State auditor in trouble again

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Norway’s state auditor general, the veteran Conservative politician Per-Kristian Foss, has once again become the target of complaints over his allegedly rough management style. Foss once again has promised to improve his ways.

Per-Kristian Foss had a long political career before becoming state auditor general in 2014. Now he’s under criticism once again over his management style. PHOTO: Høyre

“I can be too impatient,” Foss admitted to newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) this week. “And I can get angry.” He added, though, that he thinks he has “become better” in both areas.

“I’m on the way in working to improve my style, and I’ll be paying a lot of attention to that,” Foss said.

His comments came after a second round of complaints that became public last autumn, after an internal survey was conducted within the state auditor general’s office (Riksrevisjonen) on the workplace environment. Foss was strongly criticized for being harsh and belittling both his own employees and people outside the office. Foss, a former finance minister who also once led the Conservative Party, acknowledged the complaints and claimed he would become more conscious of how he interacts with staff.

In April, however, a new round of complaints arose. In a written report from a meeting of the auditor general office’s top leaders, and obtained by DN, an employees’ representative complained that “it makes an impression when experienced colleagues are on the verge of tears.” Astrid Stenberg Bråthen claimed that colleagues had told her they felt “hung out” by Foss, and that their competence was “neither recognized, valued or used.” Bråthen also stated that some colleagues “wish they were older so they could just retire.”

Foss, age 67, won a new four-year extension of his term that expired at the end of last year. Many had thought he would retire, not least after suffering a stroke, but he wanted to continue and, after some political drama, the parties making up Norway’s conservative government coalition granted his wish.

“I think it’s correct to say that many in the Conservatives thought Foss’ time was up,” one source told DN, adding that DN‘s reports last fall about Foss’ management style “confirmed our impression.”

Now alarms are ringing again and Foss claims he’s taking the situation seriously, not least after employees’ labour organizations sent a declaration of support for a member of the top leadership group who had reacted to how Foss treated her. There’s also been discontent over how Foss handled a hiring process that proved to be illegal.

Foss himself also noted that the budget for the auditor general’s office was cut last year, leading to some restructuring and spending cuts.

“There’s been some unrest since the employees think there have been many changes all at once,” Foss said. “It can well be said that it went a bit fast and we must be better at evaluating at what tempo and sequence things should be done.” He admitted that employees’ representatives issued some warnings “that we perhaps haven’t listened to well enough.”

Foss maintains, though, that he is well-suited for his job after being a long-time Member of Parliament and govenrment minister. “It’s demanding to lead a large organization,” he told DN, but he intends to hang on.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund