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The government supported the plan to merge the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate

Today, the government supported the plan proposed by the Ministry of the Environment to merge the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate.

The merger of the Environmental Board, a body which implements the policy of environmental use, environmental protection, and radiation safety, and the Environmental Inspectorate, which performs environmental supervision, is part of the state reform action plan that was approved by the government on 1 August last year. The cabinet has now, after reviewing a relevant analysis, given a green light to proceed with the merger and the Ministry of the Environment is preparing a draft law for making the required amendments to legislation which will soon be submitted to the government.

‘Based on an analysis, we are convinced that by merging the two authorities, we can improve and make the services in environmental areas more effective,’ said Rene Kokk, Minister of the Environment. The Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate already work in close cooperation with each other, but there is no doubt that there is strength in unity. It is also clear that it will be easier for people to manage their affairs on environmental matters in one institution. In conclusion, the merger will benefit both the environment and the society.’

The merger of the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate will also reduce costs, in particular, through more efficient use of vehicles and immovable property. Decrease in wage costs is not expected, as the wage level in the environmental sector is significantly below the average of the rest of the public sector.

Jaak Aab, Minister of Public Administration, noted that the joint institution which will be established in the framework of the state reform must be represented in all counties. ‘We are actively involved in the implementation of the state houses project with the public administration experts of the Ministry of Finance to create a modern working environment for the institution in county centres and give it flexibility in providing services.’

The merger of the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate has been planned in the past but has not received sufficient political support. One of the counterarguments has been the question of maintaining supervisory independence. The fear of losing independence is based on the misconception that the Environmental Inspectorate supervises the activities of the Environmental Board, including the issuance of environmental permits. In reality, the Environmental Inspectorate exercises supervision over compliance with laws and permit requirements, not over the Environmental Board. The Environmental Inspectorate is responsible for supervision in all environmental areas, handles environmental misdemeanours, and as an investigative body, environmental crimes. In order to obtain an independent assessment of the issue of supervision, a legal analysis was commissioned from the law firm AB Eversheds Sutherland Ots ja Co, which confirmed that the independence of the authorisation procedure and supervision would be maintained after the merger.

As it has also been proposed that the Environmental Inspectorate be merged with the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), the PPA was also asked about their position on the matter during the analysis. The Police and Border Guard Board took the view that it is not advisable and does not support the idea of merging the Environmental Inspectorate with the PPA.

The Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate have a total of 512 employees. The official address of the new institution will be in Pärnu. Both institutions already have offices throughout Estonia. According to the current plan, the new institution which will be established by the merger will start working under the name of the Environmental Board on 1 January 2021.

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