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Norway

Strengthening the Transparency of Public Authorities and Administration (NO0025)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Norway Action Plan 2013-2015

Action Plan Cycle: 2013

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Justice

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, Legislation & Regulation, Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Norway End-of-Term Report 2014-2015

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

 Norway will consider the need for amendments to section 1, second paragraph
(a), of the Freedom of Information Regulations. However, it is not possible to
predict with any certainty whether any amendments will be made or what such
amendments would consist of.
 During follow-up of the evaluation of the Freedom of Information Act,
consideration will be given to whether the question of the provision of separate
penalty provisions in the Freedom of Information Act should be raised. However,
the researchers who are to conduct the evaluation will not consider this
question.
 The work on training in the practice of the archive legislation and the Freedom
of Information Act will be continued.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

14. Strengthening the transparency of public authorities and administration

Commitment Text:

a) Removal of the exception provision for public sector companies with no employees.

Pursuant to section 1, second paragraph (a) of the Freedom of Information Regulations, the Freedom of Information Act shall only apply to independent legal persons with employees permanently employed in administrative posts. The background for this was that such legal persons often have no-one who can practise and follow up the Act, cf. the Royal Decree of 17 October 2008, pages 63–64. Many companies have proved to be organized in such a way that, while they have no employees of their own, they are managed by employees of parent companies, subsidiaries, external consultants, etc., and that a number of such companies have considerable turnover. […]

b) Better practice of the Freedom of Information Act

[…]Regular courses and lectures are held on practice of the archive legislation and the Freedom of Information Act. This will be continued. Transparency International Norway has proposed that “as part of the forthcoming evaluation of the Freedom of Information Act, consideration should be given to whether penalties may help in ensuring better practice of and compliance with the intentions of the Act”.

Commitment Description

       Norway will consider the need for amendments to section 1, second paragraph (a), of the Freedom of Information Regulations. However, it is not possible to predict with any certainty whether any amendments will be made or what such amendments would consist of.

       During follow-up of the evaluation of the Freedom of Information Act, consideration will be given to whether the question of the provision of separate penalty provisions in the Freedom of Information Act should be raised. However, the researchers who are to conduct the evaluation will not consider this question.

       The work on training in the practice of the archive legislation and the Freedom of Information Act will be continued.

Key Impact Benchmark:

       Courses and lectures will be held on how the archive legislation and the Freedom of Information Act shall and should be practiced.

       During follow-up of the evaluation of the Freedom of Information Act, consideration will be given to whether the question of the provision of separate penalty provisions in the Freedom of Information Act should be raised. However, the researchers who are to conduct the evaluation will not consider this question.

       The Freedom of Information Act shall be evaluated by an independent body. In connection with evaluation, the main emphasis is to be placed on whether the intention of greater access to information has been met. During the evaluation, particular attention will be devoted to the practice of the exemption from access to internal documents.

Responsible institution: Ministry of Justice

Supporting institution(s): None

Start date: Unclear            End date: Unclear

Editorial note: The text of the commitments was abridged for formatting reasons. For the full text of the commitment, please see http://bit.ly/1QlVIja.

Policy Aim

The scope and implementation of Norway’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)[Note 83: Lov om rett til innsyn i dokument i offentleg verksemd (offentleglova), LOV-2006-05-19-16,
Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet, accessed September 4, 2016, https://www.lovdata.no/all/hl-20060519-016.html. ]
has been the subject of much debate. Of particular interest to civil society representatives are the types of information and public bodies not covered by the act and the less than perfect observance and implementation of the act by public bodies when receiving freedom of information requests.[Note 84: Joachim Nahem (OGP Councilmember), interview by Christopher Wilson, in-person meeting, Offices of the International Law and Policy Institute, March 23, 2016; Liv Freihow (Director of Financial Politics, IKT-Norway), interview by Christopher Wilson, in-person meeting, Offices of the International Law and Policy Institute, March 12, 2016; Guro Slettemark (Executive Director, Transparency International Norway), interview by Christopher Wilson, in-person meeting, Offices of the International Law and Policy Institute, March, September 2016; Stian Slotterøy Johnsen (General Secretary, Norwegian Association of Voluntary Organizations), interview by Christopher Wilson, phone interview, September 13, 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 aims both to consider specific adjustments to the legislation and to improve implementation of the act through formal training of public officials.

Status

Mid-term: Limited
The government had internally discussed amendments to the FOIA to broaden the scope of its applicability. Consideration of these amendments were in a preparatory phase by mid-term. In addition, the focal point for this commitment in the Ministry of Justice reported that the ministry had held some courses and lectures on implementation of the FOIA in a variety of government ministries and agencies. However, the contact did not provide the IRM researcher with specific information regarding these trainings.[Note 85: Contribution of the Ministry of Justice to Norway’s Self-Assessment, on file with researcher. Also, Ole Knut Løstegaard (Legal Adviser, Ministry of Justice), interview by Lena Olsen, phone interview, March 18, 2015.]

