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Serious matter that several agencies providing essential services receive material remarks for yet another year

​While the Office of the Auditor General's review of state accounts and transactions for 2013 confirms overall good management, several agencies responsible for important public services continue to receive material remarks. - We take a serious view of the fact that this applies to repeat entities such as the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, Norwegian Armed Forces, Norwegian Police Directorate, Norwegian National Rail Administration, Norwegian Public Roads Administration and the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs, says Auditor General Per-Kristian Foss.

Published 10/16/2014 11:00 AM

​In its report, the OAG also emphasises ambiguities and lack of coordination in choice of financial framework, weaknesses in the security of information systems, deficiencies in the implementation of several services related to security and welfare, deficiencies in the management of several large projects and challenges with several of the public administration's management and control systems.

Document 1 (2014–2015) The Office of the Auditor General’s report on the annual financial audit and control for the budget year 2013 was submitted to the Storting on 16 October 2014.

Of a total of 215 audited agencies, 13 have received reports of material errors and deficiencies in the accounts and 25 have received material remarks on individual dispositions. In 2013, 14 of the 17 ministries received material remarks on budget implementation and agency management.

Ambiguities and lack of coordination in the choice of financial framework

- State agencies can keep accounts according to several accounting principles, but they should be documented and consistent over time. Changes in accounting principles during the fiscal year can create difficulties for the agency and lead to a situation in which we cannot express an opinion on the accounts, according to Foss.

Agencies that use accrual accounting are recommended to follow state standards. In 2013, some ministries allowed agencies to deviate from these standards. This prevents comparison of the agencies' accounts, both under each ministry and the state in general. The OAG has addressed this in reports to several agencies, and will follow up the matter with the Ministry of Finance.

Weaknesses in the security of information systems

There are information security weaknesses in several state agencies that administer large ICT systems and important social values: the Brønnøysund Register Centre, Norwegian National Rail Administration, Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, Directorate of Fisheries, Norwegian Armed Forces, National Archives of Norway and National Library of Norway.

- This has also been pointed out previously, and we are particularly critical of the fact that the responsible ministries have not adequately followed up ICT security, says Foss.

The OAG refers to the responsibility that the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation (formerly the Ministry of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs) have to ensure stronger and more comprehensive ICT security in government administration. It was pointed out as early as 2009 that several coordination tasks had not been implemented. Despite increasing dependency on ICT, a changed risk scenario and increased investment in ICT systems, the Ministry has yet to complete a plan for information security-related work.

Deficiencies in implementing several services of great importance for security and welfare

Poor coordination between ministries and levels of government has led to weaknesses in services affecting security, emergency preparedness and welfare.

- These too are circumstances that the OAG has pointed out for several years, says Foss.

  • The capacity of Norwegian Civil Defence to bolster the public safety agencies is still weak due to lack of staffing, training, materials and equipment. 
  • Considerable variation has been shown in how the county governors prepare risk and vulnerability analyses, as well as a lack of comprehensive follow-up of critical conditions.
  • Efforts to prevent crime are not systematic enough. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security has not established clear guidelines for how it should be organised, prioritised and implemented, leading to significant differences between the police districts.
  • Quality controls in the private security business are insufficient.
  • Not enough effort is put into providing a fresh start for inmates in Norwegian prisons who have served their sentence.
  • Not enough is done to ensure that child welfare institutions always have the necessary manpower and expertise.
  • A large percentage of refugees are not resettled within the time limits set, and there are shortcomings in the Directorate of Integration and Diversity's collaboration with the municipalities, other sector authorities and county governors to increase capacity.

- This involves, not least, providing good services to people in vulnerable situations, and preventing a worsening of their situation with even more social problems for vulnerable groups, says Foss.

Inadequate management of several major public administration projects

The OAG has remarks about inadequate management and follow-up of several large and important state projects.

- A number of these have received such remarks in previous years. Good planning and follow-up are essential for achieving implementation with expected quality at the specified time and cost, says Foss.

Projects that have received such remarks for 2013 include the following:

  • modernisation of ICT in the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration to realise the intentions of the NAV reform, where unrealistic plans in the initial phase have been aborted and the further scope, cost and phasing out of old ICT systems has not been clarified
  • the Autosys project in the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (vehicle and driver's license registry), which also has significant cost overruns for consultant contracts
  • the national health registry project, which lacks priorities and clarifications that are necessary to ensure that the quality of national registries is as intended
  • the Labour and Welfare Administration's preparation of a new e-scheme (for employer reporting of income and employment), which lacks, among other thing, harmonisation of terms and definitions that allow reuse of data in multiple registries

- Without modernisation, ICT solutions are preventing the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration from performing its primary tasks efficiently and with expected quality, and it is uncertain when the needed improvements can be implemented. The Ministry of Labour's management has not taken the complexity and risks of ICT modernisation sufficiently into account, says Foss.

Challenges with several of the administration's management and control systems

In several remarks, the OAG discusses the weaknesses of management and control systems, noting that it can be difficult to manage them through several levels.

There are material remarks concerning the administration and controls of agriculture production subsidies. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food has not ensured adequate follow-up. Subsidies are granted by the municipalities, and the audit has shown that several municipalities have told the county governors that they find it uncomfortable to carry out controls because of their proximity to the applicants. As a result, there is a risk of inadequate control and irregularities.

Weaknesses have also been uncovered in the management of the national basic education centres. The reports have been activity based. This makes it difficult for the Ministry of Education and Research to consider and report on goal achievement to the Storting in Prop 1 S. The centres have also been provided funding for additional tasks that they have not had the capacity to implement.

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