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Finance ministry omitted key financial information in reform package, paper reports

Ministry officials likely noticed a 210-million-euro hole in government's social and health reform package but did not inform parliament, says daily.

Eduskunnan kyselytunti
File photo of Finnish Parliament. Image: Yle
Yle News

There appears to have been an unusual lack of trust between Finland's finance ministry officials and parliament as MPs prepared government's now-failed social and health care reforms, according to emails obtained by newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.

The paper reported on Friday that it had seen email communications that indicated the ministry may have concealed a funding shortfall of 210 million euros in government's social and health care reform plan from the committee charged with reviewing the plan.

The contentious reforms, colloquially known as "sote," eventually collapsed, bringing down Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's government early last month. Sote had run into obstacles over proposed regional government elections and the expanded role of private care providers in the new system.

According to HS, the key budget information the ministry quashed dealt with financing programmes to assist agricultural workers find different careers as well as funding immigrant integration services.

Due to a lack of time, financing for the services mentioned in government's proposal was shifted from state to municipality budgets, and it was unclear where the funding would come from.

According to the paper ministry officials likely noticed the financing gap but did not inform parliament about it.

Nerg denies concealment took place

News about the emails raised eyebrows among some lawmakers. Several MPs said they interpreted the ministry's reported omissions as a way to push through government's political goal by withholding important information.

According to the report, permanent under-secretary for governance policy, Päivi Nerg, denied that finance ministry officials had concealed information from parliament. She said the matter was discussed during a meeting of parliament's social and health care committee on 6 March.

Experts that HS interviewed said the reported incident was serious and a indicated serious lack of trust between the finance ministry and parliament.

University of Turku law professor Janne Salminen has also seen the ministry emails, and pointed out that parliament's right to be informed of relevant information is broad, saying that all details lawmakers receive need to be accurate and adequate, and that no details should be omitted.

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