Finland

   

Executive Accountability

#4
Key Findings
With strong oversight mechanisms in place, Finland falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 4) with regard to executive accountability. Its score in this area has declined by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have access to considerable resources, and very strong formal executive-oversight powers. The audit and ombuds offices are well-funded and independent. Use of the ombuds services has risen consistently in recent years. The ombudsperson can initiate investigations on his or her own initiative, and conduct onsite investigations if necessary.

Citizens’ policy interest and trust in political institutions have risen in recent years. The media produces a considerable quantity of high-quality information. Although declining, daily newspaper circulation figures remain reasonably high.

Political parties are responsive to members’ input, but leaders decide most issues. The large economic-interest associations have long been integrated into the policymaking process. Other interest groups often present influential if narrow proposals and analyses.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#11

To what extent are citizens informed of government policymaking?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of government policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual government policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of government policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of government policies.
Policy Knowledge
9
Democracy requires that the public and its representatives have the means to hold government accountable. In this respect Finnish democracy is effective, though not perfect. Information on government policies and decisions is widely available online and many policy fields are debated at great length on television or in other media. Newspaper readership is still high in Finland. A weak spot, however, is the public’s evaluative and participatory competencies. Surveys on the extent to which citizens are informed of government policymaking indicate that the public’s interest in politics has increased, and that young people in particular are more interested in politics today as compared to the early 2000s. Trust in political institutions has somewhat increased, and the social media have had a marked impact on younger citizens’ rates of participation in politics. Yet the degree of interest and participation probably varies significantly across policy issues. Whereas some issues are widely debated in the media and attract general attention, other less media-friendly or stimulating issues pass largely unnoticed.

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#1

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
9
Parliamentarians’ resources for obtaining information were greatly improved in the 1990s through the creation of a parliamentary assistant system. Currently, some 165 assistants work in a parliament of 200 sitting legislators. However, critics have recently argued that this system has become too comprehensive and expensive. The assistants perform a variety of tasks, some of which relate closely to the procurement of information and general expertise. Members of parliament are also assisted by the Parliamentary Office, whose task it is to establish the necessary conditions for the parliament to carry out its duties. Employing a staff of about 440, the office is also responsible for providing personal assistants. Furthermore, MP’s are assisted by the Information and Communication Department, which includes the Library of Parliament, Research Service, and Parliament Information Office. The Library of Parliament has about 40 employees and maintains three service entities: collection services, reference and archival services, and information services. A Committee Secretariat provides secretarial services for the parliamentary committees and handles the preparation of matters brought before the committees.

Additionally, the Research Service supplies information, documents, publications, and other materials that are required by MPs and other actors involved in parliamentary work. As legislators each serve on an average of two parliamentary committees, they also benefit from the information and knowledge provided by the various experts regularly consulted in committee hearings.

Citations:
http://lib.eduskunta.fi/Resource.phx/library/organization/people.htx
https://www.eduskunta.fi/FI/tietoaeduskunnasta/Organisaatio/eduskunta-tyonantajana/Sivut/default.aspx
https://www.eduskunta.fi/FI/tietoaeduskunnasta/kirjasto/tietoakirjastosta/tekijat/Sivut/default.aspx

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not ask for government documents.
Obtaining Documents
10
Reports drafted by committees provide the basis for legislative decisions. Committees prepare government bills, legislative initiatives, government reports and other matters for handling in plenary sessions. Given these tasks and functions, it follows that the government is expected to report in full its motives for proposing legislation and that committees are able to obtain the desired documents from the government upon request.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
10
Committees are able to summon ministers to hearings and do so regularly. Committee meetings usually begin with a presentation by a ministry representative. Ministers can take part in committee meetings and debates but cannot be regular members of the committee. Furthermore, when deemed necessary, committees invite the Ombudsman, the Deputy Ombudsman or their representatives to a formal hearing as experts on questions of legislative drafting.

Citations:
https://www.eduskunta.fi/EN/lakiensaataminen/valiokunnat/Pages/default.aspx

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
10
Parliamentary committees are able to summon experts for committee meetings, which they do so regularly and increasingly frequently. A committee starts its work with a recommendation by the committee’s own experts on which additional experts to call. This may include ministerial representatives or other individuals who have either assisted in preparatory work or represent specific agencies, organizations, or other interested parties. The scope of hearings varies greatly. In some cases, only one expert may be called, but in major legislative projects a committee may hear dozens of experts. Data from earlier research shows that committees in 1938 consulted advisers in 59% of all cases on which they prepared reports. The corresponding figure for 1960 was 94% and 100% in 1983. The number of experts consulted has likewise been increasing.

Citations:
https://www.eduskunta.fi/EN/lakiensaataminen/valiokunnat/Pages/default.aspx
Dag Anckar, “Finland: Dualism and Consensual Rule”, in Erik Damgaard, ed.: Parliamentary Change in the Nordic Countries, Oslo: Scandinavian University Press, 1992, pp. 182-186.

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
10
A total of 15 permanent special parliamentary committees along with the Grand Committee prepare government bills, legislative initiatives, government reports and other matters for plenary sessions. Reforms of the committee system in the early 1990s aimed to improve parliamentary committees’ alignment with ministry responsibilities. These reforms have been highly successful and committees are now thematically bound within the scope of a corresponding ministry. The Grand Committee is in practice a committee for the handling of EU-related matters. In May 2017, an earlier merger of two ministerial chairs (work and livelihood as well as justice) was found to be less functional and was dissolved. To cope with the workload, each government party added one minister, enlarging the cabinet from 14 to 17 ministers.

To what extent is the audit office accountable to the parliament?

