County Governor in Finnmark Gunnar Kjønnøy has asked his counterpart in Murmansk Oblast to explain the audit report that reveals financial irregularites in the spending of Norwegian funding. Photo: Thomas Nilsen(Photo: Thomas Nilsen)
County Governor in Finnmark Gunnar Kjønnøy in a letter to the Murmansk Oblast administration asks for an explanation to the audit report that reveals financial irregularities related to spending of grants given by Norway for removal of nuclear lighthouses.
As BarentsObserver reported on Wednesday, a report made by the Russian Accounts Chambers revealed financial irregularities of a total of 86,7 million rubles (€2 million), or 19,5 percent of the total amount granted by Norway to the administration in Murmansk during the audit period.
In the letter Kjønnøy asks that Governor Marina Kovtun sends her comments as soon as possible on whether the information is correct and subsequently, what the regional government will do to bring the financial management in accordance with contracts.
Norway has since the mid-90s spent NOK 1.4 billion (€172 million) on nuclear safety projects in Northwest-Russia. Removal of radioactive sources from lighthouses is a project headed by the County Administration of Finnmark. 180 radioactive sources from lighthouses in the Russian Arctic have been removed since the start of the project. Neither Governor Kjønnøy nor Chief Engineer Per-Einar Fiskebeck, who is project coordinator in the program, knew about the Russian audit report before BarentsObserver asked for a comment. Kjønnøy is not pleased to hear about the irregularities through the media:
«With reference to our long standing cooperation and openness in our dialogue, we are surprised that we were informed via media about the Audit Chambers report and not directly from your office”, the letter reads.
The project leader in the Murmansk Oblast administration is now in dialogue with the Accounts Chambers to clarify the remarks in the report. The contract in question is now under revision by a Russian audit agency.
“It is not very nice to read about this [report]”, says nuclear physicist Nils Bøhmer in Bellona to BarentsObserver. “The Norwegian National Audit Office had the same remarks for the period 2005-2009 and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) then promised that routines had been tightened so that such things would not happen again.”
Bøhmer thinks it is strange that the Norwegian National Audit Office has not received the report, since both they and the MFA keep underlining the good relationship between Norwegian and Russian audit authorities. “I think that this returning problem with money “disappearing” in Russia makes it even more important for Norwegian authorities to be present in the regions and to support the few communities of free press and NGO’s in the area”, he says in an e-mail.