700 euros an hour (plus VAT). More money than many unemployed receive monthly.
That was the fee that the journalist Harri Saukkomaa charged to Finance Minister Katri Kulmuni for training her to improve her communication skills in interviews, television debates and in other public appearances.
According to Suomen Kuvalehti, the Finance Minister and leader of the Center Party (Keskusta, in Finnish) spent around 50,000 euros from taxpayers to pay the bills of the company Tekir Oy. Those charges were paid by the Ministry of Economy and Employment and by the Ministry of Finance, which Kulmuni has headed in the past months.
On Wednesday, Yle disclosed the specific amounts and reported that the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment paid invoices that amounted for 29,884 euros and the Ministry of Finance for 26,329 euros. From June to December 2019, Katri Kulmuni was the Minister of Economic Affairs and Employment in the coalition government headed by Antti Rinne (SDP). In December 2019, following Rinne's resignation, Kulmuni was appointed Minister of Finance in the government headed by Sanna Marin.
The Finnish broadcasting company also reported that an interview with Kulmuni scheduled on Wednesday morning was cancelled because the Finance Minister's team demanded that she would not be questioned about this scandal. After several hours of delay, Kulmuni finally agreed to participate in the program.
"I have a public office and I try to do my best. But I have needed help to improve confidence in the appearances, and I have received it," she explained. And she hoped that "there will be no need to continue" with the training.
An old acquaintance of Keskusta
It is not known the actual reason why Kulmuni chose Tekir Oy as a service provider and why those bills were not paid by the Center Party, which she chairs. But according to the reports of Finnish newspapers, Harri Saukkomaa is an old acquaintance of Keskusta.
According to Iltalehti, Tekir Oy supported the Center Party in the past by donating money.
In the parliamentary electoral campaign in 2015, the company contributed to Keskusta's campaign with 1,945 euros. Saukkomaa, Chairman of the board and Kulmuni's coach, is a renowned journalist in Finland. The Wikipedia entry about him says that in his young years he was an active member of Keskusta's youth.
In the past, Saukomaa also rendered services to the Finnish Government when it was chaired by Keskusta and headed by former Prime Minister Juha Sipilä,
According to Suomen Kuvalehti, Katri Kulmuni also used Tekir's coaching on 3 December 2019, the day Antti Rinne resigned as prime minister precisely as a result of a statement by Kulmuni saying that her party had lost confidence in him.