The Office of the Auditor General's investigations into the work of the public authorities to combat social dumping in connection with public sector procurement (Document 3:14 (2015–2016)) and into the efforts of the public authorities to combat working environment crime (Document 3:15 (2015–2016)) were submitted to the Storting on 21 June.
The expansion of the EU and the Schengen Area has resulted in a sharp rise in the number of workers offering services in Norway. These developments have also resulted in increasingly serious cases of working environment crime — a problem that the Storting has ordered public authorities to do more to combat. Social dumping is one of the major challenges in working life. We risk ending up with an inferior standard for working environments where criminals can also outcompete lawfully run businesses. The Storting has stressed that the public sector has a particular responsibility to prevent this from happening in connection with its own procurement.
The Office of the Auditor General's investigation into working environment crime shows that the Labour Inspection Authority's inspections are too basic and that the authority makes insufficient use of the courses of action available to it, and that police investigations take too long.
"The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Labour Inspection Authority, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security and the police must make more effective use of the opportunities for collaboration and action that they have available to them", says Auditor General Per-Kristian Foss.
The conclusion of the investigation into social dumping is that public sector enterprises do not do enough to prevent such dumping in connection with their own procurements. Less than half of the procurements investigated complied with all requirements concerning tendering processes and contract formulation. In 75% of the procurements, there was no follow-up of salary and employment conditions among the suppliers, and less than 60% of the inspections that were carried out could be documented.
The Labour Inspection Authority has carried out few inspections on public sector clients, but those that have been carried out have revealed errors and deficiencies in many procurements, particularly in the municipal sector.
"Both government and municipal clients need a better understanding of how they should follow up salary and employment conditions in connection with their own procurements. There is insufficient awareness of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affair's instruments and guidance. The Labour Inspection Authority also generally does not use punitive courses of action against enterprises that fail to comply with the regulations", says Foss.
Working environment crime
The Office of the Auditor General states that inspections carried out to combat social dumping often take place in the form of basic checks on identity cards and employment contracts, while salaries are checked less frequently. Many of the Labour Inspection Authority's inspectors have carried out few inspections aimed at combatting social dumping and require more knowledge.
"There is a risk that the inspections will not be sufficiently thorough to identify criminal activity. It is reprehensible that the Labour Inspection Authority does not possess sufficient competence to combat this", says Auditor General Foss.
Out of almost 18,000 inspections conducted in 2015, 65% resulted in action being taken, primarily in the form of issuing orders. Fines and reports were little used and, where an order for the suspension of commercial activity was imposed as a means of coercion, the cases were rarely followed up.
"Better use must be made of the possible courses of action that are available. Less punitive responses and little follow-up weakens the deterrent effect and reduces the level of respect accorded to the Labour Inspection Authority as a public authority", says Foss.
The Labour Inspection Authority, the Labour and Welfare Administration and the police have improved their collaboration, but the efforts of the police are variable and often relatively limited. In 2015, the police took an average of 237 days to process reported cases, and many cases suffered unexplained delays.
"Increased and improved collaboration between the agencies is expected to result in a rise in the number of reports, but the effect will be weakened if the police's investigations are inadequate and take too long", stresses Foss.