Monday, 13 August 2012

The 22 July Commission Report and Norwegian government inertia

The 22 July Commission's findings were published today, more than a year after the bombing in Oslo city centre and the shootings at Utoya in Norway when 77 people were killed by Anders Behring Breivik. The Commission concludes,
– The attack on the Government Complex on 22 July could have been prevented through effective implementation of already adopted security measures.
– The authorities' ability to protect the people on Ut√łya Island failed. A more rapid police operation was a realistic possibility. The perpetrator could have been stopped earlier on 22 July.
– More security and emergency preparedness measures to impede new attacks and mitigate the adverse effects should have been implemented on 22 July.
– The health and rescue services managed to take care of the injured people and next-of-kin during the acute phase in a satisfactory manner.
– The Government's communication with the general public was good. The ministries managed to continue their work despite the devastation.
– With better ways of working and a broader focus, the Police Security Service could have become aware of the perpetrator prior to 22 July. Notwithstanding, the Commission has no grounds for contending that the Police Security Service could and should have averted the attacks.
The report led to strong criticisms in Norwegian media today of both the government and the police on the way public security issues were handled both prior and during the attacks. And rightly so. But here's where prime minister Stoltenberg and his government also fall on the way side; it's more than a year since the tragedy took place and still no one, I repeat no one, has been fired or removed from their position explicitly for not doing their job prior to the attacks. No one has been held accountable for not doing their job. Delegating authority and holding people accountable are important leadership tools. Stoltenberg fails on both counts and instead have repeated many times on NRK TV news today that he "takes full responsibility". But he is not resigning. My guess is what will finally happen is that no one will be held accountable, no one will be removed from their position, at least not officially, many of the people that did not do their jobs properly in the run up to 22 July will continue in their posts, and the government, with support from the opposition parties, will end up throwing more money at the problem instead. That is inertia for you, and a complete lack of leadership skills. And the opposition is doing a poor job of holding Stoltenberg and his government accountable, all for political reasons as next year is election year and no party wants to use this tragedy as a way to get rid of the existing red-green coalition government. That's politics for you.

Here's Stoltenberg's statement as issued on his website. Don't get fooled by the rhetoric though, this is a completely paralyzed prime minister that has been in office for way too long. The government has failed on too many fronts as highlighted in the commission report. Can we be assured that other areas the government is responsible for is run better? Of course not, as an example just have a look at the massive increases in central government spending this government is responsible for (see here). It's time for a shake up and a new government in Norway. Hope the electorate agrees and votes accordingly next year.

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