Norway’s government on Tuesday issued an apology and pledged to clear up a controversy involving hundreds of people wrongly convicted of benefit fraud.
“On behalf of the government I want to apologize to those affected and their families, the state will make amends,’’ Anniken Hauglie said, minister for labour and social affairs, in remarks to parliament.
Hauglie said in her statement that 36 people have wrongly served prison terms over benefit fraud convictions linked to a 2012 European Union regulation.
She told lawmakers that the government would commission an independent review of the Labour and Welfare Administration agency, NAV.
On Nov. 1, NAV conceded it had wrongly interpreted rules introduced in 2012 on benefit payments to people temporarily residing outside Norway, in a European Union member state or a country that, like Norway, is part of the European Free Trade Association, EFTA.
NAV is in charge of administering social security programmes, including pension, child and unemployment benefits.
According to Hauglie, at least 2,400 people have wrongly been ordered to repay benefits.
The government said it was mulling creating a fast-track complaint mechanism for people who believed they had been mistreated.
Jonas Gahr Store, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, urged the government to ensure that benefits without delay be repaid to those who were wronged.
“Sick, often vulnerable people need restitution,’’ he added.
Other members of the opposition said they wanted parliament to appoint a separate commission to review NAV, the ministry and minister Hauglie’s actions.