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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Royals reform their finances

Crown Prince Haakon is now paying more of his private expenses himself, after the Parliament asked the royals to tidy up their finances. A series of articles in newspaper Dagbladet last year revealed how taxpayers had been picking up more of the royals’ bills than they should.

summer 2014
Crown Prince Haakon and his family own several private properties like here on the southern coast of Norway. Taxpayers had been charged for the maintenance through palace funding, but now the royals themselves will be covering costs through their own royal salaries.  From left: Haakon, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, Marius Borg Høiby, Prince Sverre Magnus and Princess Ingrid Alexandra. PHOTO: Det kongelige hoff

The annual report from the Royal Palace that accounts for royal expenses in 2016 was released this week and reveals several changes in the financial management of the crown prince’s private properties. He’ll be covering more of their expenses, after Dagbladet reported that both he and King Haakon had let the palace cover millions of kroner worth of expenses tied to the properties’ maintenance, operations and staff.

Haakon earned NOK 1.4 million in rental income from his properties, but without him actually covering the costs of those properties through the year. The bills for that, reported news bureau NTB, instead landed at the palace and were thus paid with its funding from its allocation in the state budget. That means taxpayers paid for the upkeep of the properties the crown prince rents on the grounds of his residence at Skaugum west of Oslo.

Now the management of those properties has been taken over by the commercial firm Utleiemegleren. The annual report also showed that if palace staff carry out other services at Skaugum, which is not a state property, they must be billed to Haakon’s private property enterprise.

‘Responded to criticism’
Meanwhile, 10 percent of the salary costs of the head of Haakon’s private staff are also now being covered by the crown prince’s own company. The palace is further evaluating whether Haakon’s private hytte at Risør that he rents out should be managed by others than palace staff. The crown prince must also cover the hytte’s costs himself.

“On these points, the royal household has responded to our criticism,” Martin Kolberg, the Member of Parliament from the Labour Party who heads the parliament’s disciplinary committee. He has had several meetings at the Royal Palace to hash out the family’s finances and make them more transparent.

In some cases, it’s simply easier and more economical for palace staff to carry out maintenance and other duties tied to the royals’ private properties. The report specifies that major work that also increases the value of the properties shall not be carried out by palace staff. Sometimes, the report notes though, it’s more “efficient” to have palace staff do the work instead of using time to find external suppliers who would need to be escorted at all times anyway for security reasons.

‘Clear and open conversation’
Kolberg was generally satisfied that the palace is following up on the Parliament’s criticism and concerns. Kolberg’s committee had called for more openness and better accounting, and stressed that the royals’ individual salaries (called apanasjen) must be used to pay their private expenses, and not the palace’s funds.

“We have had a clear and open conversation about the palace’s economy, and the king and crown prince’s own management,” Kolberg told Norwegian Broadcastng (NRK). He now thinks the accounts comply with the Parliament’s demands.

In addition to their use of state-owned properties like the Royal Palace itself, the royals own a long string of properties privately, including the crown prince’s estate at Skaugum and the royal family’s holiday homes at Kongsseteren near Holmenkollen, Mågerø at Tjøme, Uvdal and Sikkilsdalen in the mountains, Dvergsøya and Jørstad. Berglund



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