Corruption suspects still employed

Risto Berendson
, uuriva toimetuse juht
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Photo: Raul Mee / Scanpix

The North Estonia Regional Hospital (PERH), that has found itself involved in two corruption scandals in the past six months, still employs three executives whom the prosecution associates with criminal offenses.

The people still involved in the daily running of the hospital are IT chief Marko Kilk, head of catering Anu Vähi, and technical director Ivo Milli.

It is understandable why technical director Ivo Milli, who was detained following suspicions of accepting €50,000 in bribes last week, is still employed by the hospital as PERH has not been able to discuss the situation with the suspect due to his remaining in custody.

“We will make a decision concerning employment in the near future,” said chairman of the board Agris Peedu. “His powers have been suspended until such time.” Peedu added that the hospital has terminated the contract of another employee with ties to the case.

The question why Kilk and Vähi remain in gainful employment is more complicated. Neither have officially been taken into custody whereas suspicions against them were brought six months ago.

Even though former head of the hospital Tõnis Allik resigned in connection with the same investigation last summer, his two alleged accomplices continue to hold prominent positions in the hospital.

The board of PERH explained that Kilk and Vähi have been deprived of the right to sign off on financial transactions and participate in tenders for the duration of the investigation.

For example, Marko Kilk cannot enter into or sign contracts for the hospital. The hospital is currently in the middle of an approximately €4 million procurement to find an IT developer.

“Authorization of IT invoices and the power to enter into contracts in IT reside with the board member responsible for the field,” Peedu said. “The IT director is not participating in the work of procurement committees.”

Another reason why the suspects are still working at the hospital is the presumption of innocence. The trial of Kilk and Vähi is set to begin in spring.

The Office of the Prosecutor General officially charged the pair towards the end of last year. Head of catering Vähi is charged with accepting a bribe, more specifically acting in the interests of a procurement participant that has also been charged in the case.

IT chief Kilk is charged with fraud and embezzlement. Kilk allegedly went on family holidays that were paid for by a company that was developing IT systems for the hospital which he tried to pass off as trainings.

Kilk is not the first IT executive employed by the state who is allowed to keep working until a court decision is made in their case. Years ago, the internal security service prosecuted then head of the IT department of the education ministry Jaanus Christoffel who also stayed on until he was convicted.

Christoffel was handed a conditional sentence for accepting a paid trip to Ireland and a restaurant voucher. He was banned from working in the public sector for a year.