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Chancellor of Justice queries PM over 'breakfastgate' benefits

Among other things, Prime Minister Sanna Marin was asked whether she had made the decision to receive the meal benefits herself.

Sanna Marin Pirjo Auvisen haastatteltavana
Prime Minister Sanna Marin Image: Berislav Jurišić / Yle

The Chancellor of Justice has requested clarification from Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) about free meal benefits she had received at her official residence until earlier this year.

A minor scandal referred to as 'breakfastgate' surrounded the PM following reports she and members of her family had received meal benefits, including breakfast foods, they may not have been entitled to.

The Chancellor of Justice wants clarification from the PM about whether she had made the decision to receive the meal benefits herself; whether she was aware of any legal uncertainty surrounding the benefits; and also asked if government officials had informed her about the meal benefits.

At the time police had found no reason to open a formal preliminary investigation into the issue.

Questions

According to the law regarding the Prime Minister's benefits, the PM is granted use of an apartment in a state-owned building, with maintenance, heating, lighting and furnishings — as well as necessary staff — paid for by state funds.

In the request for clarification, the Chancellor of Justice pointed out that the law did not mention meal benefits should be paid by the state.

The request also asked for explanations from officials in the PM's office — including Permanent State Under-Secretary Timo Lankinen and another official — who made decisions regarding the benefits.

The PM has nearly two months to respond to the Chancellor's questions, with a deadline of 8 December.

Background

When the news about the meal benefits came to light Marin said she would give up the meal benefits.

Police also looked into the PM's monthly food expenses, which amounted to 850 euros per month, but the inquiry was closed at the end of June, with authorities saying there was no reason to believe anything criminal had taken place.

Later in the summer, it was reported that — as she promised — Marin had repaid the state a majority of the roughly 14,000 euros that was spent on meals between January 2020 and May 2021.

At the time the Prime Minister's office said that according to instructions specified in 2019, the PM could order food for breakfast and cold meals when she and her family stayed at the PM's official residence in Helsinki, Kesäranta.

The official residence is in Helsinki's Meilahti seaside district, not far from the president's official residence.

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