At today’s sitting, Auditor General Janar Holm gave the Riigikogu an overview of the use and preservation of state assets in 2021-2022 and the developments in the Estonian health care.
When introducing the audit on the national annual report, Holm said that the last year’s national annual accounts were in the main part correct, that is, they gave a correct and fair account of the financial position, financial performance and cash flows of the state. The audit contains a remark about the accounts on the fixed assets of the Defence Forces where problems have persisted for several years, according to the Auditor General.
Holm emphasised that the budget did not give clear instructions to the executive power on how and for what to use the funds. “If the purpose and limits of the use of the funds are not clearly known, it is not actually possible to meaningfully assess whether the Government and its agencies have followed the will of the Riigikogu in using the state budget funds. All Auditor Generals have underlined this problem throughout history,” he noted.
Holm pointed out on the positive side that, as a result of the amendment of the basic Act on the state budget for 2022, the State Budget for 2022 Act had become more detailed. “So the Riigikogu gave the executive power slightly clearer limits in the use of public funds. It is a sensible course that the Riigikogu regain its intrinsic decision-making right and obligation,” the Auditor General said.
In Holm’s words, the problem lies in performance-based budgeting in so far as Estonia’s state budget is not essentially performance-based. “As long as there are no clear agreements, specific targets, or users of outcomes in the performance-based budgeting, it will be certain that a lot of work is done that no one will need in the end. This is definitely not a sensible use of resources,” he emphasised.
When speaking of the overview of the Estonian health care and its developments, Holm said that the Estonian people had to be ready for a situation where health care services were not habitually and uniformly available with even quality everywhere in the country. He indicated that the main cause of the problem was the shortage of health care professionals which had been known for years but had kept aggravating.
“During these years there has been no shortage of meaningful and thorough analyses of the problems in the health care sector, or development plans aimed at solving the problems. There has been a shortage of the skills to implement the agreed goals, and the capability and courage to make decisions,” the Auditor General said. In his opinion, it will not be possible to return to the habitually available medical service any time soon as there is no quick solution to the staff problems.
In conclusion, Holm emphasised that the state had core functions that had a bearing on people’s lives. “It is important that, besides thinking up all kinds of new wonderful and expensive activities, we would also spare attention to widely known problems that have been waiting for a solution for years. These old problems are continuing to wait for solutions and to wait for decisions. If we fail to decide, life will make these decisions for us, and we will no longer have much of a say then.”
During the debate, Helmen Kütt took the floor on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction, Peeter Ernits on behalf of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, Aivar Kokk on behalf of Faction Isamaa, Margit Sutrop on behalf of the Estonian Reform Party Faction and Viktor Vassiljev on behalf of the Estonian Centre Party Faction.
A draft Resolution passed the first reading
The consolidated report to be approved by the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Approval of the Consolidated Report of 2021 of the State” (686 OE), submitted by the Government, gives an overview of the achievement of the goals set in the state budget, and of the financial position, financial performance and cash flows of the state. The consolidated report of 2021 of the state consists of the management report, the consolidated and the unconsolidated annual accounts of the state, and information on local governments, the public sector, and the government sector. The consolidated report also includes the audit report of the National Audit Office.
The first reading of a Bill was adjourned
Due to the end of the working hours of the sitting, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Tobacco Act (654 SE), initiated by eight members of the Riigikogu, was adjourned.
The Bill is intended to regulate the use of tobacco-free snus and to adjust other provisions in order to ensure the safety of products and the availability of compliant and high-quality products for consumers. In the words of the initiators, the amendments will also help reduce the daily passive smoking and move Estonia down from its current third ranking in terms of tobacco deaths in Europe.
Among other things, the Bill will create the possibility for consumers to acquire laboratory-verified flavoured electronic cigarette liquids, will prohibit the sale of tobacco products and products related to tobacco products the packages of which display cartoon characters and toys, and will provide for new rules for national distance sales in order to ensure better opportunities for smokers to quit smoking with the help of less dangerous products.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)
The video recording of the sitting will be available to watch later on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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