Top bureaucrat also resigns from troubled ministry

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Harald Nybøen, who held the top bureaucratic post at Norway’s beleaguered government ministry in charge of family and equality issues, has resigned just two days after the ministry’s top politician, Audun Lysbakken, resigned as minister himself.

Nybøen had led the ministry for 15 years and it’s highly unusual for top state bureaucrats to leave their posts. Lysbakken, though, had alluded to a history of questionable practices within the ministry involving extra funding allocations, suggesting violations like the ones that toppled him had occurred before.

That had prompted a local law professor to tell newspaper Aftenposten that there was “good reason to evaluate” whether bureaucrats and civil servants within the ministry had neglected their duties as well. Nybøen wouldn’t comment on Professor Eivind Smith’s remarks, but resigned a few hours after Aftenposten published them.

Nybøen stated that his resignation came in connection with “major challenges” tied to organizational development, and work that would require “new strengths and an entirely new approach.”

Another professor, Ole Berg, told newspaper Dagsavisen that Nybøen was approaching retirement age but also may have been challenged by a steadily growing corps of “junior politicians” that ministers often bring with them to the job. They can make life difficult for the ministry’s established bureaucracy.

One of Lysbakken’s state secretaries who would fit the “junior politician” category, Kirsti Bergstø, has also resigned during a week of ministry crisis. Lysbakken also may face challenges this weekend, when he had expected to be elected as leader of his party, the Socialist Left (SV). While he still has the support of top party leadership, a grass roots movement within the party started voicing objections, and calling for another candidate for party leader.

Questions remain over what all the trouble within SV, one of Norway’s three government coalition parties, will mean for the government itself. Speculation was running high, but no clarification was expected until after the results of SV’s weekend meeting are known.

Views and News staff