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The Office of the Auditor General’s Document No 1 (2008–2009): Procurements a problem throughout the government administration

Breaches of the procurement regulations remain a problem throughout the government administration. Five ministries and a number of underlying agencies have received remarks on their procurement activities. For the third consecutive year, the Office of the Auditor General has remarks about the Ministry of Government Administration and Reform’s failure to comply with the procurement regulations. The Ministry is responsible for administering the regulations in this field.
Published 11/11/2008 8:46 AM

‘We have been critical about this area for a long time and, unfortunately, we see few signs of improvement,’ says Auditor General Jørgen Kosmo. ‘The Office of the Auditor General is therefore planning a performance audit of the procurement process in ministries and agencies in order to study and identify the reason why the regulations are not complied with in so many cases,’ he says.

The Office of the Auditor General’s Document No 1 (2008-2009) was submitted to the Storting on 14 October. The document contains the Office of the Auditor General’s remarks on the ministries’ administration and implementation of the budgets and the ministers’ management of the state’s interests in companies in 2007.

Among other things, the matters pointed out by the Office of the Auditor General include breaches of fundamental principles for competition and equal treatment, and poor documentation. In some cases, questions are raised about the combination of several different roles and the impartiality of those involved.

The criticism applies, among others, to procurements by the National Police Computing and Material Service (PMDT), which has poor procedures for monitoring its contract portfolio and poor written documentation. The Norwegian Defence Estates Agency has failed to comply with the procurement regulations in its purchase of consultancy services in connection with the development of Rena camp, and the Norwegian Directorate for Health has made major procurements without competition and with material deficiencies in its documentation of the procurements.

Poor management of agencies
The Office of the Auditor General also uncovered major weaknesses in the ministries’ management of underlying agencies. Among other things, this means that administrative systems that require coordination between several ministries are not followed up and that there is inadequate access to the necessary systems, and that the relevance and quality of the data varies. Examples of poor management of agencies include important areas of the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service (NAV) reform.

‘Lack of coordination and deficient or inaccessible systems increase the risk that the agencies will fail to achieve their goals,’ says Auditor General Jørgen Kosmo.

Certain areas of which the Office of the Auditor General is particularly critical:
The Tax Administration: Risk of tax crime
Work on reducing the extent of the black economy and tax evasion is one of the Tax Administration’s most important focus areas. However, in several areas that have a bearing on the work of preventing and uncovering tax crime, the administration has failed to achieve its goals. During the last two years, far fewer businesses have been audited, and the intention of increased focus on controlling more complex and difficult cases has not been followed up in practice. The Office of the Auditor General finds that the negative development in work on controls warrants criticism.

The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service (NAV): Poor follow-up of users of health services
The Office of the Auditor General takes a serious view of the fact that the Labour and Welfare Service does not carry out statutory follow-up of recipients of health services. Several NAV offices have deliberately given low priority to follow-up of these users. In its management, the Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion has failed to explain how the Labour and Welfare Service shall follow up its users in the short and long term. The Office of the Auditor General believes there is a growing risk that the goals of the NAV reform will not be achieved if the Ministry is not sufficiently clear in its management of this area.

The health enterprises: unequal treatment of patients
There are still major regional differences in the proportion of patients who are given the right to necessary medical help. Differences in the practising of the Prioritisation Regulations can result in patients being treated differently and in waiting times being dependent on which health region the patient belongs to. It can also result in patients’ rights not being respected.

Norwegian State railways (NSB): productivity still low for passenger trains
In the Office of the Auditor General’s view, it is a matter of concern that the productivity of NSB’s passenger train services is still lower than in 1997. The situation is particularly serious for local services around Oslo, where productivity was almost 35 per cent lower in 2007 than in 1997. The Office of the Auditor General points out that the situation concerning the availability of engine drivers also creates uncertainty about the development of productivity and operating stability in the years ahead.

The Norwegian Water resources and Energy Directorate (NVE): no contingency and continuity plan
The Office of the Auditor General finds that NVE’s failure to draw up a contingency and continuity plan that covers its own ICT systems warrants serious criticism. Nor has an alternative centre of operations been established that can take over the operation of the systems in the event of a fire or other catastrophic event. This could result in NVE taking a very long time to become fully operational if a serious event were to affect systems that are critical to society and to NVE’s operations. The Office of the Auditor General also finds it warrants criticism that the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy has not picked up on the weaknesses in NVE’s ICT administration in its management dialogue.

The Norwegian Maritime Directorate: inadequate supervision and auditing
The Office of the Auditor General finds that there are still discrepancies between the goals set for the Norwegian Maritime Directorate and the number of supervisory activities and audits it actually carries out. The Office of the Auditor General is critical of the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s failure to improve framework conditions for the Maritime Directorate, particularly in light of the fact that there have been many accidents at sea in recent years. The Office of the Auditor General assumes that the Ministry will play a more active role in relation to the Directorate in future.

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