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Minister "sorry" for hiring "off-book" labour

International Development Minister Heidi Hautala has apologised for hiring black market labour for personal cleaning and repair work. Hautala’s boss, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, has said that the Minister can continue in her position, notwithstanding her misdeeds.

Kehitysministeri Heidi Hautala (vihr.) taloustoimittajien vieraana Helsingissä 25. helmikuuta 2013.
Development Minister Heidi Hautala has apologised for undermining efforts to combat the growth of the informal economy. Image: Jarno Mela / Lehtikuva

Minister Heidi Hautala apologised to her government peers when it emerged that she had paid for cleaning work “off the books” and had not made the necessary employment pension contributions for repair work.

Hautala told a cabinet meeting that she regretted undermining the credibility of government campaigns to combat the so-called grey economy. The Minister will now pay the outstanding pension contributions.

The Minister’s misdeeds took place back in 2009, when she paid informally for repair and cleaning work. She claimed that in the case of the cleaning work, she circumvented the required procedures only once. At the time she was the Green League’s Member of the European Parliament.

On Thursday Hautala said that she would continue in her ministerial role as long as she enjoyed the confidence of her peers. She is also a member of a ministerial working group designed to rein in the informal economy.

Katainen: No cause for speculation

Commenting on the case from a European Union summit in Brussels Thursday, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen said that he saw no reason to speculate about Hautala’s position as minister. However he stressed that everyone was responsible for performing their duty.

Hautala’s off-book payments were first reported by the tabloid daily Iltalehti.

Contractor court case involving Hautala’s partner

Minister Hautala said that her current partner had been involved in a legal battle in a different case with the same contractor who worked for her.

A district court had sentenced the contractor to pay compensation for construction errors, but the sentence had not yet been enforced.

“I assume that this matter came out as a result of that case,” Hautala speculated.

Minister Hautala said that she would like to retain her position as a member of the ministerial working group combating the informal economy for as long as she is permitted to do so.

“Tackling the grey economy is a central plank of the government programme,” she noted.

She acknowledged that the current imbroglio was unseemly. And she said she understood public annoyance over the matter.

Finns Party MP calls for Hautala to step down

Meanwhile opposition Finns Party parliamentarian Pentti Oinonen has called on Hautala to step down as minister, saying she no longer enjoys the confidence required for the position.

“Hautala should consider the moral side of the case and draw her own conclusions,” Oinonen said.

Oinonen said that what was particularly aggravating was the fact that the misdemeanour was committed by a member of a working group working to root out illegal labour practices.

“How can the people trust government programmes against the grey economy, when there is a minister in its ranks who by her own actions supports an illegal sector worth billions?” Oinonen queried.

The MP said that the national sense of justice comes under fire when ministers are “constantly” caught engaging in inappropriate activities.

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