October 3, 2022

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Payment of $226 million for special projects - E24

Payment of $226 million for special projects – E24

Sparebanken Nord-Norge (SNN) allocations from Samfunnsløftet show that more than NOK 200 million has gone to the bank’s own projects.

Decisive: Arne Wilhelm Theodorsen understands some of the assignments to his own projects, but is skeptical of others.
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It’s the E24 cooperative newspaper in Tromsø who made the calculation. Samfunnsløftet is a savings bank payment for beneficial and not-for-profit purposes in Northern Norway.

Arne Wilhelm Theodorsen (72) previously headed the Cultural Industry Fund in the municipality of Tromsø. He believes there is reason to question the fact that the largest bank in northern Norway finances its own projects with community money.

According to iTromsø Overview, the funds for socially useful purposes, among other things, went to the free glod concerts in Harstad and Tromsø, where the bank was the organizer, the renovation of the bank’s head office, the conference of the Nord-Nord Agenda and the statistics company Kunnskapsbanken.

226 million

Invested in the renovation of the Rødbanken building in the center of Tromsø 175 million Norwegian kroner. This is a historic building in the “Paris of the North” which today is used as the main office for SNN, but also houses other companies and has buildings that the life of the association in the city can borrow and rent.

Since its inception in 2015, Northern Norway Agenda has taken the lead 42 million Norwegian kroner. It was originally a company created in collaboration with NHO and LO in 2015 to give the Voices of Northern Norway a meeting place. In 2018, AS closed, but parts of the business were taken over as part of a community lift. The conference is still on.

The knowledge bank has received more than 9 million Norwegian kroner. They provide reports, observations, and statistics on conditions relevant to the region, including the economic barometer of northern Norway.

That the bank uses social profits on renewal And the Conference It was mentioned last year by Nordlys. In total, more than 226 million NOK were spent on these projects.

Rank

Stein Vidar Loftås, Executive Vice President of Communications and Society at SNN, stated that the Glød concerts, which in Harstad were priced at NOK 15 million and in Tromsø Kr 20 million, are partly funded with the bank’s own money and partly funded through a community initiative.

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– Arne Wilhelm Theodorsen, who managed for five years the pilot project Introfondet, which was the Tromsø municipality’s cultural industry fund, says: – It would have been more structured if they took the money from their regular net earnings.

– Is it true that the bank allocates money from social distributions to its own projects, without any form of external evaluation of projects, as he asks.

iTromsø has requested a detailed overview of how Glød’s funding is split between Samfunnsløftet and the bank’s private funds, but has not yet received those numbers.

Theodorson wrote in last discussion In iTromsø last Saturday last weekend he did not doubt that there were good intentions and ideas behind the subsidies. “But sometimes things don’t go as intended,” he added.

– I thought a little about the agenda of Northern Norway and the Knowledge Bank. Sparebanken plays an important role as a community developer and defines this as part of its social responsibility. I don’t think it’s really as bad as them using public money to renovate their infrastructure or to act as a player in a competitive market they’re supposed to serve, he says.

He pointed out that the bank’s free concerts provided competition for the business community, which earns its livelihood from organizing such events.

– What if they stood in the field and gave fish, rhetorically asks.

He wants transparency from SNN

Theodorsen calls on the bank for more transparency.

The Rødbanken replenishment allotment is nearly hidden in a footnote on page 114 of the annual accounts, and Glød’s allotment does not appear on the Community Lift allotment list, he says.

We also do not know how the assessments were made before the bank decided to act as a financier, recipient of money, facilitator and regulator. What are the consequences for other actors? It went well this time, he adds, but it could have had the same backfire.

He thinks it’s great that the bank wants to contribute a free concert for children, youth, adults and families.

– I don’t want to sound like a whiner, I honestly think we should have had more events like that, and that’s not what it’s about. It has to do with the way this happens, by understanding the roles they conflict with, as the bank competes against the cultural business life they say they want to serve. There could be no other model for this, asks Theodorsen.

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“I am glad that we have Sparebank that pays social dividends at all, because they can easily distribute the profits directly to customers and employees who own more than half of the bank, but it is important to ask how it is organized,” he points out.

I agree with parts of the criticism

Communications and Society Director, Stein Vidar Loftus, answers Theodorsen’s introductory question; Whether it is right for the bank to allocate funds for itself without an external assessment.

We conduct assessments internally, just as we do on the full implementation of social dividends, based on a clear and open strategy, where the goal is to do what is best for the region, he says and continues:

– If we end up owning one of the arenas receiving funding, the ratings are still done in exactly the same way as with other apps. Then you can ask what’s best for the area, and I respect that, but our goal is an open and transparent structure of community promise.

Stein Vidar Loftås, Director of Communications and Society at SNN, promises to review the allocation scheme.

– Theodorsen points out, you should read the accounts carefully to find information about the allotment to replenish Rødbanken, the allotment to Glød is not included in the online assignment portal. Is it transparent enough?

It is easy to accept this criticism. If there are shortcomings in this area, we must do something about it. The portal was created in 2021, and we are working through our archives to see how the awards have been over the past 10 years. Our Loftås documents are included, but not all entries are easy to find.

Promise of revision

Now, through various news over the past couple of years, questions have been raised about the allocations for special projects. What do you think that? Can you live with the fact that there is doubt about the scheme?

– If it is so that questions are constantly asked about whether what we are doing is in the interest of society, then obviously we have to look into the matter. We will of course take this further in our reviews. There will be a review, which we can always improve, Loftås replies.

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– We get a lot of applications, and we can’t have a lot of “overhead” in processing either, it’s an eternal balancing act. I’m not sure if the external reviews will change anything. He adds that this is something that is regularly reviewed.

Loftås promises that as long as he works at the bank, the bank won’t stand in the yard to give up fish.

– This wording is so pointed that I almost don’t want to comment on it, but someone said it well the other day: Is it that libraries can’t coexist with libraries? If we had organized a concert every week, I would understand, but Glød is something we organize twice over four years, which does not replace anything else, but comes as an extra offering, which is also alcohol-free and is also aimed at those who usually do not have such the offer. We know there are many people who just can’t get enough of the other shows in town, he said.

Responsible for assignments to knowledge projects

Regarding the Nord-Nord and Knowledge Bank agenda, the director believes it was a good use of the social return to finance these projects.

The ambition with the Northern Norway Agenda was to create an arena for strong voices in Northern Norway, but then we realized that if we wanted to achieve cooperation in this area, we had to have a common knowledge base. That was the beginning of the knowledge bank that will prepare this foundation, so that we can talk about the problems of the common area and find common solutions to them.

He points out that the knowledge bank consists of an editor who works on what you need to know more about and brings experiences from knowledge institutions and other producers in the region to answer questions.

– We don’t do this to ourselves. The region has a number of opportunities, but it also has a number of challenges. Hopefully with this work we can contribute to solving some of them, says Loftus.