Norway’s Royal Palace sent out a brief press release on Monday, reporting that a top official who has overseen many palace renovations and building projects over the years had resigned his post with immediate effect. The resignation came after an unspecified violation of the Palace’s internal guidelines.
Ragnar Osnes, who carried the title of slottsforvalter, reportedly “chose” to resign after the alleged violations emerged during “an internal review.” Gry Mølleskog, administrative leader of the palace, characterized the violations as “serious,” adding that “therefore I have accepted his immediate resignation.”
Mølleskog further added that the Royal Palace will now, “as a consequence of the findings in the internal examination, evaluate the extent of powers granted to the position of slottsforvalter.” No information was released about the nature of Osnes’ alleged violations. Osnes himself did not respond to requests for comment.
Triggered by questions from newspaper Dagbladet
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the palace’s “internal review” was prompted by a series of questions from newspaper Dagbladet last week regarding several building projects and one in the park surrounding the palace in recent years. The content of the questions was not revealed.
Dagbladet itself received confirmation from the palace that the internal review was launched on the basis of the questions the newspaper had raised. The palace declined to answer Dagbladet’s questions, however, so it remains unclear exactly which “internal guidelines” the palace believes Osnes has broken.
He’d been an adviser to Norway’s royal family since the 1990s, held a central role in the controversial and expensive upgrading of the Palace and has been involved in improvements at other royal properties. Osnes is educated as an architect and also has drawn up plans for the royal family’s private real estate.
Officials at the Royal Palace refused to comment further. Crown Prince Haakon, who is on an official trip to the Baltic countries this week along with Crown Princess Mette-Marit, also refused to answer questions on what was shaping up as a building scandal at the palace.
The palace recently reported its biggest financial deficit in 10 years, blaming it on expenses of the celebrations of King Harald’s and Queen Sonja’s 80th birthdays last year and on the costs of securing royal property. Among the projects tied to the royal birthdays was the renovation and conversion of the former stables on the grounds of the palace into an art center that requires an admission fee.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that last year’s deficit was the largest since 2007. Salary costs for the palace’s 160 employees also increased by NOK 6 million, to NOK 134 million. The palace, which has been publicly pressured to be more open about how it manages the public funding it receives, reported a loss of nearly NOK 5 million in 2016 and NOK 9.9 million in 2017.