The Swedish Agency for Public Management

Agency analysis of the National Museums of World Culture (2015:24)

The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has completed its commission from the Government to conduct an agency analysis of the National Museums of World Culture (SMVK). The analysis covers SMVK's conditions, operations, results and future challenges, as well as the Government's governance of the agency.­­­ We also submit a number of recommendations to the Government and SMVK.­­­

SMVK's operations consist of four museums: The Museum of Ethnography, the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities, the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities and the Museum of World Culture.­ In 2014, SMVK had 130 full-time equivalents and revenues of around SEK 184 million.­

SMVK's commission has not been specified

Statskontoret's overall view is that SMVK essentially fulfils its commission to conduct museum activities with a particular focus on bringing to life the cultures of the world. At the same time, it is difficult to make a more detailed assessment of this because it is unclear what this focus on world culture entails.­

According to Statskontoret, SMVK's commission would be made easier if the Government were to specify the meaning of the world culture commission in more detail. SMVK also does not explicitly report how it interprets and operationalises the commission.­ It is therefore difficult overall to assess whether SMVK is making the right priorities.­­­

SMVK has achieved a number of good results

Statskontoret's assessment is that in recent years SMVK has achieved good results in several areas. It has produced several major and popular exhibitions and in conjunction with this has built up international networks that can help to enhance the quality of its operations.­­ SMVK has also improved both the physical and digital accessibility of its collections.­­­ Accessibility will be further improved during the period 2015–2016 when the Museum of World Culture will for the first time hold permanent exhibitions of objects from collections that have not been accessible since SMVK was formed.­­

Risk of deteriorating performance

However, Statskontoret sees a risk of deteriorating performance over the next few years since SMVK must implement savings in order to finance a deficit.­ An excessively high share of revenues is also tied up in fixed costs, mainly premises. Therefore, in order to fulfil its commission, SMVK needs to free up funds that can be used to develop operations.

Statskontoret also assesses that SMVK will need to develop its operations if it is to live up to the ambitions of the Government's cultural policy to reach out to a larger and broader groups of visitors.­ SMVK's financial situation means that work with the general public over the next few years will be primarily based on the museums' permanent exhibitions.­­­­ This could lead to fewer visitors as the larger temporary exhibitions account for a major share of SMVK's museum visitors.­

Strong measures are required for balanced finances

SMVK has commenced work to reduce operational costs. However, it is Statskontoret's assessment that SMVK must make more targeted savings to be capable of developing its operations and fulfilling its commission.

Statskontoret believes there is scope for streamlining operations and increasing revenues, besides SMVK's appropriation, through sponsorships and leasing out premises.­ Furthermore, SMVK should review whether the conditions for fulfilling its commission would be improved if operations were to be organised in fewer museum buildings.­­ Statskontoret believes that SMVK should avoid a position in which rental costs displace possibilities to develop activities for the general public.­­

SMVK needs to develop its governance and organisation

Statskontoret's view is that internal control and operational follow-up have been neglected for several years. In addition, SMVK has not fully implemented the matrix organisation introduced in 2011. In recent years, SMVK has carried out several important initiatives to improve internal control and follow-up, but it needs to develop this governance further in order to work more efficiently.­­ This would include producing guidelines and governance processes that clarify roles and responsibilities, as well as reviewing its skills requirements.­ Moreover, there is scope for improving the coordination between operations in Stockholm and Gothenburg.­

Statskontoret also believes that SMVK needs to review the organisation based on its financial conditions and the focus of future operations.­­ The current organisation has also entailed a departure from SMVK's Ordinance with instruction, which states that the agency is to have its headquarters in Gothenburg. In the long term, SMVK's organisation needs to be consistent with how this instruction regulates the location of headquarters.

SMVK needs to develop parts of its performance reporting

SMVK's performance reporting is extensive, and it is difficult to gain an overall view of operational results and development. It is also difficult to evaluate performance in relation to what different activities cost since there is no integrated report showing the allocation of costs between major operational areas. SMVK has also not explicitly defined which results are important for assessing the quality of operations or how these are to be followed up.

Statskontoret's recommendations

Statskontoret proposes that the Government

  • commissions SMVK to produce documentation that clarifies what can be accommodated within its world culture commission
  • delimits and specifies SMVK's world culture commission on the basis of the above documentation­
  • raises the issue of SMVK's location of headquarters in agency dialogue in the coming year­­­
  • commissions SMVK to present various options for action to improve its financial conditions.

Statskontoret proposes that SMVK

  • clarifies how it interprets and realises its world culture commission­
  • reviews the organisation based on its financial conditions and future focus­
  • organises itself to be consistent with how its Ordinance with instruction regulates the location of headquarters
  • continues to develop its internal control and follow-up
  • considers various options for achieving a more efficient use of resources­­­
  • develops its external reporting of operational results.