”Invented” the SCSCA
In many ways, it is fair to say that Mr. Mørk-Eidem helped prepare for his work as Auditor General during his period as a member of the Storting. As a member of the Committee of Regulations, he participated in formulating the guidelines for the subsequent Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs. Previously, the OAG’s reports were discussed in a commission on scrutiny, composed of representatives who had been elected to this body in addition to their regular committee duties. It goes without saying that the OAG’s reports could not be subjected to the same thorough discussion as they later have been, within the framework of a separate committee.
A developing organisation
The Office of the Auditor General has developed in many ways during Bjarne Mørk-Eidem’s period of leadership. Changes comprise several rounds of reorganisations, relocating from Victoria Terrasse to Pilestredet, an entire revolution in terms of ICT and new electronic tools, new standards and methods, and a systematic introduction of performance audits.
“Presenting the performance audit reports upon their completion was of great importance. It meant that we were able to deliver reports throughout the year instead of only once, as we had done previously. By presenting cases continuously, we became more visible and less anonymous,” says the retiring leader of the Office of the Auditor General, but he emphasises the importance of not forgetting those whom we are serving, and in what way we are serving them. “An audit institution must always remain objective and impartial, resist pressure and never be afraid to speak out.”
Delayed public access
Mr Mørk-Eidem is also proud of the work on the new Act governing the activities of the Office of the Auditor General, even though he emphasises that the previous legislation also was absolutely adequate. “However, the Act needed to be updated. For example, it did not mention corporate control or performance auditing. Matters connected to performance auditing were in the form of control of decisions and transactions. The new Act implies new forms of reporting to the Storting and a legal basis for performance audits with delayed public access.
“Even though not everybody will agree with me on this, I am convinced that by introducing delayed public access for the matters that we submit to the Storting we have provided a space for both the Office of the Auditor General and not least the government administration to discuss these matters in a thorough and professionally satisfactory manner. Cases are subsequently made public when they are submitted to the Storting. In my opinion, our experience of this practice in the last few years has been very positive.”
“The international activities came at an early point in time,” he admits. “We need to seek contacts to prevent ourselves from becoming isolated and self-centred,” he claims. As a member of the Storting, he became engaged in the work of the Nordic Council and other Nordic cooperation efforts at an early stage. Over the years, this engagement has become even stronger. He points to the transfer of the IDI secretariat to Norway as a milestone in the international activities. He has been a Board Member of INTOSAI since 1995, and draws attention to many of the matters in which the Office of the Auditor General has been engaged, not least in the fields of environmental auditing and the auditing of international organisations.
“And now we have also been evaluated by the international peer review group. This has been most useful and interesting,” he admits. Keeping an open mind and being able to receive good advice and hints on how to do our work even better has been a good learning experience for us.
This has become one of Mr. Mørk-Eidem’s basic messages: “We do our work well,” he says, but then he adds: “We can do even better.” To some, this may seem as though he is never satisfied with the job they are doing. “I can understand that they interpret it in this manner,” he says. “But my intention has always been to make us reach for the next goal. If we cannot improve, we may easily stagnate. This attitude has been important to me in developing the organisation.”
At one with the people
If we could use one characteristic to describe Bjarne Mørk-Eidem besides his strong political engagement, it would have to be that he is at one with the people. Most of those who have met him at P42 or otherwise in the organisation will agree to this. He has attached great importance to having contact with the organisation, and prior to his upcoming retirement he has travelled all over the country to say goodbye to all district offices. “Having good relations with my co workers has been the most important thing to me,” he says sincerely. “Most of our work we do in teams, and the best results emerge when there is a ‘we’ and not an ‘I.’”
Mr. Mørk-Eidem often takes his packed lunch to the dining area, and joins a table. It doesn’t take long before the arguments fly across the table, or before laughter erupts over a hilarious story from one of his many previous arenas of activity. He is a born storyteller. And this is how we will remember him: Perched on the edge of his chair, with both hands firmly planted on the armrests as he breaks into a tall tale from the coast of Nordland, or preferably from Vega, from one of his previous lives.
“Obsposten” wants to say thank Mr Mørk-Eidem for the colourful years spent in the Office of the Auditor General, and sends its best wishes for his retirement, which we do not doubt that will be spent actively.This article was first published in Norwegian in Obsposten no 6/2005