by Trond Juvik, CEO of Ferde AS, January 2020
-This is an unofficial translation of the Norwegian version-
The recent media cases about Ferde must be seen in the context of the very special situation Ferde was in at the end of 2017 and the start of 2018. The connection is too poorly presented by NRK’s articles, which thus appears too little nuanced.
The Toll Reform
On September 29, 2017, the counties in Western Norway bought the toll section of the private enterprise BT Signaal. The company had developed the infrastructure, technology and expertise to charge tolls effectively. The acquisition was carried out to realize the toll reform, with 64 toll companies becoming five.
The fact that a public body acquires a private commercial company is rare and challenging. There is little experience in the area. Therefore, it is valuable to look at Ferde’s experiences to understand what challenges such a process can present. Overnight, the private company is subject to a public framework. The employees who were acquired find themselves in a new and unfamiliar role as public employees. You are no longer responsible to private owners, but report to the political leadership in the community. Suddenly new requirements for information access, reporting, use of resources, processes and routines were necessary.
The transition was complicated by the fact that the acquired BT Signaal still had business agreements with other companies in which Ferde employees had ownership interests. These contracts were not possible to terminate overnight. This was also not desirable, as the companies were involved in ensuring operational processes. The county council was therefore aware that the employees of Ferde had ownership interests in the companies on the outside, and that Ferde had a necessary business relationship with these.
It has been stated that I managed a tax collection project in Congo. This is not correct. The project was part of BTS Norway and was not included in the purchase when the county authorities acquired the toll section of BT Signaal. When the Managing Director / Project Manager for the Congo Project resigned, I felt a responsibility to help clean up and run the project properly. I did the task both outside and within normal office hours. As CEO, however, one work far beyond what is called normal office hours. Ferde employees had the opportunity to do side work to complete the transition from private to public company.
Procurement exposed to competition
NRK has spent considerable effort digging into situations that arose in the demanding transition from a private to a public company. I have taken self-criticism for not considering my own impartiality for licenses purchases from a company I had ownership interests in. Even though the purchase was in Ferde’s interest, I should have let others make the decision. Ferde is currently in the process of putting in place system and routines to help ensure that all purchases are done in accordance to the regulations. We are humble that this has taken time to get in place, and we are still working to ensure good routines with all purchases. No employees at Ferde have side work related to obligations that was inherited when the company went from private to public.
Successful change process
After the acquisition, Ferde has focused on adapting the responsibilities, roles, routines and processes to align with the public framework. At the same time, we have secured operational operations, and acquired and merged 23 companies. Revenue has grown from approximately NOK 73 million in 2017, to NOK 2.4 billion in 2018. The cases NRK has written about are related to a demanding transition period from private to public company. Employees at Ferde work loyally and hard for the community and the social responsibility we have to fulfill our task to collect toll and finance new infrastructure.