Ex-prosecutor: Not clear how far minister was involved in own ECA candidacy

Key to a current controversy on the nomination of Minister of Finance Keit Pentus-Rosimannus to the poast of Estonia's representative to the European Court of Auditors (ECA) is the extent to which the minister was involved in that nomination process, a former state prosecutor says.

Norman Aas, former a lawyer and former state prosecutor, said that nominating the Minister of Finance as a member of the Court of Auditors is not against the regulation itself, though more distance could have been placed between the finance minister and the appointment process, for instance if she had stepped down as minister and returned to the Riigikogu (government ministers do not sit at the Riigikogu, regardless of whether they won a Riigikogu seat – ed.).

Aas told ERR radio news show "Uudis+" that: "In principle, there is no complete ban [on the finance minister becoming ECA representative]; the Minister of Finance, or another minister, can become the ECA representative. It is true that anti-corruption legislation prohibits influencing processes which affect the person themselves, however, and care must be taken to ensure that the person completely withdraws from this appointment process."

The issue is also one of the ECA post becoming politicized where it should not be, Aas went on.

He said: "Filling such rather apolitical positions on the basis of political agreement necessarily raises questions, and especially if individuals are involved, the process should have been thought through better."

This also raises the question of the extent to which the finance minister was involved in her nomination Aas said; naturally she could not have been completely divorced from it in the sense that she had to submit her resume, for instance, but information is needed on the extent to which she contributed, as a politician, to the political aspects of the process, before any judgement call can be made on whether there was any conflict of interest or not.

Furthermore, whose impetus Pentus-Rosimannus' nomination was based on was also relevant – for instance did the direction come from the government office, or from the finance ministry, or even from the minister herself, Aas went on.

Since nothing, so far as is known, was done which is illegal, it is unlikely that misdemeanor proceedings will be initiated, Aas added.

The potential involvement of Pentus-Rosimannus in her own nomination first came to light in an opinion piece – one of several which have recently appeared which focus more on shedding light on alleged misdeeds within officialdom, in fact – penned by another former state prosecutor, Steven Hristo Evestus, while Riigikogu speaker and Center Party leader said the idea of Pentus-Rosimannys being a potential new ECA representative for Estonia, replacing Juhan Parts, whose term ends at the end of this year, was first touted while his party was in office with Reform.

Read the article at ERR.