Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) turned the spotlight this week on several Norwegian townships (kommuner) that can’t or won’t account for how they spent millions of emergency funding from the state that was meant to help survivors of the terrorist attacks of July 22, 2011. Little if any help was actually offered, according to the survivors themselves, and many townships haven’t even applied for millions still available because of new accountability requirements.
Eidsvoll, Karasjok and Lillesand were especially singled out in NRK’s weekly investigative program Brennpunkt, after local residents who survived the attack claimed they had not received any concrete assistance from local officials. In one case, Eidsvoll reportedly used some of its funding earmarked for survivors to pay for municipal employees to attend the funeral of a resident victim. No funding was granted to help the young brother of a July 22 victim cope with his grief at school, despite direct pleas from his school for counseling or other psychological assistance.
Eidsvoll refused to account for how it spent its funds on camera, while an official in Karasjok insisted the money had been put to good use on behalf of the survivors, despite suvivors’ claims to the contrary. In Lillesand, the local mayor admitted the extra funding received for survivor aid had instead been put into the town’s general fund. He apologized on camera.
Around NOK 32 million in state funding remains untapped, after the state demanded that the townships be able to document how the money would be spent on concrete projects to help survivors deal with their grief. Advocates for the survivors, many of whom suffer post traumatic stress syndrome, called that a scandal in itself. Others believe the municipalities took the money from the state, but ended up not knowing what to do with it. Little if any has been paid back.
One municipality that came out well in the Brennpunkt overview was Tromsø in northern Norway. It used its funds to devote two full-time psychologists and health care personnel to actively organize regular meetings and counseling sessions for the city’s local July 22 survivors. Participants hailed the ongoing sessions as being a critical factor in their ability to get on with their lives after surviving the massacre on the island of Utøya, where 69 persons were killed by a right-wing extremist.