Insights | August 24, 2023

Roschier Insights Seminar: Topical legal issues for public sector operators

In light of increasing regulation, municipalities and wellbeing services counties are encountering more complex legal challenges in their day-to-day operations. Recently, we organized a lunch seminar at our Helsinki office, where our experts addressed current legal topics from a public sector perspective in the areas of employment law, public procurement, and digitalization and data.

The seminar encompassed three core themes: performance management and the prevention of inappropriate conduct; in-house procurement following the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority’s (FCCA) Sarastia decision; and the coming EU legislation on the data economy from a public sector perspective.

Anu Waaralinna kicked off the seminar by delving into key aspects of managing performance and intervening in inappropriate behavior at the workplace. Organizations must establish clear rules, policies, procedures, and necessary training.

“Besides the employer’s right to expect good performance, the employee has a right to expect support and guidance from the employer”, Waaralinna reminded the audience. In cases of inappropriate conduct, adequate investigation procedures are of great importance – flaws in these procedures can lead to severe consequences. Non-compliance can result in criminal penalties and financial losses, among other things.

Mikko Alkio and Lasse Nordström presented the main elements of Finnish in-house procurement legislation, with an emphasis on the FCCA’s recent Sarastia decision. According to the FCCA, the wellbeing services county’s procurement constituted an illegal direct procurement, as the county did not exercise actual control over its alleged in-house entity. In addition to the decision clarifying the assessment of in-house procurement, the new Finnish government intends to amend the rules applicable to in-house entities, e.g., by introducing a new minimum ownership threshold of 10% for the ownership of in-house entities.

Finally, Emma Swahne and Ida Leskinen outlined the European Data Strategy and the “Big Five” legislative proposals, with a particular focus on the Artificial Intelligence Act, the Data Act, and the Data Governance Act. The Big Five introduces not only new requirements that public sector organizations must comply with, but also some opportunities. For instance, the proposed Data Act would allow public sector bodies to access data held by enterprises in certain situations where there is an exceptional need. However, since many of these legislative proposals are still in the early stage, the final practical implications remain to be seen.

Article written by Project Trainee Daniel Odabasi