Former culture minister deemed not guilty of conflict of interest

Uffe Elbæk did nothing wrong by hosting lavish affairs at husband’s school, state auditor rules

The national auditor’s office has concluded that Uffe Elbæk (Radikale) was not guilty of a conflict of interest when he hosted official dinners and meetings at Akademiet for Utæmmet Kreativitet (AFUK), an art school where his husband is employed, and where he himself was a member of the board.

Elbæk found himself in the centre of a political storm last year after it emerged that he had spent 180,000 kroner on five official dinners and meetings at AFUK.

A report published by Rigsrevisionen today said that Elbæk’s actions did not constitute a conflict of interest.

Elbæk was called into a meeting in parliament last December to offer up an explanation for the pricey dinners. Prior to the meeting, Elbæk maintained that he had discussed the five lavish events with officials from his ministry, who raised no concerns. Following the meeting, Elbæk said that he had in fact been warned about the dinners.

“There was a ministry official who was good enough to pull me aside and say: ‘Uffe, we need to discuss this. In the long-term, this isn’t very smart’,” Elbæk said at the time. “And I completely agree with him.”

That change in explanation led far-left party Enhedslisten and opposition party Venstre to call for Rigsrevisionen to investigate the case. Today the auditors released a report saying that Elbæk had done nothing wrong.

The Culture Ministry itself did not get off so easily. The auditors said that the ministry should have investigated whether Elbæk was involved in activities that were a conflict of interest, which it did not do. The prices for the affairs thrown by the former minister also exceeded the ministry’s cost-per-person guidelines, which the auditors said also should have been investigated by the ministry.

Elbæk resigned from his position as culture minister shortly after the December meeting with parliament. He was replaced by Marianne Jelved (Radikale).