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Minister Enestam was not misled in drafting of wastewater decree

Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin did not find grounds to support claims that Minister of the Environment Jan-Erik Enestam was misled when a decision on a matter concerning wastewater was being considered at his ministry in 2003.

Reference was made in three complaints to reports presented in public in autumn 2010 to the effect that a civil servant at the Ministry of the Environment had given Minister Enestam misleading and incorrect information about the wastewater treatment systems that the Decree required and their costs.

Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin received reports on the matter from both the civil servant at the Ministry of the Environment and Mr. Enestam. Additionally available to her were the working group report that preceded the Decree on Treating Domestic Wastewater in Areas Outside Sewer Networks ("the Wastewater Decree" for short), the Government's introductory memorandum and memoranda that the civil servant had drafted for Mr. Enestam in response to criticism of the draft decree and proposals that it be altered.

According to the civil servant's report, "Minister Enestam and his staff were met and informed about the matter in advance, as is customary in the Ministry, based on the memorandum, to which the finishing touches were then added to  create the Government memorandum introducing the Decree".

Mr. Enestam reported in his own, Swedish-language report that he had not "received written material of a kind that would have deviated from the information on which the Decree is based". In addition, he stated: "Nor have I ever asserted that the referendary had intentionally given me incorrect information".

Mr. Enestam also opined in his report that municipalities had applied stricter regulations than the Decree required. For this reason, the real costs in some cases clearly exceeded those on which the Decree is based.

On the basis of the material, Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin took the view that there is no clear evidence in the case to show that the civil servant who acted as the referendary for the Wastewater Decree had misled Minister Enestam or given him incorrect information about the requisite wastewater treatment systems or their costs in the light of the information available at the time.

The Ombudsman investigates complaints concerning matters more than five years old only for exceptional reasons. Widespread criticism of the Wastewater Decree was regarded in this case as being such a reason.

Another matter criticised in the complaints was an amendment to the Environmental Protection Act that has just been deliberated by the Eduskunta. The purpose of the amendment was to ease the requirements regarding wastewater treatment in sparsely populated areas. However, oversight of the Eduskunta's legislative work is not included in the Ombudsman's remit.

Additional info will be provided by Senior Legal Adviser Erkki Hännikäinen, tel. +358(0)9 432 3354.