and special features of his official wheels. Typically, the auto isn’t used by anyone except the department head. Use-wise, the difference with private car is minimal.

But the vast difference is that official cars tend to be more than thrice as new (3.2 years) as a typical family vehicle in Estonia. That’s because the state procures them at operational lease, and the cars are swapped for new ones once the term is up. The state leasing new cars to stand in parking lots? Judged by the revelations of Mr Tuisk, so it seems.

An official car ought to be a thing to work with. Would that be the case in agencies of Estonia, they’d already be striving towards each one used effectively – not to stand idle, but transporting lots of employees during the day. In reality, it still tends to be the salary extension and status symbol. Ideally, a boss should secure the staff a decent salary, not complemented by secret perks. The demand for electronic travel diary suggested by Tauno Tuisk would be a technical means to uproot the practice. He thinks any car driven under 25,000 a year should be given up – perhaps, a rule like that would force change on management culture and working relationship habits.

Even more stands to be saved by the state dropping the operational lease requirement – instead of that, it would up and buy the cars, and proceed to use them longer. Operational lease might be an excellent way for a private enterprise which could not predict the needs five years from now. The state might have guessed it will still be having its fish protection inspector, for instance, having to drive as the five years have passed. The car could last ten years, however, and thus the purchase is cheaper than the lease.