Norway’s State Auditor General (Riksrevisjonen) has concluded that the government has done a poor job following up on its large ownership stake in state oil company Equinor. The oil ministry failed, according to state auditors, to make enough demands for information regarding Equinor’s deeply troubled international operations.
Equinor has been in trouble for months over huge losses in the US, a string of accidents and oil leaks both in Norway and abroad. New Oil Minister Tina Bru finally demanded more information and openness last spring, but auditors indicate the request is coming rather late.
In a report to Parliament, the Auditor General’s office contends the ministry hasn’t paid enough attention over the years to operations at Equinor, formerly Statoil. The ministry has instead had “exaggerated attention on oil production.”
State government officials have long maintained mostly a “hands-off” attitude towards the companies in which the state has ownership stakes such as Equinor, Norsk Hydro, Telenor and Yara. They’re now being urged to take more active roles as owners and investors, while the Auditor General specifically sought more openness from the former Statoil in 2011. State financial regulators followed up in 2014 with a call for Equinor to specify results from its US operations, a practice Equinor was reluctant to follow, allegedly for competitive reasons.