3.1 General description, history, and key data of the administrative system

In Finland public administration essentially rests on the relations and cooperation between the state and the municipalities, which largely function autonomously. The administrative system functions in the executive and preparatory tasks and it can also be seen as cohesive power in the society and in the political organisation. The most important task of public administration is the provision of welfare services for citizens such as education, health care and social services. The State administration consists of three administrative levels that form the State organisation. The ministries and the government agencies operate at the level of central government. State's regional administration includes for example Provincial State offices, Regional environment centres and Occupational Health and Safety inspectorates. State's local administration, including State local districts, Employment offices, Tax offices, Customs offices and Legal aid offices constitute the third level of the State administration.

Local government is based on self-government of individual municipalities, guaranteed by the Constitution. Local self-government is part of public administration as well as independent courts and the State's business activities. The province of the Åland Islands is also guaranteed autonomy and it has its own political and administrative organs responsible for decision-making. The Parliament of Åland exercises legislative power within the framework permitted by its autonomous position. Otherwise the laws enacted by Finland's Parliament apply. In their native region the Sami have cultural and linguistic autonomy. In addition the churches, religious communities and the universities have self-government. These forms of self-government vary in relation to their status and execution.

When Finland became independent in 1917, after the period of autonomy, it already had over one hundred years of experience in having its own administration and long-standing contacts with Nordic administrative culture. Since the 1960s the public administration has expanded rapidly due to the increased tasks of the welfare state. Until the 1980s ministries and central agencies shared the responsibility of the public tasks. In regional administration, public tasks were the responsibility of Provincial State Offices, with the regional authorities representing various fields. In the early 1990s the system of central agencies was abolished, the number of Provincial State Offices reduced and several agencies were replaced by State companies and State enterprises. The reform was partly due to the difficult economic recession. The role of several agencies declined and ministries gained a stronger position. The EU membership has also transformed the role of the ministries.

State administration

The central state administration employs around 125 000 persons in total. 5000 of them are employed in ministries, 24 000 in other central administration agencies and institutions and 55 000 in state's regional and local administration.

The executive work of the Government is in practice carried out in ministries, each of which prepares matters falling within its relevant administrative sector. They function as administrative and political experts and direct and supervise agencies and institutions operating within their sectors of administration. Ministers operating at ministries are in no way subordinated to the collegial decision-making of officials. Nevertheless the state officials have great importance in the functioning of the ministries. Ministries cooperate with the regional and local administration.
Each ministry has several district authorities within its sector of administration.

A Permanent Secretary is the most senior official in a ministry. The Permanent Secretary directs and monitors the operation of the ministry, serving as the closest adviser to the minister, directing preparatory work, monitoring the implementation of the Government programme and managing cooperation between ministries. In the Ministry for foreign affairs and Ministry of Finance, State Secretaries serve as the Permanent Secretaries of the ministry. Ministers also have political special advisers.

In addition to the Government and the Ministries, the central administration of the state consists of State's bureaus, agencies, institutions and other bodies and the State's business activities. State bureaus and agencies have still remarkable function in the capacity of Finnish central government. Their position bases nowadays to a great deal to their expertise. Part of them are still responsible for the administrative tasks, in addition they carry out tasks such as guidance, supervision, information or reporting. An important group of public bodies are also State research institutes. Agencies and public bodies function under the administrative sector of each ministry.

The State administration participates in regional and local administration in cooperation with regional and local officials. State's regional administration has traditionally been incoherent and weak level of decision making in the administrative system on Finland. Regional authorities function within the administrative sectors of ministries and enable ministries to carry out their responsibilities at a regional and local level. The regional authorities can be characterised as expert organisations. The most common include State Provincial Offices, which act as the joint regional authority for seven ministries , Employment and Economic development Centres, Regional Environment centres, Occupational Health and Safety Inspectorates, Road districts under the Finnish Road Administration and Traffic management centres. Provincial administration as a general authority of regional administration derives from the period of being part of the Kingdom of Sweden. In the early 1990s the most of the provinces were abolished and replaced by five greater provinces. The task of developing the regions was transferred to Regional councils.

For the purposes of states local administration Finland is divided into 90 State Local Districts that are responsible for general and special administrative tasks, including personnel and financial management and communications for the local district. The functions of the Police and Local register offices (among others) are managed and carried out in local districts. In addition to State local districts, the local administration is the responsibility of Employment offices, Local tax offices, the customs and Legal aid offices. In recent decades the tasks of the State have been transferred to Municipalities and the importance of local administration has narrowed.

Indirect State administration functions under the supervision of the Government and ministries and comprises organisations which are not authorities but which carry out public tasks or, in some cases, execute public powers. These organisations supplement and support the authorities in managing the tasks of welfare society and their importance increased in the 1990s when the functions of the state were corporatised and privatised. Strengthening the role of indirect state administration aims at increasing the independence and flexibility of the operations of organisations.

Local self-government in municipalities

The self-governing character of the Finnish local government system has been progressively strengthened and strong local autonomy has become one special characteristic of the government of Finland. Its role has still increased when the municipalities were given the function of carrying out the tasks of welfare state. Municipalities form the most extensive and significant form of self-government in Finland. Finnish local government differs in some respect from the model typical in continental Europe. Finnish municipalities are big in European standards and they do not have elected mayor.

Municipalities are responsible for organising the majority of public services provided to citizens. The specific committees direct the provision of public services in municipality. The committee of land-use planning is one of the most common. The committees are increasingly becoming purchasers rather than producers of their services. The most important services provided by municipalities are education, children's day care, social welfare, health care and maintenance of technical infrastructure. In many fields municipalities often cooperate to provide services.

A number of joint municipal authorities and 19 Regional Councils exercise local self-government at regional level. Two or more municipalities can establish a joint municipal authority for taking care of responsibilities or services of a municipality in conjunction with other municipalities. Regional Councils are responsible for regional development and land use planning. They cooperate with 15 Employment and Economic development Centres, which, for their part, on the regional level represent the ministries responsible for the development of the industry and commerce. Local authorities practice sub-regional cooperation in order to ensure a dynamic economic standing and the production of basic services. Regional portals provide information on events, business activities and tourist attractions in all of the region's municipalities.