Document 3:12 (2012-2013) The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation of grant administration in Arts Council Norway was submitted to the Storting, Norway’s parliament, on 11 June 2013.
The objective of the audit was to shed light on whether grants for dramatic art, music and visual arts were appropriately designed, managed and followed up by the administration and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. The investigation covers funding administered by Arts Council Norway, Statens kunstnerstipend (government grants for artists) and the Audio and Visual Fund during the period 2006–2012. In 2012, this funding amounted to NOK 580 million.
The investigation shows that the same period saw a strong increase in grants allocated through the Norwegian Cultural Fund, and that there are still big differences from county to county as regards the dispersion of funding. Oslo County has the highest funding per capita during this period – NOK 1652, and Hedmark County has the lowest – NOK 89. The number of approved applications varies from 83 per cent in Nordland County to 17 per cent in Nord-Trøndelag County.
- It is important that funding is based on criteria such as artistic quality and relevance. At the same time, it is also important to ensure that these schemes benefit the whole country and that funding is not too geographically imbalanced. It is therefore positive that the Minister will consider measures that can improve the geographical dispersion of both applications and grants, says Auditor General Jørgen Kosmo.
The number of applications to the Norwegian Cultural Fund has increased significantly in the last few years – while case processing capacity has remained the same. In addition, much case processing is carried out without sufficient electronic support. The Office of the Auditor General notes that this has made the administration of grants more vulnerable. The audit shows that grounds for rejection or recommendation for support from Arts Council Norway often is not sufficiently documented in the administration’s or specialist committees’ internal application processing.
- The introduction of an electronic application and case processing system in 2013 should contribute to better documentation of ongoing case processing. This is necessary in order to be able to check the decisions being made, says Kosmo.
The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) notes that the Ministry of Cultural Affairs’ management has not secured satisfactory grant administration:
- Since the number of applications has increased significantly and grant administration has been conducted for several years without electronic support, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs should have taken the initiative to implement necessary improvement measures earlier, says Kosmo.
Further, the investigation shows that there is no complete overview of whether the projects which have received grants were carried out as planned.
- A poor overview of use of grants in the Norwegian Cultural Funds areas makes it very difficult to say whether the grants are contributing to reaching the goals which have been set. The grant administration needs to improve significantly here, says Kosmo.
Based on the significant increase in allocations for the Norwegian Cultural Fund, the OAG recommends that the Ministry of Cultural Affairs procure information on the use of grants more systematically.
The Minister of Culture states in her reply to the Office of the Auditor General that the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and Arts Council Norway have begun to review and modernise the grant administration. Among other things, this includes introduction of an electronic application and case processing system in 2013. The Minister feels this will simplify the application process for users and ensure control, documentation and follow-up of application processing.
As far as regional differences in funding are concerned, the Minister states that geography is an important consideration, but highlights that allocation must also be based on the target groups for the grants. The Minister still sees a need, however, to consider measures that may improve geographical dispersion.
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