Auditor General Mihkel Oviir

5/4/2010 | 1:32 PM

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Mihkel Oviir has been the Auditor General since 25 February 2003 when he was assigned to this post by the Riigikogu. On 26 February 2008 the parliament assigned him to the post for another term of office. This makes Oviir the first Auditor General after Estonia regained its independence who has been kept in office for the second term, which lasts for five years like the first one.

Oviir was born during the Second World War, on 11 October 1942, in Märjamaa where his father Madis Oviir, who later became a legendary pastor, worked as the headmaster of the local school. Oviir has five brothers and sisters.

Oviir graduated from Tallinn Secondary School No. 18 in 1962. After serving in the Soviet Navy for four years, he started working as an inspector in the Tallinn-Nõmme Firefighting Unit where he investigated the causes of fires. At the same time Oviir also started to study law in Tartu State University. He graduated from the Faculty of Law cum laude in 1975.

Before he became the Auditor General, Oviir worked in the Ministry of Justice for almost 30 years, holding such positions as consultant and Assistant Minister. In the 1980s Oviir worked as the Head of Economic Law Department. During the period of perestroika in the Soviet Union, Oviir supervised the development of legislation that made it possible for people to establish cooperatives and organised the creation of other pre-market economy legislation that enabled people to start using private initiative in the economic sphere in the conditions of the Soviet power. It can be said that Oviir’s work was a prelude to the restoration of market economy in the end of the 1980s and the start of the 1990s.

In 1992 the Minister of Justice of the first constitutional government Kaido Kama asked Mihkel Oviir to build the new Ministry of Justice of the independent country and he became the first secretary-general of a ministry in Estonia after the restoration of independence. He worked in this position for ten years and coordinated the development of the base legislation of the state and later its harmonisation with the laws of the European Union.

Oviir was also the expert of the European Council in Armenia and Georgia from 1999 to 2000.

In 2002 the parliament appointed Oviir Deputy Chancellor of Justice-Adviser and he worked in this position until he was assigned to the post of Auditor General a year later.

As the Auditor General, Mihkel Oviir believes that it is most important to conduct performance audits that would benefit the state as much as possible and create added value for the Riigikogu. Oviir’s principle is that the National Audit Office investigates the past to the extent required for making better decisions about the future. It must be possible to draw conclusions for future conduct from every audit. It is only then that they have value and the money spent on the audit has not gone to waste. In Oviir’s opinion it is very important to foresee subjects in audits that may become important in 5 or 10 years' time and to give the parliament input about these problems as early as possible.

Auditor General Oviir also emphasises the importance of environmental audits. In 2005 the National Audit Office was given the Green Deed Award in recognition of the environmental audits conducted under his management. The award is issued by the Estonian Chamber of Environmental Associations that acts as the umbrella organisation of non-government organisations in this area. In 2007 the National Audit Office won some worldwide recognition: the National Audit Office was trusted with the management of the biggest working group of national audit offices – the environmental audit working group. Mihkel Oviir is the president of the working group.

The Auditor General expects the employees of the National Audit Office to be extremely professional and have in-depth knowledge of the issues they audit as this is how the auditor of the state or the National Audit Office can improve the functionality of the state by giving competent recommendations and contributing to the smart use of the taxpayers’ money.

Mihkel Oviir is one of the founders of the Estonian Association of Lawyers and he was also its first president. He was also a member of the council of the Association of Lawyers.

In 2001 the President of Estonia awarded him the Order of the White Star for his significant contribution to the restoration of the state’s independence.

In 2008 the President of the Federal Republic of Germany awarded Mihkel Oviir the Great Cross of Merit to recognise him as a person who contributed to the restoration of legal and political structures in the 1990s after Estonia regained her independence and helped to strengthen mutual relationships between Estonia and Germany.

Mihkel Oviir is married, his wife Siiri Oviir is a lawyer, politician (the Central Party), and a member of the European Parliament Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe). They have three grown-up daughters, who are all lawyers.

Oviir appreciates a healthy way of life – he has regularly worked out in gyms and swimming pools. He also loves concerts, reading and spending time with his grandchildren.

Others about Mihkel Oviir:

“Oviir is a warm person, his advantages are his vast experience, communication skills, the ability to back and trust the right people, innovation, sense of humour, punctuality and sportiness. However, as a lawyer he wants to regulate everything too much and is not very flexible. Sometimes he is too certain of his truth and does not listen to the opinions of others.”

Priidu Pärna, Notar Public, successor of Oviir as the Secretary-General in the Ministry of Justice

“The ability to see the big picture helps him understand the connection between the specific and the general. He manages to stay grounded even when others get carried away by some extravagant project or other. It is not easy to make Oviir change his opinion, but he is still able to admit when he's wrong. However, it is hard to stop him when he has a goal in his sight.”

Allar Jõks, former Chancellor of Justice

Source: Maaleht, 3 April 2003

  • Posted: 5/4/2010 1:32 PM
  • Last Update: 4/29/2013 4:27 PM
  • Last Review: 4/29/2013 4:27 PM

Mihkel Oviir has been serving as Auditor General of Estonia since 2003.

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