TALLINN – The Estonian Ministry of Finance has closed a misdemeanor proceeding that looked into the award and modification of framework and procurement contracts by the Ministry of Education and Research for the procurement of rapid COVD test kits for schools in 2021.
"Understandably, the situation last autumn was tense -- restrictions were in place, people were overwhelmed with anxiety, and there was a lot of uncertainty and confusion in society about the rapidly spreading coronavirus," Kristel Mesilane, head of the public procurement and state aid department at the Ministry of Finance, said in a press release on Friday.
"In order to keep schools open, the government decided suddenly that the Ministry of Education and Research must start rapid testing of children and teachers in schools after the autumn school break. The ministry was in a situation where solutions to ensure testing had to be found quickly. At the same time, both the public and businesses had a legitimate expectation that the budget allocated for the purchase of the test kits would be distributed in a fair and transparent competition and in accordance with public procurement rules," the official said.
Since an oversight procedure conducted with regard to the procurement of the kits for rapid tests revealed irregularities in the conclusion and amendment of the procurement contract, the Ministry of Finance started misdemeanor proceedings in two episodes -- the conclusion of the framework and procurement contracts in the second procurement of kits for rapid tests, and the amendment of the contract.
In the misdemeanor proceeding, the Ministry of Education and Research was found to have committed breaches in the implementation of the Public Procurement Act. However, the former minister of education and research was found not to be liable for the commission of those breaches pursuant to the misdemeanor procedure. Whereas under law, the conclusion and amendment of contracts in violation of the Public Procurement Act is subject to punishment, only the execution of the offense is punishable, and the law does not provide for the punishment of other persons.
The proceedings were terminated on the basis of Section 29 (1) subindent 1 of the Code of Misdemeanor Procedure, and the termination order enters into force 15 days after its notification, provided that there are no counterarguments. As long as the order has not entered into force, the Ministry of Finance cannot comment on the decision in more detail on the basis of Section 62 of the Code of Misdemeanor Procedure.
The Ministry of Finance is the body conducting extra-judicial proceedings on public procurement related misdemeanors as provided for in the Public Procurement Act.