Parliament scolds finance minister

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Norway’s deposed justice minister wasn’t the only top politician in trouble this week. Her Progress Party boss, Finance Minister Siv Jensen, also faced official criticism from the Parliament’s disciplinary committee, over how she handled the recent crisis around state statistics bureau SSB.

Finance Minister Siv Jensen testifying at the Parliamentary hearing on the SSB case in January. Jensen is now due to receive official criticism of how she handled a conflict at SSB that resulted in its leader’s resignation. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

Members of the committee have spent several months examining the SSB case, which climaxed last fall when Jensen announced that she no longer had confidence in Christine Meyer, SSB’s boss at the time. Meyer responded by contending she didn’t need the finance minister’s confidence to keep her job.

The SSB conflict was rooted in how Meyer was carrying out a reorganization of the statistics bureau, which plays a critical role in Norwegian society through its constant collection of facts and figures. Meyer had been hired by Jensen in 2015 and set about with the modernization and reorganization she thought she’d been commissioned to implement.

When Meyer started transferring top researchers to other roles, however, and imposing publication requirements, complaints were quickly planted in the political pipeline and moved onto the public stage. Last autumn was characterized by great drama at SSB, as all involved hurled accusations at one another and Jensen was called upon to intervene.

The meetings between Jensen and Meyer then escalated into a public war of words, Jensen’s declaration of lack of confidence in Meyer and disagreement over why Meyer ultimately had to resign.

A majority on the Parliament’s disciplinary committee has now decided that Jensen’s ministry had not given Meyer clear signals of dissatisfaction. Then came a dispute over notes taken at meetings between Meyer and the ministry, and whether she had been given any warnings.

Meyer, meanwhile, also insisted that SSB should be run entirely independently of the government ministries, and expressed gratitude this week that the Parliament has now “thoroughly” examined her case. She has since returned to her professor’s post at the University of Bergen. Jensen did not want to comment on the position of the parliamentary committee until it was formally made public. Berglund