The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation of the municipalities’ responsibilities with regard to their school properties, Document No. 3:13 (2004-2005) was submitted to the Storting on 15 June 2005.
The purpose of the study was to shed light on the extent to which municipalities fulfil their responsibilities for maintaining their school properties and how central government carries out its related responsibilities. The investigation incorporated information about the municipal management of school properties in a quarter of all Norwegian municipalities. These provided information about the condition and maintenance level of schools built before 1985. Twenty percent of all primary schools in Norway were covered by the investigation.
The municipalities’ building stock, of which 40 per cent are schools, represents a high level of financial investment by the municipalities. The Local Government Act takes as its starting point the fact that these investments should be utilised in an effective manner. Municipalities should also ensure that school buildings satisfy the requirements for the physical environment in schools. The Education Act plays a central role here.
Violations of legislation and regulations
The structural condition of 58 per cent of the schools included in the investigation is unsatisfactory. In several of these schools there is prevalent violation of legislation and regulations regarding physical environment. This situation recurs in the majority of the municipalities investigated.
The maintenance level of school buildings lies far below that recommended not only by professionals but also below the level the municipalities themselves believe is required for the responsible maintenance of their properties. Roughly one third of the municipalities in the investigation advised that they had documentary evidence of maintenance backlogs. One of the usual methods employed by municipalities for catching up on arrears in maintenance is to carry out substantial restoration work. The cost effectiveness of this type of property management is very low.
Weaknesses exist in municipal management systems for administering school buildings. About one quarter of the municipalities have not carried out any survey of the condition of their school properties since 2001. Consequently there is an increased risk of the buildings not meeting the legal requirements for the physical school environment and of them not being administered in a purposeful, cost-effective manner.
The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development has access to very little systematised information about the municipalities’ property management. This is central to the Ministry having a basis on which to be able to fulfil its overall national responsibility for ensuring the cost-effective management of the municipalities’ properties.
Response received from the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development
In its response the Ministry refers to Proposal No. 60 to the Storting (covering local government matters in 2006) which contains a statement on how the report of the Committee for Property Management can be followed up. The Ministry agrees with the Office of the Auditor General that the KOSTRA (Municipality-State-Reporting) system provides little information about property management in the municipalities.
Delayed public announcement of documents compiled by or for the Office of the Auditor General pursuant to Document 3:12 (2004-2005) has been lifted, cf. the Governmental Audit Act, section 18, subsection 2.