The rules regarding commuter housing have been consistently interpreted since 2009. But the information could have been better, acknowledges Director of the Storting Marianne Andreassen.
– I think we must take into account that we have a potential for improvement. And get better at guidance, not least around the commuter housing scheme, Andreassen says to NTB.
On Thursday, Storting President Eva Kristin Hansen (Labor Party) resigned as a result of the police initiating an investigation of several Storting representatives who may have wrongfully used the commuter housing scheme.
Hansen, who had a commuter home for three years despite having a home less than 40 km outside Oslo, has always claimed that she misunderstood the regulations.
– Consistent interpretation
In a statement, Hansen writes that there was a change in the interpretation of the commuter housing rules in 2009, but that this was not communicated to the representatives.
Andreassen does not want to comment on Hansen’s case, but when asked if there was a change in the interpretation of the rules in 2009, she answers:
– We have not gone very far back in time in detail. But what we know for sure is that from 2009 there has been a consistent interpretation that if you have housing within the 40-kilometer limit, you will not get a commuter apartment. We are absolutely sure of that.
– Was this interpretation well enough communicated to the representatives?
– We have a lot of information. But I see that we could have been better at providing information about how these rules should be and practiced.
The regulations state that parliamentary representatives are entitled to commuter housing if they are registered or actually live more than 40 kilometers in driving distance from the Storting.
Several have pointed out that the word “or” can create doubt as to whether only one or both criteria must be met. But that is not the whole picture, Andreassen points out.
– I have stated that there is a discussion about it. But in the regulations there are also other elements that I also think it is important to bring out. And it is that your need for housing must be documented, she says.
– Must report changes
She points out that in the annual report form, the Storting proposes that changes in the housing situation be reported.
Eva Kristin Hansen has admitted that she did not report that she bought into her husband’s home in 2014. Thus, she kept the commuter apartment until 2017.
When asked if the Director of the Storting feels that she has a shared responsibility for the fact that several representatives have made mistakes in these cases, she answers:
– I can not take responsibility for the information that should have been given. I feel that I have a responsibility with regard to guidance, and that we are clear and distinct. Of course I have to take that responsibility.
At the same time, Andreassen admits that she finds the situation very demanding.
– It is a very bad situation to be in. I think many people understand that.
– Of course you think through what you could have done from your point of view. Of course you do. And I see that it is important to have even clearer regulations and even better guidance. But that can not mean that I take responsibility for what is assigned to what the representatives must relate to against these regulations, says the director of the Storting.