The YLE logo and transmission tower in Pasila, Helsinki, in February 2022. Investigative journalists at the public broadcasting company have identified a possible loophole in rules that dictate how quickly former government aides can transition to the private sector. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS at YLE have reviewed the waiting periods imposed on political aides transitioning to the private sector, finding that three special aides and two state secretaries have received compensation for the period on grounds of a plan to set up their own business despite never following through with the plan.

The compensations ranged from 20,000 to 50,000 euros.

The waiting periods were adopted at the start of the newly concluded electoral term, in 2017, in an attempt to slow the revolving door – the transitioning of aides and officials to similar or related fields in the private sector with valuable contacts and sensitive information. The duration of the period is determined based on an assessment of the sensitivity of the information the person had access to in the central administration.

The impetus for the adoption was the move of three high-profile lawmakers, each representing the National Coalition, to private health care companies amid the drafting of the social and health care reform.

Finland, though, had been urged to regulate the revolving door earlier by international organisations such as the OECD and GRECO, the anti-corruption body of the Council of Europe, Emilia Korkea-aho, an associate professor of European law and legislative studies at the University of Eastern Finland, reminded YLE.

The public broadcaster discovered that waiting periods ranging from two to five months have been imposed on altogether 34 special aides and state secretaries since 2017, with about 700,000 euros paid consequently in compensation.

While the decisions indicate that a paid waiting period is imposed whenever the subject reported their intention to set up a consultancy, the government has not tracked whether the company has actually been established.

This was confirmed by Timo Lankinen, the permanent state secretary at the prime minister’s office. “We fundamentally trust the report,” he said. “If there’s misreporting, the person is guilty of contract violation.”

Not setting up a company alone does not constitute a contract violation, however.

Former employees must nevertheless issue a notification whenever they accept a job within six months of leaving the central administration, in accordance with the rules of the waiting periods.

YLE on Monday wrote that Sami Kerman, a special aide to then Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo (Greens), found himself jobless in late 2021 due to a ministerial re-shuffle by the Green League. Kerman notified the government of his intention to set up a company and was ordered to wait three months before starting work for the company.

He received his old pay in full for the waiting period, a total of 19,990 euros.

Kerman told the public broadcasting company that he decided not to set up the company because, during the waiting period, he received a job offer from his former employer, the Finnish Fire Officers’ Association (SPPL).

Kari Jääskeläinen, a special aide for then Minister of Finance Katri Kulmuni, found himself in the same situation when Kulmuni stepped down over a public outcry about the public-speaking trainings arranged for her by Jääskeläinen.

He informed the government of his intention to set up a business providing consulting and advocacy services, receiving 28,300 euros in compensation for the consequent waiting period. He never set up the company and, a month after the waiting period, was appointed a regional manager at Kymen Yrittäjät, a regional association of Yrittäjät.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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