Social minister asked to explain million kroner aid mess

Opposition calls for Annette Vilhelmsen to account for granting Huset Zornig one million kroner before the organisation even applied for it

Parties from both ends of the political spectrum have called for Annette Vilhelmsen (SF) to confirm her claims that she did not give Huset Zornig preferential treatment when she gave the organisation a one million kroner grant for its 'Stemmer på Kanten' (voices on the edge) campaign to encourage voter participation. 

Politiken newspaper gained access to email correspondence revealing Huset Zornig knew about the grant before it was even created, and before other organisations had an opportunity to apply for it. The correspondence also revealed that Huset Zornig co-ordinated directly with the Social Ministry, even conspiring to publish their press releases at different times in order to avoid things looking "too arranged". The disclosure has led critics to suspect that the grant was created specifically for 'Stemmer på Kanten'.

"Looking back, I realize that it may have looked strange, but it really isn't," Vilhelmsen told Politiken. "I'm very sorry and I know that I made a mistake. It doesn't look pretty, but I am still very pleased with the content of the campaign."

Zornig: it wasn't arranged
The head of Huset Zornig, Lisbeth Zornig, said she regrets using the words "too arranged", but says that no arrangements were made to cheat with the money.

"I deeply regret the wording, because it could look suspicious," she told Politiken. "But what it shows is that we didn't want it to look like a plot, because it wasn't."

"One million for you"
Vilhelmsen was caught on camera promising one million kroner to Zornig’s project 'Stemmer på kanten' by the DR2 programme of the same name in August. The project was part of a campaign to get more people from socially marginalised groups to vote in the local elections.

“There is one million for you,” Vilhelmsen told Zornig on live TV on August 29, 18 days before the application deadline. At that time, Zornig hadn’t yet applied for the grant.

The minister shook off the mistake as a gaffe and made up for it by issuing another grant amounting to one million kroner in taxpayer money that 16 other applicants could share between them, while 19 other projects applied for aid but did not receive any.

Dansk Folkeparti, Enhedslisten and Liberal Alliance said they didn’t want to make any conclusions before Vilhelmsen has had a chance to explain the process in detail, but Simon Emil Ammitzbøll (LA) told Politiken that he thought the minister had landed herself in “a serious case”.