Government withholds critical audits

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State auditors reportedly have completed several critical audits of government performance regarding road building, nursing home administration and integration. The reports aren’t being released until after the election, though, and that’s set off howls from the opposition.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend that state auditor Riksrevisjonen has delivered critical audits involving the work of several key government ministries.

The audits reportedly reveal poor maintenance procedures for Norwegian highways, poor administration of state-run nursing homes and deficiencies surrounding the much-vaunted efforts of the current left-center government to make the labor market more inclusive.

The state audit reports thus directly criticize the state transportation, health and labour ministries, on the eve of parliamentary elections September 14. Release of the audits has been scheduled for September 24.

That’s resulted in an unusual alliance between two opposition parties, the small Liberal Party (Venstre) and the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) . Venstre leader Lars Sponheim called for immediate release of the allegedly “secret” audits, and sent off a letter to the president of the Parliament (Storting) , asking that the Parliament’s leadership contact Riksrevisjonen and ask that the audits be forwarded at once.

On Saturday Frp supported Venstre’s effort, even though Venstre has made it clear it finds Frp too conservative and won’t support any government in which it may be involved.

That hasn’t stopped Frp from backing Venstre’s initiative, with Frp’s deputy leader claiming that the content of the audits could decide the election.

“It’s arrogant of the government to keep them secret,” said Frp’s Per Sandberg. “During the campaign, the government has boasted about what it’s done for roads, nursing homes and the labour market, but here come three reports that can claim exactly the opposite.”

Government officials have blamed the delayed release on holiday and travel plans,, saying they didn’t see the election as a reason for hastening their release.

Sponheim’s not buying that explanation. “The election is the most important thing in a democracy,” he said. “If the government wants to make these documents public, they have the opportunity to do so.”