The audit revealed that the intentions for the regional development programmes are far from being fulfilled. This is partly due to the fact that important objectives related to the co-ordination of processes and the use of policy instruments on the regional level have not been implemented. The policy signals from the national level are general and are not binding, with the effect that they do not provide sufficient motivation for co-ordination and participation.
The audit demonstrated that the regional development programmes are largely confined to funds from various grant schemes to promote development in rural districts organised under the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development and the Norwegian Industrial and Regional Development Fund. In the opinion of the Office of the Auditor General, this entails that co-ordination of policy instruments has been less extensive than was originally intended and that the regional development programmes function best, in relative terms, in counties that have high rural-district policy status. As a result of this, instead of being powerful programmes of action for entire regions, the regional development programmes bear a closer resemblance to local rural-district development programmes.
Against the background of the objective for the regional development programmes, which is to achieve a more efficient rural-district and regional policy with more binding links between the use of policy instruments and plans founded on the challenges and conditions for each region, the results appear, in the opinion of the Office of the Auditor General, to have been significantly less comprehensive than was originally intended. The audit provides grounds for calling for greater emphasis on preparation, organisation and clarity on the part of the Ministries in connection with their work on the regional level. The Ministries seem to focus more on ensuring that the regional development programmes do not come into conflict with their own sector objectives.
In its response, the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development stated that in general it agreed with the findings and assessments made in connection with the audit. Together with the other Ministries concerned, the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development wants to initiate concrete measures that will help improve the collaboration on the regional and the national levels. Further, the Ministry also stated that it will clarify its expectations concerning what is to be included in the regional development programmes and to make sure that the development of the entire county is kept in focus.
This report is available in Norwegian on the Office of the Auditor General’s website – www.riksrevisjonen.no – or can be ordered from the University bookshop Akademika, tel. +47 22 11 67 70.