Institutions of executive power and the public service

Solving single cases, using shaping policies and administrative acts and procedures is not consistently separated in Estonia. The initial idea of administrative management envisioned a ministry as a designer of policies in a particular area; offices and inspectorates, as well as county governments and local governments, carry out administrative acts and procedures to deal with specific cases that are closely related to everyday life. This means that analyzing areas, working out proposals and managing the execution of laws should be the responsibility of ministries, but the real implementation of laws should be the task of an office, an inspectorate, a county government or some other establishment.

In many fields, an office is added to the ministry. For instance, in 2010 the separate Public Procurement Office was closed down and the Ministry of Finance assumed its responsibilities. Joining together offices and inspectorates with similar goals has also been quite common. To assure the independence of an office or an inspectorate, in the cases of the Data Protection Agency and the Prosecutions Division, for instance, additional measures have been taken, including involving the parliament in the procedure of electing the prime minister. The Competition Authority operates as an independent regulator. The Financial Supervision Authority was created in 2002, joining the functions of the Ministry of Finance’s Insurance Supervision Authority and Securities Inspectorate and Banking Supervision Authority, and attached to the Estonian Bank instead of the Ministry of Finance.

Since government institutions execute direct power, their employees are in a special position as well — they are known as public servants, whose employment conditions are stipulated by the Public Service Act and not by a contract of employment. Officials are appointed, in conformance with previously set terms. According to the Public Service Act, the process of negotiating working conditions is restricted when an official is recruited. In practice, the salary arrangements of officials have turned out to be different in different establishments, especially in ministries, where in the years of the economic boom their salaries at times even exceeded the salaries of ministers, members of the Riigikogu and judges. Attempts to restore a common hierarchy of salaries have failed. “Minor” officials usually have transparent salaries. Because of budget restraints, there’s no room for negotiating the amounts, and the salaries are considerably lower than in ministries. To assure that officials do their jobs with proficiency and neutrality, stricter qualifications are generally required; some measures against corruption are necessary, too.

The apparatus of executive authority must fulfil the constitutional functions of the state. One of the most important of these is to secure the survival of Estonian nationhood and culture. A prominent role in this regard is played by the institutions of public law. The essential institutions from the point of view of developing and maintaining national culture include, first of all, six state universities: University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn University, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Estonian Academy of Arts, and Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre; the Estonian national opera, the National Library, the Estonian Academy of Sciences, and also the Estonian Public Broadcasting. Public law organisations have an independent legal status and a considerable freedom in their relations with the ministries.

A number of state agencies, administered by government institutions, have been established in order to offer various public services, e.g. theatres, museums, welfare institutions or state schools (most schools are administered by local governments). Similar state institutions do not directly execute the state power, but their functioning is carried out on the basis of the same principles as the government institutions — it can only occur in accordance with the law. To fulfil its tasks, the state can set up public limited companies, private law foundations and non-profit organisations. In addition to non-privatised state companies, of which only a few have remained (e.g. Estonian Energy), the state has established dozens of new ones. Mention can be made here of Enterprise Estonia and AS Andmevara (company operating in the field of information technology), or the Tartu University Clinic, created in collaboration with the city of Tartu, the University of Tartu and the state, which constitutes the supporting pillar of the entire South-Estonian health system.

Partly due to the initiative of right-wing parties, the state has in recent years often used the help of the private sector, establishing contractual relations with already existing companies and third sector organisations. Parking in Tallinn, for instance, is arranged by a private security firm. Following examples from abroad, plans to privatise prisons have also been considered as well. Although third sector organisations have not so far been extensively used in executing public authority, the co-operation in various spheres of life, e.g. in welfare services, has been quite successful.

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