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Wednesday's papers: Sote reform, broadband investigation, MPs debts

Could the long running saga of health and social care reform almost be over? Wednesday's papers follow the latest development.

Markus Lohi
Social Affairs Committee chair Markus Lohi announced that deliberations over the long-running Sote reform ended on Monday. Image: Mikko Ahmajärvi / Yle

Parliament's Social Affairs Committee yesterday completed its review of the government's proposed health and social care - or Sote - reform, according to a report in Wednesday's Helsingin Sanomat.

The committee approved proposals to transfer responsibility for health and social care from Finland's roughly 300 municipalities to 21 new regional authorities and the City of Helsinki. The committee also recommended that the Sote reform does not impose quantitative limits on the outsourcing of healthcare services, HS writes.

Committee chair Markus Lohi (Cen) told reporters that the threshold for rolling back the outsourcing of public services had been set very high. "I myself know of only one case where this applies, and that is the annulment of the Länsi-Pohja joint venture contract," he said.

According to HS the committee's report also included two objections to the reform tabled by members of the National Coalition Party and the Finns Party, who make up six of the committee's 17 members.

Committee Vice-Chair Mia Laiho (NCP) cited problems such as funding, municipal autonomy and the erosion of local democracy, HS writes, while Arja Juvonen (Finns) said that "just any old reform is not an improvement".

Parliament is due to vote on the reform next week. If passed, it would allow for the first-ever provincial elections to take place in January 2022.

Broadband contract under investigation

Jyväskylä's Keskisuomalainen reports that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is looking into a suspected case of financial negligence in a Central Finland municipality.

The case revolves around a broadband project set up under the government of former PM Matti Vanhanen (Cen) more than a decade ago, Keskisuomalainen writes, in which the state and local authorities subsidised broadband infrastructure in areas where commercial providers wouldn't install it.

"The [suspected] negligence is connected to risky decisions on financial support before the municipality paid out the subsidy and incurred the financial obligations of the broadband project," said NBI investigator Mikko Kiiski.

The investigation centres on a single municipal executive, Kiiski said. The person and municipality in question have not been named.

According to Keskisuomalainen, ten municipalities in Central Finland ended up paying out when broadband network builders ran into financial difficulties. In all, the municipalities had to pay almost €30 million in subsidies for the project.

MPs fall foul of the bailiffs

Wednesday's Iltalehti reports on the news that five sitting MPs, Timo Harakka (SDP), Kai Mykkänen (NCP), Sheikki Laakso (Finns), Olli Immonen (Finns) and Harry Harkimo (MN), have appeared in the debt recovery register.

Harakka, Harkimo, Immonen and Mykkänen have all paid their debts in full, the tabloid reports, while Laakso has pending cases for amounts totalling around 2,500 euros.

SDP Minister Harakka's debts were incurred when he missed payments for unemployment insurance premiums, Iltalehti writes. Harakka told the paper they were linked to a former business.

"When I became a minister, I ended all business at my company, and the invoices in question seem to have been left at the bottom of the letterbox. All obligations have been met and usually on time," he said.

Former Interior Minister Mykkänen appeared on the register after failing to pay a 30 euro property tax, IL reports.

"When I was filing my tax return that winter, I noticed that [online tax service] OmaVero had received a notice about the property tax on our share of some land. The notification had only come to OmaVero, so I hadn't noticed that I hadn't paid it," Mykkänen told IL.

In future, Mykkänen will opt to receive tax notifications by e-mail, the paper says.

Meanwhile, Immonen and Harkimo's debts – now paid in full, according to IL – related to parking fines, with Harkimo pursued by the city of Kotka for 64 euros and Immonen incurring charges of around 800 euros.

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