Finland, one of the countries that claims to keep corruption at bay, has been in shock since the press uncovered an alleged case of embezzlement by the auditor general of the National Audit Office (VTV). An institution that, among other tasks, is in charge of supervising the proper use of public funds by other government agencies and political parties.
The trigger for the scandal was an article published by the newspaper Ilta Sanomat, according to which the auditor general Tytti Yli-Viikari would have spent 4,729 euros in public money to pay for beauty treatments and hairdressers between 2018 and 2020.
The journalistic investigation article shows the details of each of the uncovered payments and the invoices. These payments appeared in the accounts of the National Audit Office of Finland together with descriptions such as "hairstyling coaching", "hairdressing visit", "make-up and styling services" or "extreme megamask."
According to the article, among the styling services paid for with public funds there are some that have not been shown to be connected with any specific work performed the general auditor.
Finnish press has also reported extensively on Yli-Viikari's travel bills and other personal costs paid by the agency, even in times of the coronavirus pandemic.
Police launched an investigation
The case has caused such unrest in a society accustomed to good practices when it comes to public funds that the police National Bureau of Investigation (KRP, in its Finnish acronym) has initiated a preliminary investigation into the operations of the National Audit Office.
On Tuesday, the Finnish Parliament's Chancellery Commission started the process to suspend Yli-Viikari from her post at the head of the National Audit Office after discussing the matter at a meeting.
Speaker of Parliament Anu Vehvilainen told a press conference that the commission intends to calm the commotion surrounding the agency since details of Yli-Viikari's travel expenses and claims were made public.
Vehvilainen regretted that there have been "many negative remarks" about the use of the public funds by Yli-Viikari, "including among citizens, in public and in Parliament."
"The auditor general's activities have significantly weakened the agency's credibility and position as the ultimate supervisory authority of public funds," the speaker admitted.
Vehviläinen stressed that the National Audit Office must be particularly exemplary when it comes to the use of public funds. And she said that the parliamentary commission did not find the explanations received regarding the Yli-Viikari case "convincing."