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Loan agreement violates the Constitution – NSM and the Ministry of Justice receive criticism from the National Audit Office

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Auditor General Karl Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen. Photo: Javad Parsa / NTB

Of NTB | 30.04.2024 15:24:52

Economy and business: – This is a very special case. The National Audit Office has never come across anything like this, says Auditor General Karl Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen.

In addition to the fact that the National Security Authority (NSM) went far beyond its powers, the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness failed to follow up the situation in the NSM well enough, he adds.

– Both parts are worthy of criticism, states the National Audit Office.

On 11 December, a year and a half after the loan was entered into, the National Audit Office was formally informed of the case by the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness.

– The ministry had then known about the loan for over a month, says Schjøtt-Pedersen.

The National Audit Office approved NSM’s budget in spring 2023, but had then been told that the move should be covered within the ordinary budget.

Information about the loan also did not appear in the management dialogue between the ministry and NSM.

– NSM never informed us that they had entered into a loan agreement, despite the fact that they are obliged to inform the auditor about matters that are significant for the accounts, says Schjøtt-Pedersen.

– It violates both the Constitution and the appropriations regulations, states the National Audit Office.

In addition, the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness is criticized for not following up NSM’s move and the loan agreement to a sufficient extent.

– I would like to emphasize that the ministry also has a responsibility in this matter. They have not followed up NSM well enough. When an underlying business is in a demanding financial situation, the ministry must get involved. And they must inform the National Audit Office about matters that are important to our mission, emphasizes Schjøtt-Pedersen.

Public agencies are not allowed to take out loans, and operations must be financed with appropriations from the Storting. Only the Storting can decide that the state should take out loans, according to the Constitution.

NSM director Sofie Nystrøm resigned the same day the agreement was announced.

– The Conservative Party believes this deserves criticism from the National Audit Office. The Ministry of Justice and Emergency Management has not had good enough control over NSM, he says.

– We expect Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl to take the criticism to heart and follow up on the National Audit Office’s conclusions, continues Frølich.

Rødt’s Seher Aydar, who also sits on the control committee, thinks the same.

– Once again, it is emphasized how serious this matter is, and how extremely important it is that ministries follow up their underlying agencies and especially the secret services. The Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness also has a responsibility in this case, because they have not done their job, says Aydar.

Venstre also believes that the criticism is justified.

– It amazes me that Mehl has not kept her hand firmly on the steering wheel here, and I am excited to see how she explains that the ministry did not follow up, says Storting representative Ingvild Wetrhus Thorsvik.

NTB has tried to get a comment from Justice and Emergency Services Minister Emilie Enger Mehl (Sp), but she has not yet wanted to comment on the matter. In the reply letter to the National Audit Office, Mehl writes that she will follow up on their recommendations.

In December last year, it became known that NSM had taken out an illegal private loan in connection with renting a new building at Fornebu in Bærum.

The National Audit Office concludes that it is objectionable that NSM entered into an illegal loan agreement to finance a future need for premises.

Leader Peter Frølich (H) in the Storting’s Control and Constitution Committee believes the criticism in the NSM case is deserved.

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