The Minister of Defence Margus Tsahkna replied to the interpellation concerning the effectiveness and of transparency defence expenditure (No. 268), submitted by members of the Riigikogu Ain Lutsepp, Krista Aru, Külliki Kübarsepp, Monika Haukanõmm, Artur Talvik, Andres Herkel and Andres Ammas on 18 October 2016.
he interpellators referred to the fact that Estonia would spend 2.17 per cent of GDP on national defence this year, which is a very large contribution compared to the majority of NATO countries. The budget is strained in a country like Estonia because there is no high productivity economy here. This means that we are close to reaching the limits of our capacity in terms of defence spending.
The interpellators noted that the National Centre for Defence and Security which will start activities as of the new year will be carrying out the procurements of the Ministry of Defence, the Defence Forces as well as other authorities of the area of government, and the administration and management the real estate. The interpellators wished to know how the minister saw the role of the new authority in ensuring the efficiency, transparency and lawfulness of the defence spending.
Tsahkna said that, in the area of government of the Ministry of Defence, the volumes of procurements have grown significantly over recent years and will increase even more in the coming years. “For example, while in 2010 investments and procurements for special defence equipment amounted to 57.3 million euro, by 2020 the forecast is already nearly 200 million euro,” the minister said. In his opinion, the rise has been significant. This means also that the whole organisation of the work, the organisation of procurements, and the supervision and transparency thereof is of utmost importance. The same goes also for the infrastructure. “The maintenance expenses on the registered immovables in the area of government of the Ministry of Defence were 9.8 million euro in 2010, for example, but in 2016 they amounted already to 16 million euro. This shows that we have indeed invested in and contributed to our infrastructure, but at the same time the related maintenance costs have risen significantly. This is something that we have to do and that actually helps increase defence capability,” Tsahkna explained.
Tsahkna said that, in order to ensure effective support to the Defence Forces and transparency and lawfulness of procurements within the limits of the existing resources, the Ministry of Defence had decided to concentrate the carrying out of procurements and the administration of the infrastructure into one authority. If until now the Ministry of Defence, and the relevant departments and divisions of the Support Command of the Defence Forces organised procurements, then, starting from 1 January 2017, one authority, the Centre for Defence Investments, will be in charge of this. The sectoral knowledge and experience of both the Ministry of Defence and the Defence Forces will be concentrated there.
“In our opinion this will help ensure that procurements are carried out on standard bases, and the same principles are adhered to,” the Minister of Defence noted. “The joint authority that will be established will harmonise the level of procurement and real estate management specialists, and will allow to better carry out trainings and to raise the qualification of employees. The sectors of procurements and administration have grown in volume and have become much more complicated, and a separate structure with a highly qualified staff who would ensure the lawfulness, effectiveness and transparency of procurements is needed to ensure efficient functioning these sectors.” He explained that the concentration of the knowledge and service into one authority will also help avoid duplication within the area of government where the same issue is dealt with simultaneously in different units.
The Minister of Defence said that the fact that we spend more than 2 per cent on defence spending is a significant contribution in the eyes of our international allies. Next year, allocations for defence spending are planned to total over 2.2 per cent of GDP, and we have agreed in the action programme for the new government that the defence spending of 2 per cent of GDP is the landmark that will not be changed,” Tsahkna confirmed. He said that, in addition, expenses will be necessary to host our allies and, besides that, there is an investment programme. This has been agreed upon in the Government’s Action Programme that will have to be launched within three years in 2018.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser replied to the interpellation concerning the ship guards (No. 269).
Substitute member Inara Luigas took her oath of office before the Riigikogu. At the extraordinary election of the Vice-Presidents of the Riigikogu, Enn Eesmaa became the First Vice-President of the Riigikogu and Taavi Rõivas became the Second Vice-President of the Riigikogu.
The sitting ended at 6.29 p.m.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
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