Finland's finance minister steps down over training payments

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Katri Kulmuni will step down as Finland’s finance minister but continue to lead her party after admitting on Friday that she had used taxpayers’ money to fund training on how to speak in public.

FILE PHOTO: Finnish Minister of Finance Katri Kulmuni attends a news conference of the new Finnish government in Helsinki, Finland December 10, 2019. Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen via REUTERS/File Photo

Kulmuni’s Centre Party will continue in Finland’s five-party coalition government, she said.

Kulmuni cited the negative public reaction to an article published on Tuesday in the weekly Suomen Kuvalehti which said she had received training on how to speak in public worth nearly 50,000 euros ($57,000), paid for by the taxpayer.

Kulmuni, who on Wednesday had promised to pay the money back, said she had not been aware of the total amount spent on her training prior to this week.

“I must bear the political responsibility for the matter, although I didn’t know about all the purchases related to the matter and even if I haven’t ordered or purchased them,” she said.

Since the media reports emerged, police and the Chancellor of Justice, the government’s top legal officer, have received complaints about Kulmuni’s use of public funds, but it was not clear if her actions breached any laws or the government’s internal rules.

Kulmuni, 32, took the reins of her party in September 2019, having served as the Minister of Economic Affairs for just three months.

She said she had felt she needed more confidence in speaking in public as a minister, but apologised in particular for also having trained for a party congress speech that had little to do with her ministerial tasks.

“I shouldn’t have done that,” she said, adding that “in hindsight, I understand that, out of all speeches in the world, that specific speech should not have been used,” as an exercise.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin, of the Social Democrats, tweeted: “I support Katri in her decision, which must have been difficult ... Cooperation with the Centre Party will continue in the government.”

Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Toby Chopra