The Church’s finances made national news and gave rise to social media debate in early 2018, when the newly elected Bishop of Helsinki, Teemu Laajasalo, was asked to answer questions about his credit card use during his previous position as a vicar.
Report on the 2017 finances of the Parish Union of Helsinki completed
Last year, the Parish Union of Helsinki commissioned a report about its credit card bills and travel expenses from an external auditing company, MAURA Audit Oy. The report confirmed the findings of the parish union’s internal audit from last autumn: invoice approval processes had gaps, and there were some significant shortcomings in the procedure for filing receipts.
An external independent expert went through the 2017 credit card purchases and travel expenses of fifty directors, managers and vicars. On Laajasalo’s request and the parish union’s decision, the audit covered his documents over a five-year period, from 2013 to 2017.
Public debate about credit card use has focused on Teemu Laajasalo, who headed the parish union in 2017 (from 1 January to 30 October) and acted as the vicar in the Kallio parish in 2013–2017.
“Laajasalo’s credit card bills and travel expenses were examined from 2013 to 2017. In that period, he made a total of 351 credit card purchases. An exceptionally large number of receipts were missing from the last three years, and on two occasions, the cost of accommodation exceeded the permitted limit. Apart from these two instances, no exceptional purchases were found, and the audit found the matter settled adequately and appropriately,” said Pertti Sundberg from the parish union council.
In January, Laajasalo announced he would pay back any expenses that had exceeded the limits and reimburse for the incorrectly documented daily allowances.
Any financial malfeasance is an isolated case
Over the years, the Church has discovered some isolated financial malfeasance cases in its midst. The Church has openly discussed these cases when they have been investigated and led to charges and punishment.
The Parish Union of Helsinki also stated that any issues with credit card bills or travel expenses are isolated cases. Parish union director Rintamäki has also pointed out that the overwhelming majority of purchases are made properly and exactly as instructed.