Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Sigurður Ingi Jóhansson, does not have a clear legal authorisation to relocate institutes within the ministry’s scope of affairs, and did not have one when he announced the relocation of the headquarters of Fiskistofa, the Directorate of Fisheries, from the Reykjavík area to Akureyri, late last year. This was disclosed in the minister’s response to an inquiry made by Alþingi member Birgitta Jónsdóttir, released on Monday.
“As it is,” says the minister, “it seems as if a special legal authorisation would be needed each time that an institute is to be relocated outside the municipal borders of Reykjavík.” The minister further notes that after it came to his attention that he might lack legal authority to relocate Fiskistofa, as he had already announced, he proposed an amendment to Alþingi, whereby the legislator would establish “unambiguous legal authorisation” for such decisions.
The minister’s response begins on noting that sufficient funding had been allocated and authorised by the State Treasury. “Regarding legal authorisations to relocate the institute, matters are less clear,” it then goes on.
According to Iceland’s constitution, all ministries must be located in Reykjavík, the country’s capital.
According to a 1999 amendment to law no. 73/1969, about governmental affairs, ministers were authorised to relocate institutes within their scope. However, the minister has now acknolwedged, later legislation, valid since 2011, annulled that authorisation.
The minister notes that the law which annulled ministers’ authorisation to relocate institutes went through Alþingi “without any mention in the commentary which accompanied the proposal” about that particular change. The understanding thereby seemingly implied, that the current lack of valid authorisation may be due to simple neglect, is underlined later in the minister’s response, when he claims that being able to relocate institutes is a “natural part” of a minister’s authority.
The minister further notes that the headquarters of Fiskistofa are at the moment not located without the boundaries of Reykjavík anyway, but in the adjacent municipality of Hafnarfjörður, adding that “thereby it is not certain at all whether a special authorisation is required to relocate them”. Nonetheless, he has proposed an amendment to grant himself such authorisation, “unambiguously”.