Party members put on appointment committee

Reet Pärgma
, ajakirjanik
Photo: Madis Sinivee

The government approved the new composition of the state company supervisory boards appointment committee that includes Isamaa politician Reet Roos and EKRE member Argo Luude.

The new committee is made up of Toomas Tamsar for the Estonian Employers Confederation, Argo Luude for the Ministry of Finance, Kaido Padar for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and Reet Roos for the Ministry of Justice, the government’s communications bureau said.

While the initial idea of the appointment committee created in 2017 was to man it with apolitical members, the new composition includes two members sporting a party background. Reet Roos is a member of Isamaa, while Argo Luude belongs to the Conservative People’s Party (EKRE).

A lot of work ahead

Kaido Padar, who could be elected committee chair according to Postimees’ information, said he was contacted because he has worked in the public sector and knows how state companies operate. “I would not like to discuss the suitability or unsuitability of the other members. I presume every minister chose their candidate based on their professional character. As concerns Isamaa’s Reet Roos, I know her, and she is a good person. I do not really know Luude from EKRE.

“I can tell you that I did not join the committee to have fun. I do not want to see politically motivated decisions or those that run along party lines. The work of the committee will no doubt be challenging, and there is a lot of it. We need to man quite a few supervisory boards as many contracts are about to expire,” Padar said.

Isamaa member Sven Sester, who was present for the creation of the committee in 2017, said that the aim was to kick MPs off supervisory boards and make sure supervisory boards were manned with qualified members whose expertise would benefit state companies.

Sester emphasized that party affiliation should be neither an advantage nor an obstacle for members. “Otherwise, we run the risk of making a mockery of the process. One the one hand, we want experienced and entrepreneurial people to come to politics, while we close other doors for them by extending them the invitation,” he said.

Impeccable reputation

Sester said he does not perceive a problem with Reet Roos. “She has extensive business management experience and is at the top in her field. She puts most Estonian businessmen to shame. We should not make party membership an advantage or a disadvantage. However, an MP should definitely not sit on a state company supervisory board.”

The State Assets Act prescribes that a member of the appointment committee must be a recognized business and management expert with extensive and international experience and an impeccable reputation in the world of business. Asked what is meant by the latter, Sester said they proceeded based on the Credit Institutions Act. “The definition was included there. Quality standards were quite high, which is what we wanted for the appointment committee,” he said.

The Credit Institutions Act defines impeccable reputation very clearly, also by stating that a person’s reputation is not impeccable if they have been punished, charged, suspected or otherwise tied to an offense.

Argo Luude and a company he owns were found guilty of a cartel agreement in the form of a coordinated bid at the Tartu street-cleaning public procurement in 2012.

“I cannot comment on that. The relevant question is whether the punishment will follow him for all time. Whether it is an act the legal validity of which is of consequence. We need to discuss this matter as a society,” Sester said.

The previous composition of the appointment committee included Sven Pertens whom the prosecution charged with fostering alleged benefit fraud. Even though circuit court acquitted Pertens in April of 2018, the charge left him with a less than impeccable reputation in the meaning of the Credit Institutions Act.

Comment by Jevgeni Ossinovski, former healthcare and labor minister

The purpose of creating the appointment committee was the opposite – to stop the politicization of state company supervisory boards. It was the desire of then finance minister Sven Sester by having a nonpolitical body in charge of appointing supervisory boards. It seems it has now been decided to return to the old system. What this change means in reality is that party secretaries general will be in charge of manning supervisory boards.

What surprises me the most is not that it was changed, but that Isamaa that was the most vocal concerning the need for an appointment committee has now infiltrated it.

Why did the party change its mind? I believe that past decisions are no longer of interest to current leader Helir-Valdor Seeder. He can plant his people where they bring him direct influence and benefit.

The powers of current supervisory board members will expire soon, after which the committee will find a more suitable candidate who is either a member or friend of a party. Just as it worked in the past.