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Monday, June 24, 2024

Auditor general wags finger again

Norway’s state auditor general released his department’s latest review of various state ministries this week, and was none too pleased about how some are adhering to their budgets and their duties. He won’t approve the accounts of welfare agency Nav.

Jørgen Kosmo is a former defense minister and president of the Norwegian Parliament who now heads the State Auditor General's office. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Auditing staff headed by Jørgen Kosmo, known as the riksrevisor in Norwegian, found so much fault at Nav that he fears retirees, for example, aren’t receiving the payments they deserve. Nav has been the target of much criticism in recent years, since its formation through a merger of several welfare agencies covering everything from unemployment to retirement pay.

For the second year in a row, Kosmo’s state auditor general’s office (Riksrevisjon) refused to approve Nav’s accounts. It found little improvement from the last round of criticism and still hasn’t inaugurated systems for internal control and benefits distribution, claimed Kosmo. Nav officials themselves insist things are better than the 2009 numbers that the auditors were working with imply, and seem confident of a stronger review next year.

State auditors also found plenty of fault within the Defense Ministry, which has hired in a wave of private consultants to manage restoration and new construction projects at military bases around the country. Auditors found many cases where the consultants approved bills, sometimes from firms where the consultants themselves were employed. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that military construction division (Forsvarsbygg) didn’t protest.

“We’re sorry we haven’t followed guidelines and can see the unfortunate blending of roles,” said Marit Leganger of Forsvarsbygg, adding that the division has now hired in its own staff and developed new internal controls over use of consultants.

Nor has the military increased its battle readiness adequately since 2005, it has poor purchasing routines that often occur without competition, and even feels a need to hirein external help to handle marksmanship training for soldiers, claim the auditors. Kosmo, a former defense minister himself, thinks there should be enough competence within the military to teach its soldiers how to shoot. The military has improved its record of timely bill-paying, though, according to the state audit.

Meanwhile, Kosmo said he doesn’t understand why the state railroad (Jernbaneverket) and the state highway department (Statens vegvesen) “plead for more money,” when they haven’t used up extra budget allotments they received during the finance crisis.

The highway department got NOK 2.3 billion extra, and the railroad NOK 1.3 billion, to finance new projects and create jobs. Kosmo said he was “disappointed” they didn’t make use of the money to boost employment.

“They say they didn’t have plans (in place for new projects), so then why are they asking for more money?” Kosmo said to Aftenposten.

In other rebukes to state ministries, Kosmo claimed the police (part of the Justice Ministry) had poor control over the narcotics, weapons and money they seized during police operations. The police also failed to solve fewer crimes than they did last year. State tax officials, meanwhile, failed to conduct enough of their own audits of complex tax cases.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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