Statskontoret (The Swedish Agency for Public Management) has been commissioned by the government to conduct an agency analysis of the Swedish Institute (Svenska institutet). This means that we have carried out a general analysis of the Swedish Institute's conditions, operations, results and future challenges, as well as the Government's governance of the agency. We are also putting forward a number of proposals to the Government and to the Swedish Institute.
The Swedish Institute has a complex mandate
The Swedish Institute's assignment is broad and complex in a number of ways. The agency shall disseminate information and knowledge about Sweden and the Swedish language globally. It shall also promote cooperation and lasting relationships with other countries in several areas. The assignment covers foreign policy, development and reform cooperation, business promotion, and education policy. Appropriations for the organisation come from several expenditure areas, with the Government steering the activities in various ways. The mandate and the appropriations structure mean that many departments in the Government Offices of Sweden are involved in managing the activities of the institute.
The Swedish Institute operates out of offices in Stockholm, Visby and Paris. In 2014, its income amounted to SEK 448 million. Of these, the agency awarded SEK 235 million as grants, for example in the form of scholarships to individuals.
Several challenges through increased appropriations and new duties
In the past five years, the Swedish Institute has faced a number of challenges that have placed a strain on the organisation. The agency's appropriations for development activities have increased by SEK 196 million since 2010. In 2012, the Swedish Institute took over Sida's Baltic Sea Unit. The Government has also demanded that the agency calculates and discloses its administrative costs in a better way. Against this background, the Swedish Institute has implemented changes which have encompassed both the organisational structure as well as the internal management and control activities.
Necessary changes have been implemented and are ongoing
As far as Statskontoret can ascertain, the changes being implemented by the Swedish Institute have been both necessary and appropriate. However, there are important issues that require further work. Our assessment is that the agency is aware of the areas where changes need to be made. For example, the Swedish Institute has thus far not been working systematically to make its operations more efficient, but has now laid the foundations of such work. In 2016, the agency plans to develop a strategy for its continued development work.
The Swedish Institute handles its duties competently
Statskontoret's overall view is that the Swedish Institute generally handles its complex duties and its administration in a satisfactory manner. The Government, Government Offices and other external stakeholders are mostly satisfied with how the Swedish Institute handles its duties. The agency is perceived as being receptive, providing good service to the Swedish foreign missions and cooperating with the Government Offices and other partners in a positive manner. The criticism that the Government and Government Offices have expressed mainly applies to shortcomings in the Swedish Institute's analysis and reporting of operational performance.
Difficult to assess whether resources are used in an efficient manner
Statskontoret finds it difficult to assess whether the Swedish Institute is using its resources efficiently, and how well the results correspond to the Government's goals for the organisation. This is due to the fact that the performance reporting of the Swedish Institute rarely includes an analysis of results in relation to what the initiatives have cost. The agency seldom evaluates the long-term effects of its activities. The Swedish Institute primarily monitors the results in close connection to the completed initiative (for example, an exhibition or a leadership programme).
Need for performance analysis and clearer activity objectives
Statskontoret is of the opinion that the Swedish Institute needs to improve its analysis of results and its performance reporting. One aspect of this process is to formulate measurable goals at a higher operational level than performance on a more activity based level. Despite the impact chain being long and the agency's efforts often representing one piece of a much larger puzzle, the Swedish Institute should also consider how the agency strategically evaluates effects of its activities in the longer term.
The Government's performance expectations can become clearer
Statskontoret's assessment is that the Government could formulate goals that are more closely related to the area concerned, or in some other way more clearly specify what is expected of the Swedish Institute's performance. This would likely make it easier for the agency to formulate goals that its activities can be assessed in relation to. There is a great distance between the Government's relatively visionary goals and the results of individual Swedish Institute initiatives. The Government's results strategies for parts of the aid-financed activities provide the Swedish Institute with guidance on how the agency should focus its activities and the intended outcome. The mandate to promote Sweden is more openly formulated and there is space for the Government to clarify its performance expectations.
The Government Offices occasionally clarifies and supplements Government decisions through contacts with the Swedish Institute. While dialogue has its benefits, it can also mean that the Swedish Institute perceives the Government Offices' control signals to be the Government's collective will. However, if the agency's management alters the focus of its activities as a result of such signals, the responsibility for the consequences of the decisions lies solely on the management.
Risk that activities promoting Sweden may be side-lined
Statskontoret sees a risk that the Swedish Institute's activities involving the promotion of Sweden may be side-lined. The agency needs to use part of its core appropriation to cover administrative costs for activities financed by special appropriations. In practice, this means that the agency prioritises the activities financed by special appropriations ahead of activities that otherwise could have been planned and implemented using the core appropriation. This mainly applies to activities that promote Sweden. However, the strain on the core appropriation has decreased.
There is potential for synergies between the activities
The Swedish Institute is endeavouring to identify synergies between activities that involve the promotion of Sweden and those that are financed through development aid. Synergies can exist at several levels, for example, through methods and tools being transferred between activity areas. Several of those we interviewed uset he Swedish Institute alumni network, i.e. a network that includes former scholarship holders, as a starting point for describing the synergies. Although Statskontoret sees a potential for synergies, it is not possible to assess the scope of these synergies. The Swedish Institute needs to continue developing its work with the alumni in order to achieve the synergy effects sought by the agency. Statskontoret notes, for example, that the Swedish Institute has no contact information for the majority of its alumni.
Statskontoret proposes that the Swedish Institute:
- considers further concretising its objectives at the more aggregated operational levels
- develops its analysis of results and performance reporting further in order to clarify results and resource use
- considers how the agency is to work strategically to evaluate its activities' long-term effects
- continues to develop its work with the alumni, for example by prioritising the development of an infrastructure for the efficient handling of alumni contact details and other relevant information
- prioritises efforts to produce a development strategy.
Statskontoret proposes that the Government:
- clarifies the core mandate of the Swedish Institute and the assignments which the agency is to finance with its core appropriation
- clarifies the Government’s expectations with regard to the Swedish Institute's performance, especially in those parts not covered by results strategies that encompass the agency
- clarifies the position that the Board for Promoting Sweden Abroad (Nämnden för Sverigefrämjande i utlandet) has as commissioning body
- considers whether the Government Offices should reduce its dialogue-based control activities.