End-of-term: Limited
The IRM researcher could find no additional evidence of the implementation of this commitment. According to the government self-assessment provided by the Ministry of Justice focal point for this commitment, trainings and lectures on the FOIA have been delivered on a running basis to various relevant ministries, municipal governments, and other public bodies, including the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education in 2015 (after this action plan’s period of implementation) and the Norwegian Civil Affairs Authority in 2014.[Note 86: Ole Knut Løstegaard (Legal Adviser, Ministry of Justice), interview by Christopher Wilson, email correspondence, September 14-15, 2016. ] The format and focus of these lectures and trainings have varied significantly, and the IRM researcher was referred to contacts in the individual ministries and agencies who received these lectures for additional information. No further details have yet been received.

An independent evaluation of the act has also been delivered and is currently undergoing public review.[Note 87: “Høyring - Evalueringen av offentleglova,” Ministry of Justice, accessed September 4, 2016, https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/hoyring---evalueringen-av-offentleglova/id2477095/.%5D This evaluation is completely independent of the OGP commitment referenced here and was mandated in parliament when the FOIA was adopted in 2006. This mandate explicitly excluded consideration of the points that are the focus of this commitment. On the other hand, the “consideration” proposed by this OGP commitment will only take place after a formal consultation is completed regarding the evaluation mandated by parliament. This will occur after a formal recommendation is drafted for consultation and after a consultation on that recommendation is held. There are thus a number of procedural steps that are completely unrelated to this commitment, but which must be taken before this commitment can be considered complete. This process is likely to continue well into 2017.  

Did it open government?

Access to information: Did not change

Public official exposure and training on the FOIA are positive activities and may improve implementation of the act, including response times and the quality and accuracy of responses. However, it is difficult to measure whether this has been the case given the lack of information provided by the government on specific training activities.

This commitment’s attention to amending the FOIA does not seem to have had any impact on access to information in Norway as the issues and sections listed here for consideration will not be considered in the near term. It is worth noting that Norway’s FOIA is a point of contention with civil society actors and representatives of the press interviewed for this report. There is also widespread dissatisfaction with how individual agencies have responded to FOIA requests.[Note 88: Presseforbundets offentlighetsutvalg (roughly translated as the Accountability and Transparency Committee established by the Norwegian Press Association) has released a collection of 13 examples from 2015 in which public insitutions failed to comply with FOIA requests and/or actively hindered access to information on issues of public interest. “Innsyn 2015: En eksempelsamling over hemmilighold I forvaltningen,” Pressens offentlighetsutvalget, 2016. On file with researcher. ] In fact, the conditions of the act’s evaluation were not shared openly, to the frustration of civil society and media actors.[Note 89: Vegard Venli, ”Krever åpenhet om evaluering av offentlighetsloven,” Kommunal Rapport (November 20, 2013), accessed September 4, 2016, http://kommunal-rapport.no/artikkel/Krever_penhet_om_evalu_173_ering_av_offentlighets_173_loven. ]

When considering meaningful amendments to the act, interviewees stressed the importance of including municipal actors within the scope of the law (not only the removal of the public sector exemption noted in this commitment), specifying criteria for materials and documents which must be archived and thus become subject to the FOIA,[Note 90: See Alf Tore Meling, “Slette eller ikke slette – det er spørsmålet. Hva er svaret?,” I all offentlighet (November 18, 2015), accessed September 4, 2016, http://www.ialloffentlighet.no/slette-eller-ikke-slette-det-er-sporsmalet-hva-er-svaret/. ] and establishing sanctions for non-compliance. Of these priorities expressed by civil society and press representatives, only the third is represented in this commitment, but it is explicitly excluded from the ongoing process of FOIA evaluation.

As such, this commitment is considered to have had no impact on access to information in Norway.

Carried forward?

This commitment has not been carried forward in the Norwegian government’s third national action plan, which is available on the OGP website.[Note 91: ”Norway’s third action plan Open Government Partnership (OGP),” Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, accessed September 4, 2016, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Norway_2016-17_NAP.pdf.%5D


Norway's Commitments

  1. Archiving Documents

    NO0054, 2019, Capacity Building

  2. Making Energy Statistics Available

    NO0055, 2019, E-Government

  3. e-Access and Expansion

    NO0056, 2019, Civic Space

  4. Open Cultural Data

    NO0057, 2019, E-Government

  5. Digital Spatial Planning

    NO0058, 2019, E-Government

  6. Streamline Public Procurement

    NO0059, 2019, E-Government

  7. Preventing Corruption

    NO0060, 2019, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  8. Beneficial Ownership Registry

