Document 3:8 (2011-2012) The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority was submitted to the Storting on 31 January 2012.
The investigation shows that there is considerable variation in decisions made by the district and regional offices of the Norwegian Food safety Authority in identical inspection, approval and appeal cases. The offices differ in their assessment of both the seriousness of cases and the scope and strength of sanctions.
The Office of the Auditor General has identified differences by sending identical cases to the Food Safety Authority's district and regional offices. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority's head office quality-assured the cases before they were sent.
The differences are unfortunate in relation to the administrative principle of equal treatment. Individuals and businesses are affected by the Food Safety Authority's case processing, and there is a risk of unequal conditions depending on where in the country they are located. This also increases the risk that businesses will suffer financial losses and loss of reputation without reason. Differences in the case processing and decisions in identical cases also increase the risk that the Norwegian Food Safety Authority will fail to implement measures that are necessary on health or animal welfare grounds.
- It is also important in relation to the public confidence the administration depends on that the government administration ensures as equal treatment as possible, Auditor General Kosmo points out.
- The Norwegian Food Safety Authority and the three ministries involved – the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Ministry of Health and Care Services and the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs – must contribute to significantly more equal treatment of identical cases by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority. The Office of the Auditor General will follow up this matter and consider the effect of further measures. says Kosmo.
The investigation also shows that further development is required of the IT system MATS, which is intended to ensure uniform supervision by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, and that it is necessary to improve the quality of management information from the Food Safety Authority.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food agrees that uniform case processing is still one of the main challenges facing the Food Safety Authority, and the Ministry has discussed measures with the Authority aimed at ensuring more uniform processing of inspection and appeal cases. At the same time, however, the Ministry believes that the goal of proximity to users and local knowledge about individual enterprises, together with targeted regulations, mean that it will be difficult to achieve full uniformity in individual cases.
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