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Minister asked to explain taxi rides

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09:57 CET+01:00
Defence minister Mikael Odenberg has been asked by Sweden's parliamentary authorities to explain bills for 200 taxi rides to and from his home, a six minute metro ride away from the Riksdag.

Riksdag rules stipulate that deputies must take the cheapest form of transport when the taxpayer is footing the bill. The regulations allow MPs to take taxis when there are no reasonable public transport alternatives.

Acceptable reasons for taking taxis include medical problems, lack of time, or heavy bags. Odenberg has only given reasons for his taxi rides in a few cases.

The minister lives near Karlaplan metro station, in the Östermalm district of Stockholm. The journey time from there to Gamla Stan station, near the Riksdag, is around 6 minutes. Of the 300 taxi rides taken by Odenberg in 2005 and the first half of 2006, 215 were to or from his apartment. The total cost of his taxi bills was 56,539 kronor.

On these receipts Odenberg wrote 'constituency travel'. The Riksdag does not investigate constituency travel, so these have so far been paid out of parliamentary money. One further taxi journey was labelled a 'time saving journey' by Odenberg.

The contested taxi trips date from the period before Odenberg became a minister.

The Riksdag authorities have now asked the minister to provide justification for his use of taxis.

Odenberg said to news agency TT on Monday that saving time and security were both reasons for his taxi rides.

"Most of the taxi journeys have ended at my home. If I have, for example, been speaking in the suburbs in the evening, I have taken a taxi home. Or when we have been discussing our spring proposition until 11pm and then I've got up at 5am and gone in to prepare for the debate," he said.

Odenberg said he had accounted for his taxi rides every month, in complete compliance with the Riksdag's regulations.

Since Odenberg became a minister in October he has travelled in his own car or in a government car.

"The security police don't let me use public transport," he said.

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