– Mehl must clean up arbitrary use of fines for business – NRK Norway – Overview of news from different parts of the country

– Mehl must clean up arbitrary use of fines for business – NRK Norway – Overview of news from different parts of the country

– An employee made a small mistake that didn't really have any consequences, but we were still fined NOK 271,000. That's unfair, says Trent Bjerg, general manager at Columbia Accounting.

The mistake made was that an employee forgot to inform the authorities which company he used for pension.

– The penalty does not apply to the offence. No money laundering, no tax evasion. It is a formal ticket and then you have to pay a higher amount. It doesn't belong anywhere, Bjerg says.

It didn't add up: general manager Trond Bjerg was shocked that a mistake had led to huge fines for the company and the customer.

Regnskap Norge believes Bjerke's experiences are not unique.

– The practice of infringement fees for business is unclear and difficult to understand. This affects the legitimacy of the companies. Now the Justice Minister has to clean it up, says Managing Director Rune Aale-Hansen in Accounting Norway.

Making the most of infringement charges

Government use of infringement fees as a sanction against business has increased greatly in recent years. This is shown in a survey carried out by Regnskap Norge. The inquiry has been referred to the Ministry of Justice.

Much of the explanation is a 16-fold increase in the number of statutes that allow the public to charge over the past two decades, according to a study by RegnScope Norge.

The growth in fees charged has been particularly large in recent years. And it is specifically used to breach laws and regulations within the working environment law and anti-money laundering laws and privacy protections.

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– Many governments, both current, previous and former, are concerned with reducing administrative burdens for business. You have achieved a lot. The problem is that when one law is removed, one or two new laws quickly appear, Ale-Hansen insists.

Different practices

The law must be followed, but the problem is that the punishment for breaking the law or breaking the rules is not the same for everyone, says Regnskap Norge.

– We are concerned that some businesses charge different types of fees for different reasons. They may think it's unfair, incomprehensible, says Ale-Hansen.

He elaborates further.

– It's very unpredictable. The framework, size limits, varies from ministry to ministry or supervisory body to supervisory body, and is not uniform or clear. This threatens the legitimacy of the business, says Ale-Hansen.

Rear indicator

NRK was unsuccessful in obtaining an interview with Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl about the case. Instead we received an email from the Ministry of Communications. Here, Regnskap Norge's views are refuted, and Regnskap Norge's analysis and views do not give a correct picture.

– Administrative sanctions are an alternative to formal punishment (such as prison and fines) and can be more effective than punishment by saving time and money while improving enforcement, writes Merete Romestrand, senior communications adviser at the Ministry of Justice.

– A fundamental prerequisite for the use of administrative sanctions is that legal certainty is preserved,

The Ministry believes that increasing the penalty amount is a desirable development.

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– It is natural for the rate to vary. The variation in charges is primarily problematic if similar cases are treated differently without any factual reason, the report does not provide evidence. Romstrand writes in the Ministry of Justice that the amount of infringement fees, like formal fines, should be proportionate to the nature and seriousness of the case.

Bad outlook

Regnskop Norge believes that there is insufficient overview of the government's purpose and use of the program and calls for clear and distinct guidelines to be followed by all ministries and agencies.

– The problem is, Ale-Hansen says, that no one has an overview of the total scale of these sanctions against companies or how it is being implemented.

The Ministry has also rejected this and insisted that it is natural for fines to vary between different administrative areas.

Have a National Audit Office in the field

Regnskaps Norge also believes that the complaint system does not work. The ministry also disagreed.

Regnskap Norge hopes to monitor the use of infringement charges. Therefore, they will ask the National Audit Office to review the use of business-related fees and penalties.

Bjerg, the general manager in Columbia, was disillusioned after an encounter with state bureaucracy and regulations.

– I've lost a bit of faith in that system, yes. Bjerg says zero human consideration is given, one only looks strictly at passages and laws, not using common sense.

Nevertheless, the company paid some penalty amount, but only after a long time and after taking the help of a lawyer.

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– But what happens to those who do not have the resources to afford legal aid?

16.04.2024 at 05.37 hrs

Joshi Akinjide

Joshi Akinjide

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