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Guardian's accounts must be drafted in the principal's mother tongue

Deputy-Ombudsman Jääskeläinen on safeguarding interests

22.10.2008

Deputy-Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen is of the view that a public guardian in a bilingual area should draft a guardian's account in the principal's mother tongue, either Finnish or Swedish. If an account has been drafted in a language other than the principal's, he or she is entitled to receive a translation in his or her mother tongue upon request. That would safeguard implementation of the principal's language-related fundamental rights, the Deputy-Ombudsman points out.

A guardian's account comprises an annual account and a final account. Each year, the guardian submits an annual account to an administrative court for scrutiny. It describes how the principal's economic affairs have been taken care of during the accounting period. An annual account includes, in addition to numerical data, also  a text report. This reveals, inter alia, the principle's assets and liabilities and changes that have occurred in them during the accounting period as well as significant legal transactions undertaken by the guardian. The guardian submits a final account when the guardianship has ended. The administrative court must scrutinise these guardian's accounts without delay. 

Inspection by Deputy-Ombudsman revealed that annual accounts in Espoo are drafted in Finnish

It emerged in the course of an inspection visit by Deputy-Ombudsman Jääskeläinen to the City of Espoo public guardianship office in late 2006 that public guardians were drafting their annual accounts for persons whose interests they were safeguarding in Finnish also when the principal is Swedish-speaking.  The Deputy-Ombudsman had taken the matter under investigation on his own initiative.

The Deputy-Ombudsman notes in his decision that legislation does not give a direct answer to the question of which language a public guardian in a bilingual area should use when drafting guardian's accounts. However, he takes the view that, in accordance with an interpretation of the law that favours fundamental rights, the Language Act should apply when annual and final accounts are being drafted, or at least principles derived from the Act should be respected; in other words, the a priori principle should be that guardian's accounts are drafted in the principal's mother tongue. The principal's mother tongue can be ascertained either from the population register or directly from the principal, with whom the guardian is, after all, in contact.

According to information received by the Deputy-Ombudsman, the accounting software in use makes it possible to draft an annual account also in Swedish. Thus technical factors are not an impediment to implementing bilinguality, either.

The Deputy-Ombudsman is of the view that it would be appropriate for an administrative court to deal with a guardian's account in the language in which it has been drafted. Here, too, implementation of the principal's fundamental rights with regard to language could be safeguarded by him or her receiving, upon request, a translation of the annual account if it has been drafted in the other official language.


Additional information will be provided by Legal Adviser Mikko Sarja, tel. + 358 (0)9 432 3364.