Welfare agency allowed to snoop

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Politicians and ordinary citizens alike were unhappy to learn last week that state welfare agency Nav has a legal right to probe welfare recipients’ bank accounts, health care records and telecommunications.

Nav officials say it’s the only way they can guard against welfare fraud. “Information can, if necessary, be delivered from financial institutions to Nav,” Magne Fladby of Nav told news bureau ABC Nyheter. “We don’t believe we need to inform our clients. If we did have to signal our suspicions, it would be almost impossible to do any monitoring.”

Fladby said Nav’s legal right to review bank account activity enables Nav to uncover welfare fraud or attempted fraud.

Nav, which has responsibility for unemployment, sick leave, disability, pensions and a host of other welfare payments in Norway, earlier was asked to refrain from its right to also monitor clients’ health records and telecommunications, because of privacy issues. Now politicians are also considering putting a stop to bank account probes.

“It’s clear we need an overall review of laws and regulations to see what Nav has a right to do,” said Member of Parliament Robert Eriksson of the Progress Party. “This is shocking.”

Views and News staff