Errors and breaches in public funds and rules must be discovered, reprimanded and corrected.
This is a chronicle. Opinions in the text are the responsibility of the writer.
Both the media and the investigative focus of watchdogs are nasty when mistakes are discovered. But it is of utmost importance for trust in the authorities.
We depend on trust, but it shouldn’t be blind.
It is the expectation of the Storting of the Auditor General’s Office that you be brave and tough. The opposite will harm both the Auditor General and the very important task it has.
Since 1816, the Office of the Auditor General, through its independent and critical control of state administration, has been an important institution for the preservation of society. Therefore, the Office of the Auditor General is almost as old as the Norwegian People’s Government itself. It was established as the first of the Storting’s external control bodies and remains the most important.
The Auditor General has been crucial to one of the most important functions of liberal democracy: that the authorities and the state are continuously monitored and corrected.
Errors must be detected and corrected
There is no doubt that many of those who have been under the watchful and controlling gaze of the Auditor General’s Office may have felt the inspector as troublesome and quite severe. Even when the focus is on ourselves, we fully recognize that it must be so.
Humans make mistakes and systems fail. It can happen frequently or infrequently, but it happens everywhere. We can apologize and not like it, but we cannot close our eyes.
Some mistakes are made knowingly and intentionally, others due to lack of knowledge or correction. We must strive to fight the first and do everything possible to avoid the second.
What is really dangerous is if mistakes and breaches in public funds and rules are allowed to go undetected, not talked about, and uncorrected. It is almost as dangerous if the population is impressed that there is a lack of order and control.
It’s about trust
Thanks to surveys carried out over many years, we know that the administration in Norway is efficient and works well compared to other countries.
Like our Nordic neighbors, for generations we have built a culture of trust, both among citizens and between the population and the authorities. This trust is one of the basic preconditions for prosperity and democracy that make Norway one of the countries in the world with the best living conditions for the population.
Some mistakes happen knowingly and intentionally, others due to lack of knowledge or correction.
Trust must be vigilant and critical. It must be based on the certainty that those in power are looked at in the cards and that community systems and institutions are followed to the letter.
This is where the internal control apparatus of the authorities comes into play, especially parliamentary control through the external control bodies of the Storting. And that is why one of the most important social contributions of the General Auditor is to exercise its control to generate and maintain trust.
Independence of the Storting and the Auditor General
For the Storting, consideration of the integrity of the Auditor General’s Office is paramount.
The Auditor General has stated that the chairmanship of the Storting in 2017 stopped a so-called compliance audit with the Storting administration. That is not right.
The specific case was about security work at the Storting. The Office of the Auditor General itself decided to temporarily postpone its compliance audit of the Storting’s work in this area, because the Storting was not subject to the applicable Security Act at the time.
Throughout this time, the Office of the Auditor General has audited the accounts of the Storting. It is important to emphasize. Decided to wait with the safety work review until it was clarified to what extent the new security law from 2018 it would apply to the Storting.
It was clarified in 2018. However, the General Audit has not subsequently returned to the question of resuming compliance with the security work in the Storting administration, or initiating any new compliance audit.
Comprehension and self-understanding
Control bodies such as the Office of the Auditor General, the Civil Ombudsman, the EOS Committee and the Norwegian Institute for Human Rights must ensure that the public can trust the authorities to act as they should.
However, the establishment of control bodies is not enough. Of course, the supervisory bodies must also do their job well, but even that is not enough.
In addition, the population must trust that the control is of good quality, sufficiently critical and above all: that it is completely independent of other interests of the authorities or others.
This trust also depends on the inspectors staunchly defending and demonstrating their true independence, also to their clients.
The Office of the Auditor General is particularly important in times of crisis
It is no secret that the Storting is undergoing tests. Errors have been detected and must be corrected. No one should doubt our willingness and desire to do whatever is necessary in that regard, or our willingness to be controlled.
This is precisely why the Storting presidency took the initiative to do so The Harberg Committee He was asked to assess how the Storting’s management audit can best be organized for the future.
No one should doubt that we want a good and clear framework for the control activities of the Auditor General. The current law on the Office of the Auditor General has not been revised since the early 2000s. Therefore, the Storting appointed this spring a selection who will review it.
This will provide the Auditor General with up-to-date and robust legislation for its control activities. We will be controlled.