Norwegian universities minister resigns in arms contract row

Ola Borten Moe admits ‘serious misjudgement of my own impartiality’ over multibillion-krone contract meeting about a weapons manufacturer he had indirectly bought shares in

July 24, 2023
Norwegian Army armored tank with cannon and camouflage
Source: iStock

Norway’s minister of research and higher education, Ola Borten Moe, has resigned over having joined a meeting about an arms contract despite indirectly holding shares in the company involved.

Mr Borten Moe announced on 21 July that he would step down as minister over the perceived conflict of interest, which stemmed from his presence at a January meeting where the government agreed to buy ammunition worth NKr2.6 billion (£201 million) from Nammo, a Norwegian and Finnish aerospace and defence group.

His admission came after the E24 newspaper reported that he had broken the government’s guidelines on share trading by attending the meeting a week after buying Kr400,000 of shares in the aerospace conglomerate Kongsberg Gruppen, which indirectly owns 25 per cent of Nammo.

“I have made a serious misjudgement of my own impartiality and have not been sufficiently aware of how to handle this disqualification,” Mr Borten Moe said in a statement. “I am very sorry for the situation I have put both myself and the government in, and therefore take the consequences of this.”

He said he had had no private information about the ammunition deal when he bought the shares and said he had not spoken at the January meeting, the newspaper said. Mr Borten Moe sold the shares a few days after being contacted by the newspaper, a decision he later said was a mistake. Norway’s ministerial handbook does not ban the buying and selling of shares, but ministers are told to show “great care” and to avoid trades that could damage trust in them or the government.

Mr Borten Moe caused consternation among Norwegian researchers last year when he fired the entire board of the Research Council of Norway over alleged financial mismanagement, also freezing several major funding calls.

There was even broader resistance to the introduction of tuition fees for international students in Norway from outside the European Economic Area, with many suggesting that the change would lead to course closures and hurt the economy.

A push for international staff at universities to learn Norwegian within three years of arrival also raised eyebrows, with some warning that it could hurt already tricky recruitment efforts.

Mr Borten Moe announced at the start of the year that he would lead on major reforms of Norwegian higher education, focused in part on efficiency and value for money.

The prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, had not announced a replacement for Mr Borten Moe at time of writing.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles