Regional State Administrative Agencies are one of Finland’s governmental enforcement authorities. We have a number of enforcement responsibilities relating to due process and constitutional rights, safety and environmental standards.
Regional State Administrative Agencies are the competent enforcement authority for health care and social services, schools and nurseries, emergency services, alcohol sales on and off premises, occupational safety and health, web accessibility, environmental health and multiple areas of commercial regulation. In some cases we only handle complaints.
We have enforcement oversight of
- local authorities and strategic partnerships,
- businesses, non-governmental organisations and self-employed providers of services that fall within our mandate, and
Regional and national enforcement
As a rule, each Regional State Administrative Agency is only responsible for enforcement in its own jurisdiction. There are exceptions, however. The following enforcement duties are attended to by a single Regional State Administrative Agency on behalf of all Regional State Administrative Agencies:
- Web accessibility (Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland)
- Money laundering and terrorist financing (Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland)
- Pawnbrokers, debt collection agencies and payday loan and peer-to-peer loan brokers (Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland)
- Health care services for prisoners and the armed forces (Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland)
- Burials (Regional State Administrative Agency for Eastern Finland)
- Local government pilots on employment (Regional State Administrative Agency for Western and Inland Finland)
- Lost property offices (Regional State Administrative Agency for Western and Inland Finland)
- Swedish-language early education and teaching (Regional State Administrative Agency for Western and Inland Finland)
- Many occupational safety and health responsibilities have also been entrusted to a single Regional State Administrative Agency. These kinds of national responsibilities include, among others, authorisations relating to young workers, exemptions from normal working hours and chargers’ certification. For more information, visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's website. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website (Tyosuojelu.fi).
How does enforcement work in practice?
- In many sectors of the economy, enforcement is based on control plans and implementation programmes drawn up by our officers in consultation with other relevant organisations and authorities. Our control plans take into account the latest scientific knowledge, the competent ministries’ guidelines as well as the Government Programme.
- In addition to systematic controls, we also carry out reactive enforcement on the basis of our auditors’ findings and, for example, complaints filed by members of the public. In some sectors, our enforcement role consists entirely of investigating complaints. Education is one such sector.
- Regular audits are an integral part of our enforcement efforts. The operators to be audited are chosen based on needs assessments. We perform both scheduled and surprise audits. We also sometimes run intensive enforcement campaigns, often in collaboration with other government agencies, such as the Police, the Finnish Tax Administration or the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health.
- We help our customers to comply with the law. Our guidance is designed to prevent non-conformances. We run training courses and classes, send out letters with information about important developments and provide advice to our customers – local authorities, businesses, non-governmental organisations, employers and self-employed persons. Our role as a licensing authority also contributes to our proactive enforcement work.
- Industry self-regulation plays an important role in ensuring safety and a high standard of service. We encourage all the operators under our control to draw up a self-regulation plan. For example, only restaurants that have a self-regulation plan in place can be licensed to serve alcohol. Self-regulation is also required of social welfare and health care providers as well as early education providers.
What are the steps involved in a typical enforcement case?
Regional State Administrative Agencies get involved when a non-conformance is spotted by one of our own staff or brought to our attention by a disgruntled employee or member of the public. Some cases are referred to us by other government agencies, such as the Parliamentary Ombudsman or the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health. An ‘enforcement case’ refers to an issue or an incident that we investigate in order to establish whether any illegal or otherwise inappropriate conduct has occurred.
We familiarise ourselves thoroughly with each case. If we decide that a case warrants further investigation, we dig deeper. If there does not appear to be any reason to begin an actual investigation, we close the case and notify the interested parties. Alternatively, we can refer the case to another competent authority.
If we decide to open an investigation, we notify the operator in question and begin to gather evidence. We can also visit the operator’s premises in person or ask them to provide answers to specific questions.
Once we have all the evidence that we consider relevant to the case, we review it to establish whether there are any aspects of the operation that are illegal or otherwise objectionable and that need revising. We usually conclude an investigation by issuing a formal decision. However, occupational safety and health investigations, for example, can be concluded by simply making a note at the bottom of an inspection report. Any formal decision we issue at the end of an investigation explains our findings regarding any illegalities or non-conformances discovered and guides the operator towards taking remedial steps. The document also provides a reference point going forward, hopefully preventing any future irregularities. Enforcement cases can, depending on the circumstances, take as long as a year to investigate.
At the end of our investigation, we can
conclude that the operator has not broken the law,
draw the operator’s attention to practices that should be revised to ensure compliance with the law or good corporate governance rules in the future,
give the operator a warning,
order the operator to take corrective action by a certain deadline or risk a fine, or report the operator to the police.
We cannot, based on our investigation,
overturn or change decisions made by other competent authorities,
order the operator to pay damages,
order the operator to make specific decisions or take specific measures,
impose penalties, or
give orders relating to employment contracts.