Headphones at expense of subordinates

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Photo: Mihkel Maripuu

Headed for vacation, police chief Elmar Vaher paid €300 for his headphones. The staff at the office is abuzz as the rank and file have lived under total austerity for these past few years. 

Examples of the austerity abound, the latest coming a week ago. This year, the military competition Utria Assault (formerly Erna) was for the first time held without border guards participating.

What hindered them was the €400 participation fee – €100 per team member. In the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) such money was not found and the border guards thought it too much to pay personally.

By the way, the border guards have for several occasions managed to win the Erna event, considered the hardest of the kind in the world. PPA, via press rep, cites opting out due to staff being uninterested.

By last night PPA provided answers regarding cost of headphones used by the staff as averaging €20, while special ones costing €300 to €400 are purchased for special units and strike teams.

Asked why it took Elmar Vaher over two months to pay for hiking boots bought with agency credit card, the press rep cited rules that prescribe reporting at end of month.  

Usually open with media, interior minister Hanno Pevkur (Reform) is tongue tied in the Mr Vaher issue and communicated via press service only. Yesterday, he remained out of reach despite the numerous phone calls. Written inquiries by Postimees went unanswered as well.   

No basis for proceeding

The prosecutor’s office, receiving the PPA credit card use details in December last year, decided that while use of money needs to be honest and transparent, there was «no basis for a criminal procedure as in our assessment the buys cannot be treated as embezzlement,» assured prosecutor’s office press representative Ilmar Kahro.

Interior ministry has initiated an audit into credit card use. Should an offence be suspected, the auditor will inform law and order agencies.

Credit of trust largely lost

Former PPA head now deputy head at Riigikogu anti-corruption committee Raivo Aeg (IRL) said the continued service of Elmar Vaher should not be decided emotionally but former career ought to be considered.

Mr Aeg admitted that such use of credit card seems weird and has triggered mixed emotions in him also. However, he does say it is rather usual for non-standard pieces of uniform to be purchased outside the logistics warehouse.    

The purchase of €300 headphones by credit card when headed for vacation may seem comical indeed, says Mr Aeg. Meanwhile, it is nothing special for people doing work while travelling or vacationing. Mr Aeg recalls travel times he used to work himself.

«Surely it could have been solved otherwise if he really needed the headphones,» thinks Mr Aeg. Now, however, he’d rather wait for the audit results by interior ministry.

Should Mr Vaher remain in office, Mr Aeg thinks he needs to restore trust. «He has lost a lot of trust credit,» noted Mr Aeg.