Editorial: the inequality commissioner

Hey, I got this new inside job and I need someone to catch mice? Wanna hop on board?

PHOTO: Urmas Nemvalts

Backscratching. In one form or another, it does exist in all of today's societies, West included. Even so, there is this overall consensus in the West that ethically and morally nepotism is to be deplored in governmental structures and at posts requiring creativity and high qualification. In numerous countries, preferring friends and relatives is forbidden by law and earnestly fought against. In Poland, for instance, all civil servants are required to notify their employer who of their relatives are in business. If they do not, fines or sacking may follow.

Sure, it’s one thing to hire or favour one’s friends or relatives who possess the skills or knowhow needed for the job at hand. An another matter altogether, if the «edge» is being a relative. Such practice is against equal treatment and principles of competition, depriving qualified candidates the opportunity to operate on the market.  

Regarding the corruption suspicion of former gender equality commissioner Mari-Liis Sepper who two years back entered a legal assistance contract with her brother Kalle-Kaspar Sepper – the sum the brother’s law office got wasn’t big so personal gain is not the issue.

Rather, it raises the ethical and moral aspects, as well as questions of what is and isn’t acceptable in civil service. Seeing that an important job for this commissioner is supervising the keeping of the law. Essentially, by offering work for her brother, Ms Sepper has herself violated conflict of interest and Anti-corruption Act. According to roles, the consent for brother to be hired ought to have come by social minister, but Ms Sepper never asked.

The equality commissioner’s bureau has justified the incident by the matter being urgent; namely, this was about a representative needed for a labour dispute. This, however, cannot be an excuse as from the Roman Empire laws and keeping of them have been a basic principle in Western society. Seeing that the laws a such were born as an alternative to the right of the stronger and the more privileged. Therefore, whoever is set to supervise the keeping of the law must take special diligence. At that, may they never forget that there is such a thing as unwritten law also to be honoured, as in addition to legal norms there are the ethical and moral norms of behaviour of how to act and conduct oneself in society.