Supreme Court Lawyer and Civil Ombudsman 1990 – 2014
The Storting should let the most competent bodies deal with the financial affairs of the representatives and members of the government.
This is a discussion post. Opinions in the text are the responsibility of the writer.
Aftenposten has meritoriously disclosed and revealed unclear regulations and a flawed system. It has proven incapable of safeguarding the interests of our elected representatives and members of government in a reliable, responsible and adequate manner. Our new government and the presidency that the Storting will now elect must review the regulations and arrangements that apply.
In the Storting period that we have left behind, questions have also been raised about how the Storting’s building and property matters should be handled. A parliamentary president had to resign due to significant financial cost overruns. This case also illustrates that cases should be handled by agencies with the best financial and administrative competence.
Obsolete and misunderstood opinion
The current rules and schemes seem to be based on an outdated and misunderstood vision of the principle of distribution of power in the Constitution. The case shows that the Storting presidency, the Storting administration and the Prime Minister’s Office (SMK) have not had clear views on how the regulations should be understood. There have also been unclear views on how government representatives and members should actually relate to regulations.
What can the Storting and the government do now? The representatives of the Storting and the members of the government are actually the representatives of the people. Therefore, the Storting and the government should have a common set of rules and system.
The Storting may, for example, elect a shop steward, an ombudsman, with the responsibility of interpreting the rules and giving government representatives and members answers to questions about how they should line up.
The ombud can obtain statements from competent bodies (eg tax authorities) and institutions, make recommendations and present reports on its activities to the presidency and SMK. The presidency and SMK can benefit from looking at the arrangements that Parliament has in England.
Trustee elected by the Storting
One wonders whether the Storting presidency and administration have the necessary financial and administrative information on population registration and tax matters.
The task of the presidency is to plan and direct the Storting’s work with legislation, the budget, and constitutional and parliamentary scrutiny. Therefore, the Presidency and the administration of the Storting should be exempted from their work to ensure that the representatives act and act in a lawful and ethically sound manner. These are tasks that can be assigned to a shop steward chosen by the Storting.
Consequently, it may be asked whether the chairmanship and administration of the Storting should devote time and effort to dealing with matters related to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Storting building and other matters related to the management of the Storting property.
The Storting building is state property. According to article 19 of the Constitution, it is the government that “supervises” that the properties of the State are used and managed “in the way that the Storting determines and is most useful for society”. The administrative body that currently has the necessary information and expertise is Statsbygg.
The reason why the chairmanship and the administration of the Storting have this responsibility today seems historic. At the end of the 19th century, a law professor, who was also a representative of the Storting, raised the question whether it was correct for the Storting to be responsible for matters relating to the administration of the Storting. The then Auditor General Johan Sverdrup believed that the Ministry of Finance (and the King of Sweden) should not interfere in the Storting’s work. So it was.
The Storting should now concentrate on its constitutional tasks and leave it to the more competent bodies to deal with the financial affairs of the representatives and members of the government and the management of the Storting’s property.