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Defence Ministry bars external lobbyists from €10b fighter jet deal

The former Defence Forces chief is now a consultant for one of the companies bidding for the multi-billion-euro deal.

Ilmavoimien Hornet-hävittäjä nousee Pirkkalan lentokentältä.
Finland is due to replace its ageing fleet of Hornet jets. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle

Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen announced on Friday that government officials involved in the purchase of new fighter jets must in future "refrain from all contacts with consultancy firms and consultants representing tenderers."

"The policy covers all meetings and other contacts and it will take effect immediately. The HX [fighter jet procurement] project will also call on all bidders to [ensure] that consultants are not used in official negotiations," Kaikkonen told journalists in Parliament on Friday afternoon.

The new directive comes on the heels of reports that the former head of the Defence Forces and retired general Jarmo Lindberg has taken up a consultancy post with Lockheed Martin, a US aerospace firm bidding for the 10-billion-euro contract to replace Finland's ageing fleet of Hornet fighter jets.

Story continues after photo.

Kuvassa puolustusvoimain entinen komentaja Jarmo Lindberg.
Former Defence Forces commander, Jarmo Lindberg. Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

The official reason for the change is that the HX project has progressed to a new stage in which the government is now preparing its final request for tenders. The minister said that during this stage the aim is to make a clear distinction between bidders and the consultancy firms representing them.

However the minister also admitted that the policy is also related to news agency STT's report on Tuesday that Lindberg was acting as consultant for Lockheed Martin on the fighter jet project.

"Lindberg was just recently the commander of the Defence Forces so you can imagine that this does not look good," Kaikkonen said.

"Of course he has had a six-month non-compete period and that has now concluded," the minister noted.

The ministry received word of Lindberg's new role on Thursday.

Competitor: Lindberg's role different from others

Information from the Defence Ministry indicates that Lockheed Martin is not the only firm that has headhunted former Defence Forces and Ministry employees.

For example Juhani Kaskeala, who was Defence Forces Commander from 2001 to 2009 was a consultant for US aircraft manufacturer Boeing, while former commander of the Uusimaa brigade, Karl Gustav Storgårds did the same for Swedish manufacturer Saab. Meanwhile former Defence Minister Jan-Erik Enestam was a senior advisor for Cocomms, a marketing outfit that represented British defence and aerospace firm BAE Systems.

Journalists asked Kaikkonen which companies and consultants would be excluded from the directive, or, what the case would be if a jet manufacturer were to hire a consultant directly on its payroll without using a separate partner as an intermediary.

"There is no list of companies. This is a categorical policy. And the policy is quite clear, we expect [everyone] to comply with the spirit of it," Kaikkonen responded.

"It is quite pointless for fighter jet tenderers to think that they would score extra points with these [types of] hires," the minister added.

On Thursday, Saab country director Anders Gardberg tweeted that Lindberg's role as a consultant could not be compared directly with the actions of others. According to Gardberg, Lindberg is the only consultant who had been in a position to see the offers of other bidders because of his former position.

Minister calls for longer waiting period

Kaikkonen stressed that the ministry has acted in accordance with existing legislation.

"In and of themselves these agreements and the competitive tender are confidential information and Lindberg must act accordingly," he noted.

"There is now good reason to consider whether or not we need a longer waiting period. From the perspective of the defence administration one or two years would be better. It's also important to think about how this looks," he added.

Ari Salminen, emeritus professor of public management at Vaasa University, told Yle that it is not possible to operate under the cover of a formal waiting period.

He said that information about preliminary offers that Lindberg might have had in his possession is still current.

Lindberg only privy to summaries

Defence Ministry Permanent Secretary Jukka Juusti said that Lindberg, who was a former fighter jet pilot, had not thoroughly reviewed all of the offers presented by bidders.

"I want to emphasise that Lindberg has seen preliminary offers during the first bidding round. End even then they were summaries. I have not seen the offers in their entirety either nor it is possible to review them all. It would take all of your time," he explained.

He said that he had not received word of any complaints from other bidders about Lindberg's consulting role, except for the Saab country director's tweet.

"We have seen the Twitter messages but this has been considered in the past as well. However now we have arrived at this point at a somewhat faster timetable. After this bidders may feel that their positions are more equitable," Juusti added.

The permanent secretary said that reference has been made to Lindberg's former high status and the fact that he could influence the tendering process.

"There is no sign at all of that but even the fiction that he would discuss [the deal] with his former subordinates has now been ruled out," he concluded.

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