Saturday 10/23/21

Government embarrassed by Business Finland grants to millionaire companies

Prime Minister Sanna Marin admits "mistakes" and talks about the need for "clarifications." Economic Affairs Minister Mika Linitilä announces an investigation into the distribution of funds, and Education Minister Li Andersson says the grant system needs to be revised so that the money will help those who need it most.

Mika-Lintilä-by-Laura-Kotila-Vnk.
Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä. Photo: Laura Kotila/Vnk.

Turkka Kuusisto is the CEO of Posti Group Corporation, the Finnish national postal service. He was appointed in February 2020, just before the corona crisis started, with a salary of 37,500 euros per month. No more, no less.

Besides that, he chairs a company called Idego Consulting Oy, of which he owns 55% and his wife Maria-Elisa Kuusisto is the CEO and owns the remaining 45%.

The company is specialized in managing consulting and is one of those to which Business Finland has granted 100,000 euros, the maximum amount of an aid which was announced as an instrument to secure the survival of businesses hard hit by the coronavirus epidemic.

Another consulting company that got 100,000 euros from Business Finland is Miltton Group Oy., The company was founded by Mathias Alvar Järnström and in the last financial year it had a turnover of 2.8 million euros, according to the trade registry.

100,000€ to their own service provider

The case of Milton Group has raised even more concern among the Finnish citizens that these days they are wondering by what criteria subsidies are distributed. Why? Because one of the Miltton Group's best clients is precisely Business Finland. In what form and with what criteria does Business Finland pay subsidies to its service providers? That is still unknown.

In fact, the newspaper Iltalehti asked the company about their relationship with Business Finland and what kind of services they provide to the state agency, but the only response they got from the Chief Financial Officer Pekka Puihola is that all this information "is confidential." However, Puihola insists that the allocation of 100.00 euros to his company is correct and does not seem to see any conflict of interest in this case.

There are more examples of highly profitable companies which belong to prominent people or to people with good connections to higher levels that Business Finland has helped in these difficult times. BilleBeino Clothing and Accessories Oy, founded by former NHL ice hockey star Ville Leino, made almost half a million in profit last year. Even so, Business Finland decided that it also deserves a 100,000 euros grant.

And the same amount of money has gone to the blog Huono Äiti, owned by Sari Helin-Sarvamaa, the wife of the politician of the National Collation Party (Kokoomus) and MEP Petri Sarvamaa, who last Sunday denied to know anything about the matter.

The list of cases could go on, but it's already too long for a country where thousands of small businesses are now facing bankruptcy due to the coronavirus crisis. And for its citizens, who have been educated in the idea that they live in the cleanest and fairest country in the world when it comes to using the taxpayers money.

Prime minister admits "mistakes"

The shock has been so great that thousands of citizens, especially entrepreneurs in difficulties, made their complaints public on social media, and has also caused the Prime Minister and several government ministers to intervene. In addition, the Chancellor of Justice and the Ombudsman of Finland have received complaints.

During Tuesday morning, the government more or less endured the complaints, with just slight references from the Prime Minister Sanna Marin to the "mistakes" and "lessons learned" in this crisis. She also spoke about the need for clarification, but without mentioning the issue of Business Finland.

Sanna-Marin-twitter

"It is clear that we cannot avoid mistakes in the midst of the crisis. When mistakes are made, they must be clarified openly and lessons learned. The most important task of the government is to make decisions to steer Finland out of the crisis. At the same time, a path must be created for more sustainable growth," Prime Minister Sanna Marin wrote in her Twitter account.

A double audit to be launched

But in the afternoon, the Government announced an investigation, embarrassed by a case that is on the way to causing a great wave of disaffection towards the state institutions.

It was precisely the Minister of Economic Affairs, Mika Lintilä (Center Party), who has been the most criticized minister in social media since the scandal broke on Sunday, who made the announcement on his Twitter account.

Mika-Lintilä-Twitter

"The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (TEM, in Finnish) will launch an internal audit of corporate financing granted by Business Finland, for the benefit of all parties. I also had a discussion with the CEO of VTV (the National Audit Office of Finland) and it is clear that VTV will also inspect all of this," Minister Lintilä said.

Minister of Education demands changes

But the first member of the Government to question the way in which the allocation of funds by Business Finland had been made was the Minister of Education, Li Andersson (Left Alliance). Early in the morning, also through her Twitter account, she questioned whether the funding of Business Finland would have been directed to those who need it most.

Andersson went a little further, and also alludes to the fact that the money had ended up in the consultants' accounts.

Li-Andersson-tweet

"According to public data, it seems that business support is not sufficiently targeted to those industries and entrepreneurs who are in the greatest difficulty due to the coronavirus. Grants need to be reviewed (so they go) for those who need it and not the most qualified consultants," Minister Andersson said.

At the time of finishing this article, none of the other leaders of the Government coalition parties had spoken on this matter.

Neither Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (Green League) nor Center Party leader and Finance Minister Katri Kulmuni nor the leader of the Swedish People's Party Anna-Maja Henriksson had spoken on the issue.

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