TALLINN – Estonia's Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna announced her resignation on Thursday, in the wake of a report that the Office of the Prosecutor General has opened criminal proceedings to investigate the circumstances of a contract signed by the Ministry of Education and Research for the acquisition of rapid coronavirus tests for schools in October 2021.
Kersna told public broadcaster ERR she will submit her resignation to Prime Minister Kaja Kallas as soon as the latter returns to Estonia from the NATO summit.
State Prosecutor Laura Aiaots explained that in the crime report filed with the prosecutor's office, suspicion of a criminal offense was raised in three episodes -- the conclusion of two contracts and the amendment of one procurement contract. The criminal proceedings were opened with regard to a contract concluded in October last year.
"The criminal proceedings were opened on the basis of the sections of the Penal Code set out in the report of criminal offense, which concern breach of public procurement requirements and abuse of trust. This is a decision taken on the basis of tentative information, which is subject to change during the proceedings. No one has been declared suspect at this point, and whether there are grounds to declare anyone suspect, and who, will become clear during the proceedings," the state prosecutor explained.
"All public sector decisions and processes must be transparent and must be and also appear honest. In the event of reasonable doubt, the only possible way to establish all the facts is to commence criminal proceedings. Only in criminal proceedings is it possible to perform acts that can be used to determine whether all requirements have been complied with in the conduct of public procurement proceedings and conclusion of the contract," Aiaots added.
The proceedings are supervised by the Office of the Prosecutor General and conducted by the Internal Security Service.
Kersna said ahead of a vote on a no-confidence motion against her in the Riigikogu on June 16 that if the prosecutor's office starts investigating the decisions made at the ministry with regard to the procurement of rapid tests, she will step down from the position of minister.
"I will resign on the same day that the prosecutor's office decides to open an investigation," Kersna told lawmakers.