Nurkse crisis timeline
This page summarises the timeline of the developments at the Ragnar Nurkse Department.
The timeline is being updated continuously.
- 14.03.19: SMS message from +1 (206) 3 ** - ** 32 arrives at the Rector's phone. “I was told to text this number tomorrow morning about Fraud/Corruption at TalTech RND department. Mostly reduced to H2020 funds. Tomorrow will call with a different number. I will try to call around 08:30. I have evidence of systematic and institutionalized fraud”; a meeting in the Rector's office is arranged.
- 15.03.19: At 11:45 the Rector meets a person who introduces himself as a Nurkse PhD student. The student asks for complete confidentiality, which the Rector promises to guarantee. The student explains that the Nurkse Department systematically falsifies research project documents, in particular by paying fees to non-participants in the projects; mentions several projects, including his OGI project, as well as TOOP and others;
to support his claims, the PhD student demonstrates on a computer screen project documents, in particular concerning the project with the participation of the PhD student, stating that they are inaccurate;
the Rector confirms that the arguments presented are convincing to indicate the seriousness of the problem and promises to take action.
- 03.19.19: The PhD student sends an additional hint via SMS: “2 updates. 1) I have confirmed this behaviour/fraud has been going on since FP7 (2007) 2) The EU AntiFraud unit is looking into it”; the student sends her Estonian phone number; the Rector thanks.
- 27.03.19: Meeting with the Vice Rector for Research and Chief Auditor at the invitation of the Rector to discuss the need for a special audit of the reliability of cost reporting for H2020 projects. The Rector refers to the need for special audits to cover Nurkse Department projects (without explicit reference to the PhD student project).
- 01.04.19: The Rector gives a formal order by e-mail to initiate a special audit.
- 28.05.19: The student asks Rector about developments: “Any updates on what has happened here? I haven’t seen or heard anything happening, getting a bit nervous, especially with FinEst twins coming soon”. The student raises an additional suspicion of apartment-related corruption: “The Wolfgang Drechsler apartment is being paid for (upkeep costs) by the university and when it comes to visiting the professors. Corruption.” The inquiries of the Rector to the Director for Administration regarding the guest apartment do not confirm the suspicions - the accommodation of visiting lecturers has previously been by a proper contract;
the Rector does not answer the student's request.
- 17.06.19: a special audit involving the H2020 project TOOP led by Professor Krimmer at the Nurkse Department ends. No material breach is detected;
the University will not take any further steps.
- 19.08.19: Postimees journalist Oliver Kund calls the Rector at the end of the day to ask if the Rector knows Keegan McBride and if he has been given clues about corruption at the Nurkse Department;
the Rector denies knowing McBride and promises to clarify it by email;
at 5:58 p.m. e-mail from Kund, the Rector replies, promising to provide more details on the following working day 21.08.
- 20.08.19: Additional email from Oliver Kund with questions referring to a whistleblower.
- 21.08.19: Request from Oliver Kund to send an audit memo; the Rector asks to arrange.
- 22.08.19: Postimees publishes article "TTÜ's dark secret: a reputable department systematically cheated on euro grants."
- 22.08.09: Decision to set up an investigation committee under the leadership of the Vice Rector for Research to investigate the allegations of the Postimees article, Interim report within one week (formal resolution of 23.08.19).
- 22.08.19: At 12 p.m. University Press Conference with the Rector, Vice Rector for Research and Head of Research Administration Office.
- 22.08.19: The PhD student identifies himself as Keegan McBride, a PhD student at the Nurkse Department. The whistleblower's request for confidentiality ends.
- 23.08.19: University Board of Governors Meeting; the Rector informs the Board of Governors of the circumstances. The Board of Governors instructs the University Audit Committee to present its report for the next Board meeting.
- 23.08.19: McBride meets the investigation committee; the information received does not serve as a basis for reporting the crime, but the Committee does not rule out a possible offense. McBride informs the Committee that it has already applied to the Central Criminal Police in the spring.
- 26.08.19: The Rector informs the members of the Rector’s Office about the subject and known facts.
- 26.08.19: The Rector meets staff of the Nurkse Department; the meeting does not raise the issue of misconduct; reference is made to the need to clarify all the facts before making substantive decisions.
- 26.08.19: Rector Jaak Aaviksoo, Deputy Chairman of the investigation committee Tõnu Pihelgas and Erkki Karo, Director of the Nurkse Department, explain the case to the University's members.
- 26.08.19: The Rector considers that the chances of the University in reaching a public confidence crisis solely through its internal procedure are unrealistic. On this basis, the Rector addresses the Prosecutor's Office by letter confirming its willingness to cooperate fully with the investigative bodies.
- 27.08.19: The prosecution announced the initiation of criminal proceedings under a leniency clause.
- 01.09.19: Vice Rector for Research Renno Veinthal forwards the interim report of the investigation committee on 01.09 to the Senior Prosecutor and Investigator.
- 02.09.19: A press conference of the Technical University takes place to present to the public the interim results of the investigation committee.
- 03.09.19: The Rector instructs the Deans, in cooperation with the directors of their subordinate departments, to conduct a review of the management of all ongoing H2020 projects.
- 04.09.19: The Rector meets Minister Mailis Reps. The initiation of the MER procedure is announced.
- 05.09.19: A letter of request from the criminal case handler for further information arrives at the University.
- 05.09.19: The Rector asks Director for Administration Joosep Kaasik to organise the opening of a hotline at the university.
- 06.09.19: The University sends a letter (along with an e-mail) to the European Commission's REA (Research Executive Agency) by courier. The letter informs REA of the problem with the project. The project officer is Luis Garcia-Dominguez.
- 20.09.19: TalTech investigation committee proposes to the Rector to extend the deadline for the final report by one week in order to analyse the information received from the European Commission Coordinator and finalise the report. The Rector extends the term.
- 30.09.19: The committee sends the final report to the Rector for consultation, who consults with the university's management in this regard.
- 07.10.19: Discussions in the Rectorate and decisions on next steps.
- 08.10.19: The University publicly announces findings and decisions of the final report: Commission of Inquiry found violation of university rules, no evidence of fraud found. It was decided to: 1) Re-examine the entire field of project management at the University and make the necessary changes to ensure smooth and compliant project management; 2) Make a further contribution to strengthening the project management support system at the University; 3) Deploy University-wide comprehensive project management software.
- 10.10.19: Final report of the investigation committee.
- 18.10.19: An analysis by the university's finance department and lawyers reveals that the Nurkse Informant's corruption accusation of Professor Drechsler's lease contract is unfounded.
- 23.10.19: Erkki Karo's opinion story in Eesti Päevaleht, the summary is available on the TalTech intranet: The scientific world is like a lottery, but financers cannot be deceived.