Signs outside a government building housing the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The prime minister’s office has indicated it will look into the waiting-period compensations discussed in a recent story by MOT, the team of investigative journalists at YLE. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)

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THE OFFICE of the prime minister will request reports from political aides concerning the waiting-period compensations identified by MOT, the investigative journalism team at YLE.

MOT on 24 April reported that three special aides and two state secretaries have received compensation for a waiting period on grounds that they planned to set up their own company after leaving the central administration, but they never followed through with the plan.

The waiting periods are imposed to delay the transition of employees from central administration to the private sector to make the confidential information they possess less current. The duration of the period is determined on based on an assessment of the information the employee had access to in the central administration.

“We’re asking the people mentioned in the programme to present a report on what positions they possibly took up or what activities they started during the six-month reporting period that applies to the waiting period agreements,” Timo Lankinen, a state secretary at the office of the prime minister, wrote in an e-mail to YLE on Friday.

Lankinen reminded earlier that not setting up a company does not constitute a contract violation but that former aides must always report to the administration if they take up a new job during the reporting period.

A contract violation could result in a fine that is up to two times as high as the waiting-period compensation, which ranged from 20,000–50,000 euros in the five cases highlighted by MOT.

Kimmo Nuotio, a professor of criminal law at the University of Helsinki, stated to the public broadcasting company that claiming the compensation on grounds that ultimately were unrealised does not appear to constitute fraud.

“The setting is quite different from what’s usually meant by fraud. They tend to relate to contractual relationships between individuals. For something to constitute fraud, you’d have to show that someone has received unjustified economic benefit through deception,” he analysed on Friday.

Nor do the cases appear to constitute violations of official duty as the aides were no longer in a public-service relationship at the time of their possible violation, added Olli Mäenpää, a professor emeritus of administrative law at the University of Helsinki.

The state, he added, has an obligation to monitor compliance with the contract with the help of sanctions clauses and, as a last resort, an appeal with an administrative court. “If the party doesn’t voluntarily repay the money, the state would have no choice but to demand repayment in an administrative court,” said Mäenpää.

Interpreting the four-year-old law on waiting periods is not straightforward, however.

Pekka Viljanen, a professor emeritus of criminal and administrative law at the University of Turku, on Friday stated to Iltalehti that the government should examine the cases not only through the lens of contract law, but also criminal law.

“No contractual fine would override fraud, meaning the same case could be connected to both a contractual fine and criminal liability for fraud if necessary,” he said. “I think it’s inexplicable lenient to rely solely on trust in this kind of a situation, where there’s an evident possibility of wrongdoing.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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