Cheap car costs bureaucrat his job

  • 1999-10-14
  • By Kairi Kurm
TALLINN - A high-up employee in Estonia's Ministry of Finance has lost his job for allegedly taking advantage of his position to get a deep discount on a new car which he resold to a friend.

Minister of Finance Siim Kallas discredited Peep Lass, deputy secretary general, and dismissed him at once on Oct. 7. Peep Lass and his superior, Chancellor Agu Lepp, had purchased a new Audi A6 through procurement for 100,000 kroons ($6,860) less than its actual market price.

"When Siim Kallas started working as a minister, he gave no permission to buy cars," said Daniel Vaarik, spokesman for the Ministry of Finance. "In spite of that, Peep Lass bought an Audi A6 in March this year without the minister's knowledge and sold it a few days later to Chancellor Agu Lellep, who was to leave the ministry soon."

Peep Lass received the brand new Audi A6 for 330,000 kroons and sold it to Agu Lellep for the same price, although its actual market price is between 430 000 kroons and 450 000 kroons, Vaarik said.

"Peep Lass caused a significant loss to the ministry, while public property was sold for an unreasonably cheap price," said Vaarik. "His second mistake was that he did not have permission to make the deal."

The tradition of selling luxurious cars at a discount price to ministries is not new. Car companies use the practice to advertise their cars.

"Every ministry has a price limit set on the purchase of cars. If these car companies would not make good offers, the ministers and chancellors would drive much cheaper cars," said Vaarik.

This is not the first corruption case related to public property, said government spokesman Kaarel Tarand, but he believes that the Estonian nation is getting stronger and people are starting to value laws and act accordingly.

"Ethic norms are turning into a good tradition," said Tarand.