The state has no overview of the land and needs of local authorities

Toomas Mattson | 12/29/2010 | 11:51 AM

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TALLINN, 29 December 2010 - Although local authorities believe that they don't have enough land for the performance of their duties, there is no one in the state who knows exactly how much land local authorities have and what kind of land they need.

The National Audit Office prepared an overview of the land of municipalities, towns and cities by analysing land ownership and use since the start of the ownership reform. Preparation of the overview included reviewing the information about land entered in the state’s databases and the transactions with land concluded in 16 local authorities that have actively sold or encumbered their land. The overview is limited to the description of our observations about how about two decades of development have influenced the land of local authorities and what the results are. The problem that quick completion of the land reform has not been achieved was highlighted once again. As the overview focuses on the subject of municipal land more than the land reform, the National Audit Office has not considered the possible variants of completing the land reform.

Local authorities believe that the main problem they have is that they don't have enough land for the performance of their duties. When preparing the overview, the National Audit Office found that the local authorities’ need for land has not been ascertained and there is no overview of how much land they already have, as it is impossible to obtain comprehensive information about this from the state’s databases.

Municipalities, cities and towns received most of their land free from the state in the course of the land reform. Almost 15,000 plots of land with a total area of circa 30,000 hectares (i.e. less than 1% of all land registered in Estonia) had been given to local authorities like this by 2010. Local authorities obtained the remaining plots of land either by buying or inheriting them, by receiving them as gifts, and from the state when it sold its land to them. Some municipalities, cities and towns received hundreds of hectares of land (manor land that belonged to local authorities before 1940 or military land from the Soviet times) from the state in the course of the land reform and have used it for developments and earning income; others have had to acquire land.

The local authorities that have been given the most land in terms of area in the course of the land reform are the City of Tallinn (3,722 ha), the City of Tartu (1,315 ha) and Rae Municipality (1,084 ha). 40% of local authorities have received less than 50 hectares of land free of charge in the course of the land reform. The majority of this land (81%) is land given in municipal ownership on the basis of the resolutions of county governors while the decisions in remaining cases were made by the Government of the Republic, whose discretion in deciding on municipalisation was broader.

Strange schemes have been used for transferring municipal land mainly in earlier years and in only a few local authorities: for example, the Government of the Republic gave Viimsi Municipality hundreds of hectares of social and tens of hectares of residential land, which by now has mostly been sold, earlier than to anyone else – from 1993 to 1996. The representatives of the municipality say that this is why it now has no land for nursery schools, etc., as it was all sold.

The state’s databases give a complete overview of land owned by persons in private law, but it is impossible to say how much land in Estonia is owned by local authorities on the basis of the information contained in national databases. The reason is that municipalities, towns and cities do not have to enter the land in the Land Register. Only the land with which further transactions will be performed is generally registered.

The National Audit Office finds that entering land in the Land Register should be made mandatory for local authorities so that a complete overview of the land belonging to municipalities, towns and cities can be obtained, and state fees should be taken to a level that would allow account to be kept of municipal land at a reasonable expense.

In the cases where granting land to local authorities is decided by the Government of the Republic, the documents prepared by the Minister of Environment show that it is assessed whether or not the area for which land is requested is within the competency of the local government. One of the findings from recent years is that operating a business is not a task of local authorities and they have no right to receive residential, production and commercial land free of charge. However, rather large quantities of such land have been given to municipal ownership in earlier years. The National Audit Office finds that the Minister of Regional Affairs should be the most competent person to decide whether or not a task belongs among local government tasks when the decision to grant land is made.

At the same time, there is a lot of fertile soil that can breed distrust between the state and local authorities for as long as it’s possible for local authorities to obtain land in different ways, i.e. without or with charge and on the basis of justifications that contain subjective aspects and may therefore be non-transparent.

Toomas Mattson
Head of Communications Service, National Audit Office
640 0777
513 4900
toomas.mattson@riigikontroll.ee
 

  • Posted: 12/29/2010 11:51 AM
  • Last Update: 11/10/2015 5:54 PM
  • Last Review: 11/10/2015 5:54 PM

The National Audit Office finds that entering land in the Land Register should be made mandatory for local authorities so that a complete overview of the land belonging to municipalities, towns and cities can be obtained, and state fees should be taken to a level that would allow account to be kept of municipal land at a reasonable expense.

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