Finnish prime minister faces more scrutiny over breakfast expenses

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin faced fresh scrutiny on Monday over a disputed allowance she claimed to cover the cost of breakfasts at her official residence, after estimates of the value of the allowance were revised sharply higher. 

Finnish daily Iltalehti said in a new report late Sunday that the allowance was worth €850 per month, nearly three times the €300 per month the paper estimated when it first highlighted the payments last week. The reports questioned whether Marin was entitled to the allowance.

In a press release late Monday, the prime minister’s office confirmed that from January 2020 to May 2021, the cost of Marin’s use of catering services when living in an official residence was €14,363.20, or an average of €845 per month. 

“This amount includes both breakfast items and cold-served meals,” the release said.

Marin has said she has followed the rules for claiming the allowance as they were explained to her when she took office in 2019.

“I had no idea of course that there was any lack of clarity over the breakfast allowance,” she told national broadcaster YLE earlier Monday. She noted that many previous prime ministers had also made use of it, but said that the rules would be looked at and if necessary updated.

On Friday, Helsinki police said they had decided to examine the case to see if any wrongdoing had occurred. They said that the probe would look into the actions of Marin’s staff and not the prime minister herself. 

On a separate note on Monday, Marin said she wanted to dispel speculation that public money had been spent on her wedding, which took place last year. It was unclear which speculation she was referring to.

“We paid for all our wedding expenses ourselves,” she said in a tweet.

As they have elsewhere in Europe, expenses scandals have claimed political scalps in Finland in the past. Last year, Finance Minister Katri Kulmuni resigned after questions were raised about the public money she had spent on media training. 

But for now, experts say the questions over Marin’s food allowance are unlikely to cost her her job. 

“Personally I think the sums which have come out so far are quite a small matter,” Kimmo Grönlund, a political scientist at Finland’s Åbo Akademi, told YLE. “She has said that she has both declared the allowance and will from now on pay for her own breakfasts.”

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