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Chancellor of Justice criticises ministries over Finland's PPE procurement

A lack of cooperation between ministries and unclear division of tasks were factors in two failed mask orders, the office found.

Finnairin kone toi Kiinasta tilattuja suojavarusteita Helsinki-Vantaan lentoasemalle 15. huhtikuuta.
Finnair aircraft brought personal protective equipment ordered from China to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport on 15 April. Image: Petteri Sopanen / Yle
Yle News

Chancellor of Justice Tuomas Pöysti has criticised two government ministries over their handling of the procurement and storage of personal protective equipment (PPE) following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Ministry of Employment and the Economy were both involved in two failed orders placed by Finland’s National Emergency Supply Agency (NESA).

Masks ordered from payday lender Onni Sarmaste were found to be unusable on delivery, while officials cancelled a deal also involving Sarmaste and tabloid celebrity Tiina Jylhä.

The Chancellor of Justice said there was a need for clearer division of responsibilities as well as better cooperation within and between the ministries.

He added that in exceptional circumstances, a sufficiently rapid decision-making process is very important. Responsibilities and decision-making procedures should be planned as well in advance as possible.

However, the chancellor further noted that cooperation between the ministries and the internal division of responsibilities have both improved over time.

Unclear division of tasks

In the spring, the Office of the Chancellor of Justice received several complaints criticising the procedure of the ministries and NESA in relation to the storage and procurement of protective equipment.

On the back of the complaints, the office also took the initiative to clarify procedures within the ministries, so that issues other than those raised in the complaints could also be examined.

Within the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the chancellor found there was some ambiguity about the role of the ministry as well as the division of tasks between the ministers. Functions relevant to pandemic risk preparations are divided between different departments within the Ministry as well as between both ministers.

The chancellor suggested that in the future there may be a need to assess whether the responsibilities of ministers would be more clearly divided, especially from the perspective of crisis management.

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