An evaluation is being carried out of the rules concerning whistleblowing. The
evaluation is being conducted by an independent body. A reference group has been
established for this project, with participation by the social partners.
The final report of the project is to be published by the end of 2013. The evaluation will
subsequently be followed up by the Ministry of Labour, and any needs for amendments
will be considered in that connection.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
An evaluation is being carried out of the rules concerning whistleblowing. The evaluation is being conducted by an independent body. A reference group has been established for this project, with participation by the social partners.
The final report of the project is to be published by the end of 2013. The evaluation will subsequently be followed up by the Ministry of Labour, and any needs for amendments will be considered in that connection.
An independent evaluation of the whistleblowing rules will be carried out.
Responsible institution: Ministry of Labour
Supporting institution(s): None
Start date: 1 January, 2013 End date: 31 December, 2013
Norway has seen an active running debate regarding the role and protection of whistleblowers following a series of whistleblowing cases in the private sector in the early 2000s and the Snowden revelations of 2013.[Note 73: For a summary of pressing issues and history of the debate, see S. Trygstad and A.M. Ødegård, Varsling i arbeidslivet (2014). I B. Enjolras, T. Rasmussen, and K. Steen-Johnsen (red.), Status for ytringsfriheten i Norge. Hovedrapport fra prosjektet, Rapport (2014):8, Oslo: Institutt for samfunnsforskning.] These debates have been reflected in a continuous political debate regarding the regulatory need for protecting whistleblowers.[Note 74: See for example, Kristine Foss, ”Jurist i Norsk Presseforbund skriver: Regjeringen må bedre varslervernet” (March 15, 2015), accessed September 4 2016, http://www.aftenposten.no/meninger/debatt/Jurist-i-Norsk-Presseforbund-skriver-Regjeringen-ma-bedre-varslervernet-62873b.html. ] This review of whistleblower protection was intended to contribute to that debate and to the potential of reforming existing regulation.
The Ministry of Labour carried out an evaluation of whistle-blower rules in the first half of 2013, before the second action plan was finalised.[Note 75: Sissel C. Trygstad, Marit Skivenes, Johan Røed Steen, and Anne Mette Ødegård, “Evaluering av varslerbestemmelsene,” Fafo-rapport (2014):5, accessed September 4, 2016, http://www.fafo.no/~fafo/images/pub/2014/20352.pdf. ] For more information, please see IRM Progress Report 2013-2014.
Did it open government?
Public accountability: Did not change
The evaluation conducted by the Ministry of Labour noted that Norwegian regulations did not meet international standards on whistleblowing. The evaluation offered a number of recommendations focused on expanding the coverage of existing legislation and improving the mandated routines for receiving whistleblower complaints in both private and public sector organizations. At the time of writing this report, parliamentary hearings were under way, considering a submission by the Ministry of Labour to the formal consultation process.[Note 76: “Høring om endringer i arbeidsmiljølovens regler om varsling,”Arbeids- og sosialdepartementet (June 20, 2016), accessed September 4, 2016, https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/forslag-til-endringer-i-arbeidsmiljolovens-regler-om-varsling/id2505141/. ] The deadline for input to this process is 1 October 2016, after which point the Ministry of Labour will adopt a new recommendation for consideration in parliament.
Interviews with civil society representatives and members of the Norwegian Press Association note that some of the most important potential improvements in this instance include:
• removing the requirement that whistleblowing must be executed “responsively,”
• legally prohibiting official investigation of employees that engage media for whistleblowing purposes, and
• strengthening the regulatory framework for protecting journalistic sources.[Note 77: Guro Slettemark (Executive Director, Transparency International Norway), interview by Christopher Wilson, in-person meeting, Offices of the International Law and Policy Institute, September 2016; Nils Øy (Special Adviser, Norwegian Press Association), interview by Christopher Wilson, in-person meeting, Offices of the Norwegian Association of the Press, September 1, 2016; and Siri Gedde-Dahl (Chair, Norwegian Committee for Access to Information (Offentlighetsutvalget)), interview by Christopher Wilson, in-person meeting, Offices of the Norwegian Association of the Press, September 1, 2016.]
This commitment referenced a review of the existing legislation rather than legislative changes per se. Since the review of this legislation has been active and dynamic for well over a decade, the IRM researcher did not come across any evidence pointing to any gains in public accountability that might result from the Ministry of Labour’s recommendations to change the legal framework. Thus, the IRM researcher concludes that this commitment did not change the quality of open government in Norway.
None of the components of this commitment have been carried forward in the Norwegian government’s third national action plan, which is available on the OGP website.[Note 78: ”Norway’s third action plan Open Government Partnership (OGP),” Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, accessed September 4, 2016, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Norway_2016-17_NAP.pdf.]