MPs to distribute €2.8 million in so-called Riigikogu protection money

The 101 delegates have €3 million to distribute, while every investment needs to be tied to a particular MP. PHOTO: Arvo Meeks

Parliamentary parties agreed to distribute direct investments or so-called Riigikogu protection money based on a new set of rules this year. The 101 delegates have €3 million to distribute, while every investment needs to be tied to a particular MP. As in previous years, there are plenty of examples of support paid to persons standing close to the party.

The change was spearheaded by members of the ruling Reform Party that has steered clear of the practice in recent years. Seven Reform MPs decided not to participate this year, with the money kept in the state budget instead of being distributed between the remaining MPs.

The aim of changes is to render direct investments more transparent. Coalition and opposition MPs get to hand out the same amount of money.

The total protection money sum will fall €3.94 million short of last year’s, dropping from €6.72 million in 2020 to €2.78 million this year.

Reform Party whip Mart Võrklaev said that it remains to be seen whether the changes will improve the situation and add transparency or whether additional measures will have to be taken.

Another important change is that NGOs and foundations need to produce the previous year’s annual report to qualify for direct investments. This makes it impossible to allocate funds for so-called last minute bodies created expressly for the purpose. It is also possible to support local governments this year, which opportunity several MPs have taken.

Closer look at sums still speaks of nepotism

Despite unprecedented protection money scrutiny, Riigikogu groups make no secret of supporting NGOs, institutions and local governments with ties to members. The following covers but a few examples.

Former Keila Deputy Mayor Timo Suslov (Reform) will allocate €25,000 to the Keila city government for the construction of a regulation public beach, while Erkki Keldo (Reform) will give €30,000 to the Põltsamaa Municipality government for lighting and sound equipment for the Põltsamaa Music School.

The Hostre Village Society, run by Loit Kivistik (Reform), stands to receive €10,000 from Sulev Kannimäe (Reform). The Pöide Sports Association, in Saaremaa, run by Reform Party members Jüri Linde and Raili Nõgu, is to be paid €20,000 by Tiiu Aru (Reform).

Lauri Läänemets (SDE), who won the elections in Türi Municipality and formed the coalition there, will gift the municipality government €10,000 for new benches for the elderly.

Social Democratic Party (SDE) MP Riina Sikkut will give €10,000 to fellow party members Pille Petersoo and Aivar Põlda who run the NGO Viimsi Mind Sports.

Center Party deputy whip Kersti Sarapuu has pledged €9,000 for party member Priit Seire’s Horse Farm Museum, while Centrist Maidu Aimse’s NGO Skamja stands to get €10,000 from Siret Kotka (Center) for development of civil society.

Opposition Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) MP Jaak Valge will allocate €12,000 to NGO Media Studies Center ran by EKRE member Aldo Maksimov. The money is meant for monitoring and analysis of media trends by the EKRE-affiliated NGO.

Põlva FC Lootos is looking at €6,000 from EKRE MP Merry Aart. The club is run by Indrek Käo who also heads EKRE’s Põlva branch and won the local elections with 498 votes.

The Tammepuu (Oak Tree) Estonian Club will take in €10,000 from Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa). Club President Evelin Sennett ran for Isamaa in Tallinn.

Isamaa Secretary General Priit Sibul aims to support the construction of the new playground of the Põlva Jacob’s School, filiate of the NGO Tartu Lutheran Peter’s School, with €5,000. Principal Tarvo Siilaberg and Põlva pastor Toomas Nigola are Isamaa members. The school operates in a building owned by the church.

Mental health and voluntary rescuers

If the single largest appropriation, made by a group of Center Party, EKRE and Isamaa MPs, went to anti-abortion NGO March of Life that received €171,000 last year, the biggest single sum of €50,000 will go to youth mental health promotors NGO Peaasjad this year, the lion’s share from Reform MPs Hele Everaus and Heidy Purga.

A sum of €49,000 will go to NGO Rõngu Voluntary Rescue Society from Reform MPs Toomas Järveoja, Valdo Randpere and Õnne Pillak.

Associations active in Tallinn and Tartu also dominated this year, with the capital looking at €782,000, Tartu €232,000 and Pärnu €101,000.

Harju County will receive €227,000 of the 2021 protection money, with Lääne-Viru County getting €143,000 and Jõgeva County €250,000.

MPs invested just €50,000 in Valga County, while Hiiu County took in the least last year.

The Riigikogu Finance Committee will combine all allocations in a single proposal to amend for the third reading of the 2021 budget bill. The third reading of next year’s budget is scheduled for early December.

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