Norway Tenders Out USD 47m Interpreting Framework Agreement

Norway Labor and Welfare Authority (NAV) search for language interpretation providers

Norway’s Labor and Welfare Authority (NAV) has started its search for interpretation providers for a framework agreement worth an estimated  EUR 40m (NOK 417m). Providers have until August 18, 2021 to apply for the contract, slated to last two years, with two possible one-year extensions.

NAV plays a significant role in the integration process for many immigrants to Norway. Since the start of the Covid pandemic, NAV noted increased unemployment among immigrants. This, plus “the development in general immigration to Norway,” could lead to a greater need for interpreters.

As of December 2020, there were 293 NAV offices throughout Norway, the proportion of immigrants varying by region. In-person and remote interpreters are needed for those NAV units with direct user contact. (Contract documents state that if both parties speak English well enough, NAV can offer guidance in English.)

The framework agreement comes after the government’s 2019 proposal for an interpreting law that would regulate the field of interpreting and require public officials to use interpreters in certain situations. In addition to increasing the use of interpreting services, the goal of the law is to improve quality.

Quality Over Price

Application materials indicate that NAV’s decision will be based on price (20%) and quality (80%). Moreover, NAV prefers to work with qualified interpreters, identified as those with documented professional qualifications and who are eligible for entry into Norway’s National Interpreter Register.

NAV ideally wants to work with interpreters in the top four tiers of the registry based on interpreters’ credentials. The hourly rate for interpreters in the top three tiers is NOK 679 (EUR 65) per hour. Fourth-tier interpreters get NOK 594 (EUR 57) per hour.

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According to the contract, the provider must be able to supply a minimum of 80% qualified interpreters in the 20 highest-volume languages. So-called “unskilled” interpreters may only be used in extenuating circumstances — to be justified by the vendor — and must demonstrate at least B2 level proficiency in Norwegian.

In 2019, only 10 languages accounted for 80% of all interpreting assignments: Arabic, Tigrinya, Somali, Polish, Turkish, Dari, Persian, Sorani, Vietnamese, and Russian. These languages have continued to prevail with NAV reporting hardly any changes from year to year.