    NO0061, 2019, Beneficial Ownership

  9. User Orientation

    NO0045, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. Electronic Public Records (OEP)

    NO0046, 2016, E-Government

  11. Transparency Regarding Environmental Information

    NO0047, 2016, E-Government

  12. Starred commitment Disclosure of Financial Data

    NO0048, 2016, E-Government

  13. Transparency Regarding Rainforest Funds

    NO0049, 2016, E-Government

  14. State Employees’ Ownership of Shares

    NO0050, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  15. Promote Freedom of Expression and Independent Media

    NO0051, 2016, Civic Space

  16. Country-By-Country Reporting

    NO0052, 2016, Extractive Industries

  17. Register for Ultimate Beneficial Ownership

    NO0053, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  18. Public Review and Public Consultation

    NO0020, 2013, Capacity Building

  19. Registering and Preserving Digital Documentation Produced by Public Bodies

    NO0021, 2013, E-Government

  20. The Norwegian Citizen Survey (Innbyggerundersøkelsen)

    NO0022, 2013, Public Participation

  21. Whistleblowing

    NO0023, 2013, Whistleblower Protections

  22. Strengthened Information Exchange for More Efficient Crime Prevention and Combating

    NO0024, 2013, Justice

  23. Strengthening the Transparency of Public Authorities and Administration

    NO0025, 2013, Capacity Building

  24. Egovernment with an End-User Focus

    NO0026, 2013, E-Government

  25. Plain Legal Language

    NO0027, 2013, Capacity Building

  26. Norwegian Grants Portal (MFA)

    NO0028, 2013, Aid

  27. An International Convention or Agreement on Financial Transparency

    NO0029, 2013, Private Sector

  28. Reducing Conflicts of Interests – Post-Employment Regulations

    NO0030, 2013, Conflicts of Interest

  29. Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector

    NO0031, 2013, Security

  30. A Better Overview of Committees, Boards and Councils – More Public Access to Information and Better Opportunities for Further Use

    NO0032, 2013, E-Government

  31. Modernizing Public Governance

    NO0033, 2013, Capacity Building

  32. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues

    NO0034, 2013, Extractive Industries

  33. Transparency in the Management of the Government Pension Fund (GPF)

    NO0035, 2013, E-Government

  34. Transparency and Anti-Corruption Efforts

    NO0036, 2013, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  35. The Municipal Sector

    NO0037, 2013, Education

  36. “Simplify” (“Enkelt Og Greit”)

    NO0038, 2013, E-Government

  37. Electronic Public Records (OEP) – (Offentlig Elektronisk Postjournal)

    NO0039, 2013, E-Government

  38. Re-Use of Public Sector Information (PSI)

    NO0040, 2013, Capacity Building

  39. Access to Health Data

    NO0041, 2013, E-Government

  40. Renewal of the Government’S Website (Regjeringen.No – Government.No)

    NO0042, 2013, E-Government

  41. Declaration of Principles for Interaction and Dialogue with NGOs

    NO0043, 2013, Capacity Building

  42. Simplification and Digital Administration of Arrangements for NGOs

    NO0044, 2013, Capacity Building

  43. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government

    NO0001, 2011, Capacity Building

  44. Measures to Promote Gender Equality and Women’S Full Participation in Civic Life, the Private Sector, the Public Administration and Political Processes.

    NO0002, 2011, Gender

  45. Gender Equality – Participation in the Private Sector

    NO0003, 2011, Gender

  46. Increase Women's Representation in Local Government

    NO0004, 2011, Gender

  47. Gender Equality Program

    NO0005, 2011, Gender

  48. Gender Equality – Inclusion of Immigrant Women

    NO0006, 2011, Gender

  49. Gender Equality – Combat Gender Stereotypes

    NO0007, 2011, Gender

  50. Gender Equality – Youth Initiatives

    NO0008, 2011, Gender

  51. Gender Equality – Combat Domestic Violence

    NO0009, 2011, Gender

  52. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues / Financial Transparency

    NO0010, 2011, Aid

  53. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues / Financial Transparency – Government Global Pension Fund

    NO0011, 2011, Fiscal Transparency

  54. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues / Financial Transparency – Combat Tax Evasion

    NO0012, 2011, Fiscal Transparency

  55. Transparency in the Management of Oil and Gas Revenues / Financial Transparency – Multi-National Companies

    NO0013, 2011, Fiscal Transparency

  56. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government – Create Central Communication Policy

    NO0014, 2011, Fiscal Transparency

  57. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government

    NO0015, 2011, E-Government

  58. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government – Public Data Use

    NO0016, 2011, Public Participation

  59. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government – National Statistic Publication

    NO0017, 2011, Open Data

  60. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government – National Public Opinion Survey

    NO0018, 2011, Records Management

  61. An Open Public Sector and Inclusive Government

    NO0019, 2011, Public Participation