Control of the Storting’s operations “is in limbo.” That’s what law professor Benedikte Moltumyr Høgberg says.
The fact that the Auditor General can no longer control the Storting’s operations surprises lawyers with administration as a special area.
– Now everything is in a kind of limbo. It is unsustainable. The Storting has not launched an internal audit. There is also no external commercial control. And the Auditor General’s Office has been told not to control the Storting.
This is what Benedikte Moltumyr Høgberg, professor at the Oslo Law School, says.
Foss: The Storting said stop
For 100 years, the Office of the Auditor General verified that the Storting was governed by laws and regulations. Today’s Auditor General, Per-Kristian Foss, wanted to continue that tradition.
– In 2017, we experienced something very special. We had conducted two-thirds of a computer security audit at the Storting. We then experienced that the Storting chairmanship stepped in and said enough, Foss told Aftenposten on Tuesday.
Høgberg sat, among other things Harbergutvalget. The committee investigated the Storting’s control function. The presidency received the report on the table in February this year.
Out of control
She says there was agreement in the committee that the Storting should have an internal auditor in place. The idea was, among other things, to verify the accounts and the administration.
It was also agreed that one should have an external control that could come in and observe the operations of the Storting.
– A question for the committee was who should carry out the commercial control for the Storting, that is, more than what an ordinary external auditor looks at. While the auditor primarily considers that income and expenses are entered correctly, the question remains who should control how the Storting is executed. But the committee did not come to a conclusion on who should be responsible for this control, whether it should be appointed to an independent external auditor or to the Office of the Auditor General, he says.
I was surprised
When he saw Aftenposten’s interview with Per-Kristian Foss, he was shocked.
– As I understood it, it was a prerequisite for the committee’s work that the Office of the Auditor General had the opportunity to carry out this scrutiny until an alternative solution finally arrived, he says.
Moltumyr Høgberg says he sees no legal argument against the Office of the Auditor General doing such work. The precondition is that a distinction be made between the operations and the policy of the Storting.
– The mandate of the Office of the Auditor General is to control central government accounts and government activities. I see that the text of the law can be interpreted in both directions. For 100 years, the Office of the Auditor General has interpreted this to mean that they can also audit the Storting. I was surprised that in 2017 the Auditor General was told to stop controlling the Storting, he says.
Makes sense with auditing
Former civilian ombudsman Arne Fliflet says there may be good reasons why the Office of the Auditor General controls the Storting’s administration.
– We are often a bit imprecise when we talk about the Storting. We must distinguish between elected representatives and the administration, he says.
– The administration is part of the administration. The Office of the Auditor General should be able to control it.
He says that the General Audit is the tool of parliamentary representatives. The audit lays the foundations for the control of the administration by the representatives.
– It may even make sense that the Auditor General’s Office also controls the Storting’s management, he says.
Separate policy and operations
Law professor E vivos Smith also believes that the Auditor General’s Office should be able to control the Storting’s operations. It also distinguishes between the work carried out by the representatives of the people and the Storting as a place of work.
– The General Audit Law establishes that the audit will function independently and independently. This means that the Auditor General can also carry out the tasks required by law, independently of the chairmanship or the administration of the Storting.
Remember that the Storting administration has tasks such as personnel administration and the travel office. Buys and operates computer equipment. The Storting employs many people for security tasks and much more. The experience of recent years shows that in such areas there are many reasons to welcome independent control, as Smith sees it.
– Several security breaches in the Storting’s computer systems illustrate themselves that the review requested of the Auditor General’s Office could not have been helpful, says Smith.