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Complaints to Chancellor of Justice over Business Finland funding scheme

State agency Business Finland's criteria for handing out millions in financing has come under intense scrutiny.

Team Finland, Business Finland ja Finnvera logot toimistotalon seinässä Ruoholahdessa Helsingissä.
Recipients of the Business Finland financing scheme have raised eyebrows. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

The office of the Chancellor or Justice says it has received complaints over a special coronavirus business support scheme run by state growth-promoting agency Business Finland.

The office said that it received a total of four complaints between Monday and Tuesday about grants distributed from the special fund to businesses looking to expand into new sectors during the coronavirus crisis.

Last weekend Suomen Kuvalehti magazine reported that Business Finland had granted the maximum 100,000 euros under the scheme to an odd lineup of recipients, including software companies, reality TV stars, a lobbying firm and a social media community.

The agency's funding practices came under heavy criticism from observers who felt that money should have been directed to firms struggling to cover fixed costs such as rents and salaries.

Agency director: "It will clear the air"

On Tuesday Economic Affairs minister Mika Lintilä announced an audit of the financing programme by the ministry's internal audit team as well as the National Audit Office.

Business Finland director Reijo Kangas said on Tuesday that the review of the agency's handling of the funding scheme did not come as a surprise.

"It has been clear to us from the start that our operations would be audited many times. It is good that it is being done at this stage. It will clear the air," Kangas commented.

In March, the government pledged 1.5 billion euros as part of a rescue package for firms suffering a loss of business as a result of the pandemic. Business Finland's share of the pot was 800 million euros, while local centres for economic development (Ely-centres) and municipalities are responsible for sharing out 400 and 250 million euros respectively.

While Business Finland has responsibility for supporting small and medium-sized firms with between six and 250 employees, local development centres focus on micro entrepreneurs employing one to five people and municipalities provide assistance for solo entrepreneurs and freelancers.

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