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PM Juha Sipilä reverses, offloads state ownership duties

As new cabinet ministers were officially anointed on Friday, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä quietly handed over responsibility for ownership steering of state-owned companies to Economy Minister Mika Lintilä. The move marks a reversal from Sipilä's previous declaration that he would not stand down as the minister responsible for state-owned enterprises.

Juha Sipilä
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has relinquished responsibility for state ownership steering to Econimic Affairs Minister Mika Lintilä. Image: Yle

Freshman minister Mika Lintilä, who took over as Economic Affairs Minister from Olli Rehn in late December, assumed responsibility for state ownership steering from Prime Minister Juha Sipila with effect from Friday.

Last week, Yle reported that the government asked the office of the Chancellor of Justice to review the plan to hand over the state ownership steering portfolio, to ensure that the transfer of duties was legal.

Sipilä originally assumed responsibility for state ownership when he became premier in 2015. Although the role is usually added to a ministerial portfolio, it is rarely taken on by the prime minister.

State ownership duties under scrutiny

Sipilä's faced some heat over his dual role when government inked approval for an additional 100 million euros in funding for the cash-strapped state mining outfit Terrafame. Mere weeks after the cash  advance, an engineering firm owned by Sipilä's relatives won a lucrative, half-a-million-euro deal from the former Talvivaara mine.

Sipilä also came under scrutiny when in autumn 2016 majority state-owned energy giant Fortum stepped in to save a technology company that developed a biofuel refining process. The company was Chempolis, an Oulu-based firm in which Prime Minister Juha Sipilä had been a shareholder and advisor, and in which his adult children held a stake.

Yle’s investigative journalism programme MOT reported that soon after Sipilä took office in June 2015, Fortum began to prepare for its financial intervention into Chempolis, which was at the time on the verge of going under. Fortum eventually invested more than six million euros in the struggling firm.

Fortum brushed off suggestions of pressure from on high, saying that it had long planned an investment in the troubled company’s commercially unproven technology.

MOT noted that over the course of 15 years, Chempolis received more than 10 million euros in state funding and other support from funds owned by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra and the state-owned export credit company Finnvera.

In January, following the public imbroglios, Sipilä ruled out giving up the portfolio, saying he had never been unsure of how to act.

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