The Swedish National Audit Office is part of the central control power of the Swedish Riksdag (Parliament). It ensures that the Riksdag receives a coordinated and independent audit of the state finances. This assignment is unique as the Swedish NAO is the only body that can audit the entire state finances.
It is supposed to audit the entire chain of executive power. It is intended to be an independent organization under the Riksdag and independent of those audited. Both performance- and financial audits are within its ambit. But Dagens Nyheter has been carrying out an investigation and in recent days has been revealing that the Office is far from independent. Both in staffing and in its operations it seems to be riddled with “cronyism” and “crony corruption”. An Agency intended to be a check against corruption (among other things) has been found to be corrupt itself. One Auditor General (Susanne Ackum) has resigned. The Swedish branch of Transparency International has called for all the 3 Auditor Generals to resign and for integrity to be reestablished:
Transparency International Sweden reacts strongly to the investigation of the National Audit Office carried by Dagens Nyheter.
It shows that the Auditors have acted with a lack of integrity and judgment.
The National Audit Office is to contribute to the proper use of the state’s resources and that state administration is handled efficiently. The three Auditors General have a strong mandate for the independent review and the authority is to be a cornerstone in the fight against corruption in Sweden.
When the National Audit management do not follow the basic principles of good governance, ie integrity, impartiality and objectivity, and do not even comply with the international code of ethics, confidence is destroyed not only for individuals but also for the important work the Agency conducts. Transparency International Sweden believes in this context that all Auditor Generals should offer to resign.
Transparency International Sweden welcomes the announced meeting called by the Constitutional Committee with the Auditors. The Committee should also consider their role in the recruitment process for this important office.
Given the National Audit Office’s central role as part of parliamentary control, Transparency International Sweden believes that it is important that the Constitution Committee immediately and forcefully act to restore the Authority’s integrity.
Dagens Nyheter: Revelations about the National Audit Office
- Auditor General Ulf Bengtsson has interfered in an audit review of a decision which he himself was involved in.
- He gave his explicit support to a County governor audited by the National Audit Office.
- One of the National Audit Office’s senior managers had a private SMS contact with the audited governor and promised to help her.
- The head of the Agency Supervisory Board warned the National Audit Office that DN was conducting an investigation. (DN had contacted him to get expert help in assessing unpublished data).
- The Auditors may have violated their own ethics rules. The internal guidelines say that employees may not take a position in a pending case.
- Auditor General Susanne Ackum has promised jobs to people before they are announced. E-mails reveal how she has given away jobs before a proper recruitment process has even started.
- Those recruited by Ackum receive on average 6,500 kronor per month more than their colleagues in similar positions. Her closest colleague gets 114,000 kronor/month.
- Those recruited by Susanne Ackum will lead audit examinations of policies that they themselves have helped to implement while at the Cabinet Office.
- Susanne Ackum has allowed people outside the National Audit Office, including the Cabinet Office, to take part in and influence the ongoing audits.
- At least one review has been shut down after Susanne Ackum discussed it with an official at the Cabinet Office.
- Even Susanne Ackum’s live-in partner has been allowed to read internal working documents and comment on documents not yet published.
- The National Audit Office’s chief economist is a well established political debater who has previously taken positions on matters related to taxes and the tax system. Now he is to lead the National Audit’s impartial review of the tax system.
- The Auditors have dropped an unusually high number of audits. They have canceled audit missions which had already consumed 19,000 man hours, at a cost of nearly ten million.
I am not all that surprised and just a little shocked that the Agency which is supposed to be a check on corruption is rife with cronyism. But it should be remembered that the entire Swedish party political system is built on “cronyism”. Party membership is tiny compared to the number of voters for each party. Yet it is this tiny membership which controls all public (tax-payer funded) positions. It is friends, and friends of friends, which governs. Not that that is any different to any “party democracy” in Europe. It only demonstrates once again that “party democracies” are quite different – and often in conflict with – “people democracies”.