Auditor General and General Manager of the Office of the Auditor General
At the Auditor General’s Office we felt completely ousted from the top management of the Storting in 2017. But at the next crossroads we will not listen.
This is a discussion post. Opinions in the text are the responsibility of the writer.
Storting President Tone W. Trøen believes that the Office of the Auditor General itself decided to end the Storting security investigation. Now he claims it was because of the security law. I repeat: it was the then presidency that stopped us.
On Saturday 25 September, Trøen wrote in Aftenposten that the Storting “wants a good and clear framework for the control activities of the Auditor General’s Office.” It’s natural in a modern and well-functioning democracy, but I’m still glad that she emphasizes just that.
At the same time, it states that in 2017 the Office of the Auditor General itself decided to terminate an ongoing security compliance audit at the Storting. According to Trøen, it was “because the Storting was not subject to the Security Law in force at that time.” Neither part is correct.
Neither self-chosen nor by Security Law
In a letter dated December 5, 2017, two-thirds of the security survey, the then presidency writes:
“However, the ongoing compliance audit provides a basis for raising questions about what forms of audit the Office of the Auditor General should perform as the Storting’s oversight body with the Storting’s own activities, and on what basis the audit should be carried out. audit”.
They also write:
“The development of compliance auditing as a separate form of audit means that the Presidency believes that it is necessary for the Storting to make a principled assessment of how this form of auditing should be organized with respect to the Storting’s own activities.”
The presidency also mentions the Security Law in the letter. It is true that there was uncertainty about how the law should apply to the Storting, but that was not the main reason for the presidency. It was based on principles and it was about the extent to which the Office of the Auditor General can audit the operation of the Storting.
Therefore, the chair asked us to explain the legal basis for compliance audits. It is the first time in modern times that the people we audit have asked questions about our opportunity to do our jobs.
Two days later, on December 7, 2017, we sent a full statement. We explain what compliance auditing is, the basis for conducting such surveys, and not least why it is important.
Two different chairmen of the Storting: two different stories
We never received a letter back, but we did meet with the presidency on December 18. There, the then president of the Storting, Olemic Thommessen, repeated the message of the letter – The Auditor General has no mandate or legal basis to carry out compliance audits of the Storting administration.
The sweater, of course, was not at this meeting, but it was then-Vice President of the Auditor General’s College Karl Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen, Audit Counselor Jens Gunvaldsen and the undersigned. We all had the same opinion: the compliance audit initiated was not desired.
It is the first time in modern times that the people we audit have asked questions about our opportunity to do our jobs.
Aftenposten writes on September 21: ‘Former Storting President Olemic Thommessen (H) confirms that he detained the Office of the Auditor General. “At the time, we believed that the Auditor General’s Office did not have the authority to investigate the Storting, and that it was a matter of principle that needed to be clarified,” says Thommessen.
So it was Thommessen who stopped us. In his remarks, Trøen refers exclusively to our statement of December 7, but ignores other important parts of the process and dialogue. For her to maintain that we ourselves stopped the audit due to the uncertainty about the Security Law, I can’t help but wonder.
Should we have continued?
But Trøen is right: the Auditor General’s Office must work independently from both the Storting and the central government. It is an important democratic value that we have a special responsibility to safeguard.
At the same time, we do not escape the fact that the Storting is in a special position in its relationship with us: we are its supervisory body. The Storting has given us our mandate and adopts the law and instructions on which our work is based. We work independently on specific audits, but we work within the framework set by the Storting.
Perhaps we were too compliant, but a total college of five auditors, in addition to the administrative management of the Office of the Auditor General, felt that we had no other choice.
As an accountant, I know that learning from your mistakes is the best way to learn. So now I wonder if we should hear the presidency in 2017 and still. In hindsight, perhaps we should, as law professor E claim Smith also argues.
But to be honest, at the time I experienced it as impossible. Perhaps we were too compliant, but a total college of five auditors, in addition to the administrative management of the Office of the Auditor General, felt that we had no other choice. We feel completely discarded from the Storting’s top leadership in 2017. But at the next crossroads, we will not listen. I’ve learned it from this case.
It is even more important that Trøen seems to agree that this is an obvious task for the Office of the Auditor General, even though his predecessor, according to him, “thought at the time that the Office of the Auditor General had no authority to investigate. the Storting “.
Now we have to move on
The Storting and the Auditor General’s Office work for us, but they have a joint responsibility. We will take care of and strengthen Norwegian democracy and ensure trust between the population and the authorities.
None of us can change what happened in 2017. So now we must end this case and move on.
The General Audit investigates what happened in public companies, but always looks ahead. Our vision is to make revisions that benefit the society of tomorrow.