Helsinki’s mayoral office criticised for “concentration of power”

Three years after a new system of city government was introduced, Helsinki's Audit Committee says there needs to be a stronger system of checks and balances on the mayor's power.

File picture showing detail on exterior of Helsinki City Hall / Credit: News Now Finland

The management of the City of Helsinki, with a directly elected mayor, has been criticised for a “concentration of power” in the hands of incumbent Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) that leaves confusion about who is in charge of what in the Finnish capital.

Vapaavuori was elected in 2017 and a new official report from the city’s Audit Committee finds there’s uncertainty about chain of command when instructions come from the mayor himself, deputy mayors, their assistants and various steering groups.

The Audit Committee also finds the division of work is unclear to the media, the city’s own staff and its residents, and says more work needs to be done to clarify the city’s management structure.

“It’s the statutes that grant the mayor the power that are the problems, and what we’re saying is that we need some more checks and balances within the system” says Dan Koivulaakso (Left) the Chairman of the Audit Committee.

The Committee found broad consensus among senior civil servants and politicians that the leadership of the city was more efficient than before the new model of governance was introduced in June 2017; however there were calls to adjust the system now to make it work better, rather than revert back to the previous way of doing things.

“The City Council has enabled the position of mayor to build up a lot of power, and it’s the incumbent’s choice whether they chose to use it or not” Koivulaakso tells News Now Finland.

“There has not been much coordination between the mayor and the City Director” – the most senior civil servant working at the City of Helsinki – “and our recommendation to the city board is that they need to assess the tasks and workload of the City Director and make sure it’s an appropriate amount of work, so that they can operate as the checks and balances to the power of the mayor” he adds.

Jan Vapaavuori has four deputy mayors: Anni Sinnemäki (Green) who has responsibility for urban development; Pia Pakarinen (NCP) in charge of education; Sanna Vesikansa (Green) responsible for social services and health care; and Nasima Razmyar (SDP) who oversees culture and leisure services.