Monday, January 17

The presidency requests a full investigation from the Office of the Auditor General

The presidency believes that the Storting is in a “crisis of confidence”. Now they are asking the Office of the Auditor General for a full investigation of themselves.

President of the Storting Masud Gharahkhani advises a joint Storting to order a full investigation of all financial benefits they have.

The noise about commuter housing is by no means over.

It was known that the Office of the Auditor General was to investigate the commuter housing cases. But recently a unanimous presidency decided to take another step:

They want the Office of the Auditor General to examine all financial arrangements for Storting politicians.

The setting comes after a series of revelations in the press. Last year, both Aftenposten and DN wrote critical cases about the lack of control of the financial schemes of Storting politicians benefiting privately.

It is the Storting in plenary that can formally order the Office of the Auditor General. The matter came up in the Storting on Thursday. There, a green light was given for a full investigation, the Office of the Auditor General writes in a press release.

– It is of great importance that the Storting wants us to go thoroughly into these matters. It is important for trust in our most important elected institution – a trust that is crucial for Norwegian democracy, says Karl Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen, who started as the new Auditor General after Per-Kristian Foss on 1 January, in the press release.

“Confidence crisis” for the Storting

It is rare for the Storting in plenary to order the Office of the Auditor General to investigate.

The last time this happened was in 2019, when the Storting requested an investigation into the Alexander Kielland accident. An investigation was also ordered into the construction scandal in the Storting, the Office of the Auditor General informs Aftenposten.

The recommendation shows how seriously the presidency views the matter:

“The presidency will request that the investigations be initiated quickly, as a result of the crisis of confidence in the Storting as an institution, and that work be done quickly but thoroughly.”

It is a united presidency that is behind the recommendation.

Will investigate the administration

The Office of the Auditor General should be given free rein to go as far back in time as they wish. Also when they investigate individual cases, the presidency believes.

The Office of the Auditor General is specifically instructed to assess possible penalties and claims for reimbursement.

This is in addition to the Office of the Auditor General having already been asked to review the current regulations.

According to today’s rules, it is unclear whether the administration has the authority to demand reimbursement from politicians who have received benefits they should not have had.

A separate external committee appointed by the Storting has now been specifically asked to consider whether separate rules should be introduced for claims for repayment.

But it is not just Storting politicians who are going under the microscope. The Storting’s administration will also be reviewed.

The presidency will, among other things, get clarity on how the administration has handled cases where they have provided benefits, such as commuter housing.

The commuter housing cases started this autumn from the “boys’ room”.

Aftenposten revealed that Krf leader and minister Kjell Ingolf Ropstad did not report moving from there until he was 35 years old, married and had two children. This is how he got a free apartment in Oslo at the state’s expense for over ten years.

In addition to the Office of the Auditor General’s investigations, there are a number of others who will also look at the Storting in the cards in the coming months:

Changes guidelines

All politicians who live more than 40 kilometers from the Storting can apply for a commuter home. The guidelines for how commuter housing is allocated were changed before Christmas.

After a number of critical issues, the Storting has tightened the guidelines.

The administration’s view of the rules is now specified in clear text. It emerges, among other things, that there is nothing in the way of politicians being able to rent out their own home in Oslo, and get commuter housing.

– The Storting has set up a separate committee to assess the current regulations for commuter housing. Why would you not wait for the committee’s conclusions before confirming that current practice should be confirmed?

– I understand the question, but the changes we have now made will only clarify current rules and practices. Then this will be an important point in the work the committee will do to find fair and legitimate schemes, answers President of the Storting Masud Gharahkhani.

The Storting has also added a section on taxes. It emphasizes that each representative is responsible for “being familiar with and complying with their personal tax liability.”

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