Red Youth (Rød Ungdom, or RU), a communist youth league, has asked police to investigate whether fisheries and seafood minister Geir Inge Sivertsen broke the law by collecting NOK 120,000 (£9,955) in severance pay as mayor of Lenvik in Troms after he took on the full-time role of state secretary (vice minister) to trade and industry minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen in November.
Sivertsen also continued to collect wages as mayor after he started the government job, meaning that he held two positions that each had salaries of more than NOK 1 million.
County council allowance
It has since emerged that Sivertsen, who was promoted to fisheries minister on January 24, has also continued to collect renumeration as a member of Troms and Finnmark county council.
Sivertsen received NOK 25,063 for this position from October to December in 2019, and NOK 27,375 for January and February in 2020, VG reports.
The county council held two meetings in the autumn of 2019, and none so far in 2020. Nevertheless, the remuneration continued to flow into Sivertsen’s account until today, when he took the initiative to stop the county council payments.
Sivertsen’s actions have drawn criticism from Norway’s Labour Party (AP) as well as RU.
‘Reduced moral capacity’
“We have a fisheries minister with a reduced moral capacity,” AP’s spokesperson, Terje Lien Aasland, deputy chairman of the Norwegian Parliament’s industrial committee, told VG.
“First, he arranges double pay as mayor and secretary of state and then he is bold enough to apply for severance pay which should probably be reclaimed crown for crown. We are asking big, big questions about how Prime Minister Erna Solberg can have confidence in her fisheries minister.”
Aasland has written to Solberg to ask if she was aware of the “double role of Sivertsen and whether she was aware that he received double pay, as well as applied for and received severance pay”.
He concludes: “Does the Prime Minister still have confidence in Minister of Fisheries Geir Inge Siversten who has actively applied for salary at the same time as raising double pay as state secretary and mayor?”
Sivertsen, a Conservative, is Norway’s third fisheries minister within 18 months.
His predecessor, Harald Tom Nesvik, stood down after the Progress Party to which he belongs withdrew from Norway’s coalition government in a row about whether an Islamic State bride should be allowed back into the country with her two children.
Prior to his appointment in August 2018, Per Sandberg was forced to resign following the trip to Iran with his partner, Bahareh Letnes, a former Miss Iran.
He broke rules by taking his government mobile phone with him and failing to inform the Prime Minister of his trip.
According to several experts, the phone was likely to have been hacked by Iran during the trip.