Centre Party leader Katri Kulmuni has quit her role as Finland’s Minister of Finance, over payments for media training to a consulting company.
At a brief Friday afternoon press conference in Parliament, Kulmuni said that she had to take responsibility for the issue, even though she wasn’t personally involved in the procurement process.
Kulmuni will continue as Centre Party chairperson, and Keskusta will also continue to be part of the five-party coalition government alongside the Social Democrats, Greens, Left Alliance and Swedish People’s Party.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) says she also supports Kulmuni’s decision “which was certainly difficult.”
“I appreciate her as a person, and thank you for your cooperation so far” the PM writes.
Despite a small bounce last autumn when Kulmuni took over leadership of the party from former Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, the Centre Party has struggled to cut through in opinion polls and recover the ground it lost during the 2019 general election.
At last spring’s parliamentary vote, Keskusta lost 18 seats and slumped from 21.1% of the vote in 2015 election, to just 13.76% in 2019.
What was the controversy about?
Earlier this week, Kulmuni said she would repay more than €50,000 invoiced to two ministries for media training.
Suomen Kuvalehti first reported that Kulmuni had received the training from a company called Tekir Oy, first during the period when she was Minister for Economic Affairs in Antti Rinne’s government from June 2019; and later as Minister of Finance in Sanna Marin’s government from December the same year.
Tekir markets itself as a strategic communications and public affairs firm, offering “bespoke media training” for clients and other services like political analysis and public affairs strategies. Kulmuni apparently needed help to become a more confident public speaker.
On Wednesday, Lapland MP Kulmuni said she “understands the criticism” of her training sessions – which focused on whether the invoices should more appropriately be paid by her political party – and wanted to reimburse the ministries.
“There are no legal or administrative problems with the agreement” Kulmuni notes.
In a statement, the ministry concluded “there are no legal or administrative ambiguities in the agreements. Acquisitions have been made in accordance with the procuerment instructions.”
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