The golden parachutes gang

Oliver Kund
, reporter
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Not too long ago, in the 1990ies, former chiefs in law enforcement faced the danger of dropping out of state system. By now, Estonia features a coterie ensured place on public payroll after the term expires. 

A vivid illustration is served by former head of Police and Border Guard (PPA) Raivo Küüt unexpectedly forced out of office due to the unverified speed meters scandal in 2013. Then chancellor at interior ministry Leif Kalev thus stood faced with quite a challenge. A man of director-general calibre left in the cold winds of open labour market? No way. And sure, for a salary rather substantial, Mr Küüt was hired as adviser at interior ministry from whence, a year later, he rose to vice chancellor status through a contest.

In this, Mr Küüt stands not alone. The same path has been trodden, to cite some, by former commander of defence forces Johannes Kert who in 2008 was hired as adviser by then defence minister Jaak Aaviksoo.

«This is a feature of a state grown up – these people are not left hanging,» states former justice minister and one-time central criminal police chief Andres Anvelt (Soc Dems). «We must always assess the risk: every man has his price.»

At that, Mr Anvelt now in Riigikogu isn’t afraid of the jobless ex-chiefs of law enforcement would become of interest to a hostile nation. Rather, the top managers loaded with confidential information are other a choice morsel for enterprises which hope to use inside information to get better deals with the state, like via procurements etc.

Mr Anvelt says this is unwritten rule for minister and chancellor of relevant domain to try and find engagement for outgoing top manager. Often, the preparations begin a year or a half in advance. They will keep an eye on competitions for other fixed-term offices. Though the candidates are often sifted by a selection committee at Government Office, the final decision is taken by a minister in person.  

For the most part, the ex-heads turn into vice chancellors, managers in other state agencies or advisers. While outwardly awkward, an adviser like that is welcome support for a minister needing to sit as political leader of same agency.

«In a way, hiring an adviser is a bit artificial indeed. A part of the public will surely criticize the lack of a public competition,» admits Mr Anvelt.

When following the careers, one does detect patterns in where the former top managers continued. As an example of that, justice minister has twice gotten a chancellor straight from the chair of Attorney-General – Jüri Pihl in 2005, and Norman Aas last year. In interior ministry, two current vice chancellors are former top security policemen. Like rotation has also been happening from Information Board to interior and foreign ministries.  

According to former police chief and interior minister Ain Seppik (Reform), a follow-up job becomes needful in such law enforcement agencies where classified information is handled and term in office for heads is fixed by law. That would be director-generals at police and security police, auditor-general, commander of defence forces, and information Board head. Though central criminal police is legally under PPA, its chief is in included in the bunch.

«Unlike the 1990ies when police chiefs were simply thrown out into the street and told to find something to do, by today there is a different understanding,» says Mr Seppik.

He goes on to recall his own departure from being police director-general in 1997: on his table, there lay an offer to go be vice chancellor in the interior ministry headed by Robert Lepikson. And since the turn of the century, finding a follow-up job for top managers became the norm.

«The whole system isn’t officially legalised, see; currently, this is a custom. True – a pleasant one,» he says.

In Western nations, funds and think-tanks are often in operation which find such law & order ex-heads something to do. Estonia has nothing of the sort, but then falling to a subordinate status in the selfsame state agency is out of the question.

«It is unthinkable that PPA director-general would suddenly be doing a superintendent job. Such subordination won’t work,» substantiates Mr Seppik.

For that very reason, all former director-generals have quit security police as well. Aldis Alus comes immediately to mind. Having led security police, he then turned Eastern district prefect and even after assuming responsibility on the speed meter scandal he still draws salary from PPA. True, at a lower peg.

Both Mr Anvelt and Mr Seppik say finding follow-up posts for ex-managers in Estonia is probably possible till they cross the «red line» by entering politics. The latter was a notable feature with PPA ex-head Robert Antropov and former security police chief Jüri Pihl.

As covered by Postimees last week, the now retired Mr Pihl will in new year be paid by the Centre Partyish Tallinn city government to do battle against taxi mafia in town. A career so spotted will probably be one-of-a-kind for Estonia.