Innovation chief cleared, but quits

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Anita Krohn Traaseth has been cleared of wrongdoing in her job as chief of state development agency Innovation Norway. She nonetheless decided to quit last week, claiming that five years in the job was enough.

Anita Krohn Traaseth (left), a former boss at Hewlett Packard in Norway, was brought into Innovation Norway by both Prime Minister Erna Solberg and former trade minister Monica Mæland (right). She had supporters in the government but internal critics as well. PHOTO: Innovation Norway

Traaseth’s resignation came just a week after an external audit conducted by consulting firm Deloitte concluded that Traaseth didn’t break Innovation Norway’s own rules by hiring billionaire heiress Katharina G Andresen in a temporary positon that wasn’t advertised. There’s room for improvement in the agency’s hiring routines, Deloitte concluded, but no conflict of interest or violations were uncovered.

The Andresen controversy was the latest in a string of events that had landed Traaseth in the headlines for the wrong reasons. She recently stirred up a fuss in the oil business, for example, when Innovation Norway did not participate in this year’s huge oil industry exposition in Stavanger. Traaseth and her colleagues opted for the “Clean Energy Park” instead.

Several of the labour organizations representing employees in Innovation Norway have also had some tense relations with Traaseth, not least after she carried out major reforms that shook up the organization and prompted some heads to roll. Traaseth used her private blog to attack what she called a “smear campaign” against her and other key persons in her management team.

Tensions came to a head earlier this year when the leader of Innovation Norway’s board, Per Otto Dyb, was about to address issues and complaints about Traaseth, only to be replaced himself by the government minister in charge of Innovation Norway. Dyb was furious, and vented his irritation in a letter to the board’s election committee. He claimed Innovation Norge had a leader who “created conflicts, confrontations and division.”

Traaseth had her supporters, however, and several wished her well. New board leader Gunnar Bovim claimed he was surprised by her resignation and called it “sad.” Government Minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen of the Conservative Party, who also has supported Traaseth, thanked her for her “contribution towards wealth creation in the Norwegian economy.”

She refused to answer questions about her resignation, with a prepared press release stating only that she will leave her post sometime next year and take a new job in a Norwegian growth-related company.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund