3.1 General description, history, and key data of the administrative system

In decentralized State administration the various entities are under direct or indirect instructions of the Government represented by ministries or alternatively by directorates or inspectorates. The principal core of the territorial division is the county, today represented by the State County, cf. Table 4. Any decentralized state sector considered, the territorial division would be an addition of counties, or eventually contain a reference to this county division through an addition or subtraction of smaller primary entities (municipalities). Most of these entities are operating towards inhabitants or individual organizational units within their areas of jurisdiction.

The county division of the administrative system is in contrast to the local one quite old. Certain elements of this division were established under Norwegian Kings in the late Middle Age, and later on, reorganized and consolidated as a workable administrative partitioning of the country during the Danish-Norwegian Kingdom. After the independency in 1814, this system of administrative-territorial organisations were modernized, but still as pure administratively led authorities; exempted directories ruled by elected or appointed political assemblies for the respective jurisdiction areas.

The local division of the administrative system is of another origin, rooted in the Aldermen's Act of 1837 and the subsequent municipal organisation. Formerly, there was a difference between rural and urban municipalities originally based on grading of authority and state privileges. The municipal reform in 1961 abolished this distinction and merged municipalities close to the existing number. Currently, both the county and local municipal administration is in principle professional secretaries to bodies consisting of elected politicians. Apart from administration there are professionals working with the provision of public services at local and regional levels under the rule of directly elected bodies. However, they are not included in the realm of municipal administration in this context. Like the state administration they only include officials of entities linked to municipal government.

The central state administration employs around 4000 employees comprising the Parliament and Governmental ministries. The number of employees in external state administration, in the County Governors' offices, directorates and inspectorate are far more extensive in total. In the County Governors' offices close to 2 400 officials are employed, while more than 16 100 persons work full or part time in directorates and inspectorates. In municipal government administration around 5200 persons are occupied in county municipal administration, while above 58 900 persons work full or part time in the local municipality administration. The municipal division employees in service provision relating to education, health, social services and culture are not included.

Table 4: Levels and specific aspects of the administrative system.




Authority/ function


National level

         Officials in the Parliament and  the Government











         Administrative support to elected representatives





         Authority based on  professional expertise





         Authority relating to rule of public law and standards

         Preparation of matters for handling in committees and plenary sessions of the Parliament, within  ministries and the Government

         Concluding power in matters according to mandate and provision of professional expertise to the Government

         Concluding power in mandated matters, monitoring and controlling

Regional levels

         County Governors




         Branches of state directorates and inspectorates





         County Municipalities

         Decentralized state authority



         Decentralized state authority as for central government directorates and inspectorates 




support to politicians in council and committees. Delegated power for concluding in mandated matters

         Concluding authority, authority for handling of appeals, plansí approval and control

         Decentralized concluding power in mandated matters as for central government directorates, inspectorates, state infrastructure, etc.

         Preparation and handling of matters for political decisions, concluding of matters based on delegation

Local level

         Local Municipalities

         Administrative support to politicians in council and committees. Delegated power for concluding in mandated matters

         Preparation and handling of matters for political decisions, concluding of matters based on delegation