Recommend tightening – VG

GET REPORT: On Monday, Storting President Masud Gharahkhani (Labour Party) received an interim report on the remuneration of Storting politicians.

The external committee recommended that Storting tighten the financial benefits of Storting representatives.

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Following the commuter housing scandal last fall, the Storting presidency decided to form an external committee to look into all financial arrangements for Storting representatives.

On Monday, the committee submitted its first interim report.

The committee wants the right to commuter housing to no longer be tied to where the representative is registered. Some of the cases that have emerged in the last six months are cases where the representatives had lived in Oslo before they were elected, but had registered with their parents.

The committee will also consider whether the 40 km limit from Storting for commuter housing should be designed differently.

– This shows that some schemes are too generous, Storting President Masud Gharahkhani (Labour) told VG after he received the report.

Stricter sanctions

Currently, politicians who receive benefits in violation of the rules must pay them back. This is regulated in the Storting Remuneration Act.

The committee wrote that they would consider whether further sanctioning options should be included in the law – and compared social security fraud:

“In further work, the committee will investigate whether there is a need to sharpen the use of sanctions pursuant to social security fraud in the event of intentional abuse of the severance pay scheme,” the committee wrote.

– We try to follow what is common in society in general. For severance pay, for example, we’re trying to follow what’s common on Nav when it comes to abuse, committee chair Therese Johnsen told VG.

– Would your proposed austerity measures reduce the likelihood of abuse?

– Better control will be able. The hope is that we will have clearer and clearer rules. Among other things, we have proposed changing the criteria for commuter housing, he said.

CRITICISM: The Storting Administration and individual politicians have received a lot of criticism for so-called commuter housing cases in the past year.

Powerful saving measures

In addition, a number of other austerity measures were proposed – either those already being implemented or as the committee warned that would look further:

  • An overview of all early retirement schemes.
  • Settlement of diet money for Storting politicians who own commuter housing.
  • Assess whether Storting politicians have to cover some of the costs for commuter housing, such as electricity.
  • Remove parliamentary representatives «Double vacation pay», where they receive their first year’s vacation pay after they finish in Storting. But they will still receive vacation pay from their previous job and full remuneration the first year they sit in Storting.
STRICT: Committee leader Therese Johnsen proposes a number of tightening in Storting rules.

Will allow rentals in Oslo

Some parliamentarians own apartments within the 40-kilometer limit that they rent out. The committee concluded that this should not be a barrier to access to commuter housing.

In the report, the committee wrote that a certain effort was needed to gain insight into information about the financial benefits of individual representatives.

“The Committee believes that Storting should actively inform about the use of the scheme and
especially about commuter homes”, the report states.

MEET THE PRESS: Storting President Masud Gharakhhani and committee leader Therese Johnsen.

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After the presentation, Storting President Masud Gharahkhani (Labor Party) informed VG that the scheme should be changed or removed if it is not a prerequisite for Storting representatives to be able to do their job.

He agreed with the committee that some schemes were too generous.

– You have to have a scheme that will allow you to become a parliamentary representative regardless of where you live and your background, but it has to make sense in terms of how it is otherwise in society, said Gharakhani and added:

– If it is not a prerequisite for doing work as a parliamentary representative, then it should be changed or removed.

Gharakhani would not comment specifically on whether he supported the proposal to cut diet money or “double the holiday money”.

– But it is undeniable that if there is a unanimous proposal from this committee, I will wholeheartedly support it. But there must be a thorough handling first on the part of the party and the storting, he said.

DEMAND MORE: Red leader Bjørnar Moxnes asks Storting to go further from the committee.

– Barely enough

Red leader Bjørnar Moxnes wrote in an e-mail to VG that he thought the committee should go further.

He said storting have higher severance pay and severance pay than ordinary people if they are unemployed.

– What the committee is now proposing or hinting at is barely enough. In areas such as early retirement payments and commuter housing, clearer austerity measures are needed, Moxnes wrote.

– This is the only natural consequence of the committee’s principle that schemes should be “reasonable in comparison with benefit and welfare schemes in society at large”.

Sophie Wilkinson

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