10
 9

The audit office is accountable to the parliament exclusively.
 8
 7
 6


The audit office is accountable primarily to the parliament.
 5
 4
 3


The audit office is not accountable to the parliament, but has to report regularly to the parliament.
 2
 1

The audit office is governed by the executive.
Audit Office
10
Legislative accountability is advanced by the audit office, which is accountable to parliament. Formerly, parliamentary oversight of government finances was performed by parliamentary state auditors. However, this institution has been abolished. In its place is the parliamentary Audit Committee, which was created by combining the tasks performed by the parliamentary state auditors with the related functions of the administrative and audit section of the Finance Committee. The office of the parliamentary state auditors has also been replaced by the National Audit Office of Finland, which is an independent expert body affiliated to parliament. Its task is to audit the legality and propriety of the state’s financial arrangements and review compliance with the state budget. Specifically, the office is expected to promote the exercise of parliament’s budgetary power and the effectiveness of the body’s administration. It also oversees election and party funding. The office is directed by the auditor general, who is elected by parliament. With about 140 employees, the office is made up of a financial-audit unit, a performance-audit unit, an executive management support unit, and the administration and information units. Covering long-term objectives, operational emphasis and strategic policies, the current audit strategy covers the period 2013 – 2020.

Citations:
“National Audit Office”; http://www.vtv.fi/en;
“The Audit Committee”, https://www.eduskunta.fi/EN/lakiensaataminen/valiokunnat/tarkastusvaliokunta/Pages/default.asp

Does the parliament have an ombuds office?

10
 9

The parliament has an effective ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

The parliament does not have an ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
10
Parliament has an ombudsman office consisting of one ombudsman and two deputy ombudsmen. Established in 1920, it is the second-oldest ombuds office in the world and employs about 60. The officeholders are appointed by parliament, but the office is expected to be impartial and independent of parliament. The office reports to parliament once a year. Citizens may bring complaints to the office regarding decisions by public authorities, public officials, and others who perform public duties (examples of authorities include courts of law, state offices, and municipal bodies). The number of complaints decided by the ombuds office in recent years has varied between 4,500 and 5,000 cases. A considerable number of matters have been investigated and resolved on the initiative of the ombudsman himself, who may conduct onsite investigations when needed.

Citations:
https://www.oikeusasiamies.fi/en/web/guest/the-parliamentary-ombudsman-of-finland

Media

#2

To what extent do media provide substantive in-depth information on decision-making by the government?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
9
By providing a continuous flow of information and background analysis, the main print media, TV and radio stations in Finland offer substantive in-depth information on government decisions. This provision takes different forms, such as inserts in regular news programs, special features, debates between proponents of conflicting views, debates between representatives of the government and opposition parties, regular broadcasts of government hearings in parliament, and so on. Empirical information about program volume is not available, but subtracting for “infotainment programs,” between five and seven hours a week of television and radio programming is dedicated to governmental issues. Although declining, daily newspaper circulation numbers remain reasonably high, with most newspapers often providing high-quality political reporting.

Citations:
Lauri Karvonen, Heikki Paloheimo and Tapio Raunio, Evolution of Political Power in Finland, pp. 335-344 in Lauri Karvonen, Heikki Paloheimo and Tapio Raunio, eds. The Changing Balance of Political Power in Finland, Stockholm: Santérus Förlag, 2016.

Parties and Interest Associations

#6

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Democracy
8
At the time of writing, three major parties hold seats in the Finnish parliament (Eduskunta). Although empirical research on intra-party democracy has so far mainly dealt with the Center Party (Kesk), there is little doubt that the findings of this research can be assumed to apply to the other major parties as well. Generally, the structure of internal decision-making systems within political parties has developed in two directions. While active party members operate in voluntary, subnational organizational units, national policy functions are decided by career politicians who constitute the party elite. This dualism places power in the hands of party elites, and most particularly the party chairs. This has led to a marginalization of party members from the executive functions within each party. As intra-party meetings are the highest decision-making institutions within political parties, the average party member participates in party meetings only indirectly by helping to elect delegates.

Citations:
Karina Jutila, “Yksillä säännöillä, kaksilla korteilla”, Dissertation, University of Tampere, 2003; Rauli Mickelsson, “Suomen puolueet. Historia, muutos ja nykypäivä”, Tampere: Vastapaino, 2007; Vesa J. Koskimaa, Intra-Party Power: The Ascendancy of Parties’ Public “Face”, in Lauri Karvonen, Heikki Paloheimo and Tapio Raunio, eds. The Changing Balance of Political Power in Finland, Stockholm: Santérus Förlag.

To what extent are economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Business)
8
Employers’ and employees’ organizations became involved in a series of comprehensive income-policy agreements in 1968 concerning wages, working conditions, and social-welfare programs and legislation. While this institutional arrangement for cooperation between government and associations has since slightly eroded, it created a framework for advancing responsible, considered and expert-based policy proposals on the part of the large economic-interest associations. Other mechanisms, including associations’ participation as members and experts in the committee system, have worked in the same direction. As a consequence, this corporatist setting and the consensus style of policymaking has led to reasonable policies with fairly broad support.

Citations:
Voitto Helander and Dag Anckar, Consultation and Political Culture. Essays on the Case of Finland, Commentationes Scientiarum Socialium, nr 19, 1983, Helsinki: The Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters.

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
8
Most associations’ policy-relevant positions are based on expert knowledge and feasibility analyses. In this sense, associations clearly contribute to the general quality of decision-making. True, exaggeration and one-sided arguments are in the very nature of interest organizations and the ensuing negotiation process, but the prevailing style of policymaking grants access to various and often competing interests. The contribution of interest associations’ expert knowledge is therefore on the whole a valuable asset that enhances the quality of policymaking. Interest associations also have a high profile in public discourse, and often help shape public opinion. The fact remains, however, that the function of interest associations is to promote certain interests at the potential expense of others.
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