The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has completed its commission from the Government to conduct an agency analysis of the Swedish Performing Arts Agency (Statens musikverk). The analysis covers the Agency's conditions, operations, results and future challenges and also the Government's governance of the Agency.
The Swedish Performing Arts Agency has a broad commission
The task of The Swedish Performing Arts Agency is to promote a diverse musical offering throughout the country characterised by artistic innovation and high quality. This includes promoting the development of professional musical life. The Agency is also to document, preserve, promote, build up knowledge of and make available the cultural heritage of theatre, dance and music.
In 2014, The Swedish Performing Arts Agency had 68 full-time equivalents and revenues of just over SEK 92 million. The Agency allocates state subsidies to musical life of at least SEK 25 million annually.
The intentions behind the Agency have not yet been realised
The Swedish Performing Arts Agency was formed in 2011 through a merger of operations that were diverse in nature. The Government's intentions for the Agency included strengthening the link between government efforts for cultural heritage and artistic innovation. Statskontoret's assessment is that the merged operations are largely being run with the same input value as when the Agency was formed. Traces of the various operations' history, cultural differences and previous focus are still tangible. There is a tension between cultural heritage and artistic innovation. The efforts towards integration within the Agency have not yet made any tangible contribution towards realising the Government's intentions.
The merger of operations has also meant that the Agency has many target groups and stakeholders to satisfy, each with their own expectations and areas they wish to safeguard. This is something that the Agency's management must address as it steers and develops operations.
The Agency fulfils large parts of its commission
Although the Agency has not yet realised the Government's intentions, it is Statskontoret's assessment that The Swedish Performing Arts Agency fulfils large parts of its commission. This commission concerns the tasks to document, preserve, promote and make available the cultural heritage of music. It also concerns the tasks of examining issues of state subsidies to musical life and of making studios available to professional composers and sound artists. However, Statskontoret’s assessment is that The Agency finds it difficult to cope with its task to document, preserve, promote, build up knowledge of and make available the cultural heritage of dance and, above all, theatre.
The cultural heritage commission might be difficult to cope with in the future
Statskontoret foresees a risk that The Swedish Performing Arts Agency might find it difficult in the future to cope with its overall cultural heritage commission. This assessment is based on the management's generally high ambitions for its operations, the employees' information regarding an already high workload, indications of declining performance over the last one or two years as well as the concern for the future of the cultural heritage commission expressed by some target groups. At the same time, it is difficult to interpret the development over time for the Agency's performance in the area of cultural heritage. The Agency has not analysed its own performance in the annual report.
The Agency's sick leave and personnel turnover have increased. Many at The Swedish Performing Arts Agency also say that their workload is tough. All in all, this paints a picture of operations currently under heavy strain.
Weak internal control and follow-up
Ever since its inception, The Swedish Performing Arts Agency has had problems with its administrative capacity and its internal control and follow-up of operations. The Agency has chosen to plan and follow up excessively exclusive procedures via inter-agency processes. This requires a clear management by objectives. However, the management model contains a large number of different types of objectives. The structure of objectives and the often abstract objectives have a weak link to actual performance. This provides employees with little guidance about what is to be achieved and prioritised.
Statskontoret's analysis also shows that the Agency's management system does not provide a sufficient basis for following up the performance of operations in relation to their objectives. Nor is the information in the system completely reliable since the organisation uses various ways to manage reporting.
All in all, there is a risk of the weak internal control and follow-up yielding an inefficient use of resources. Statskontoret does not rule out that this has also contributed to the Agency's work environment problems.
Insufficient basis for assessing results and efficiency
The weaknesses in The Swedish Performing Arts Agency's follow-up and analysis of operational results, objectives achieved and costs are reflected in the Agency's performance reporting. Statskontoret's assessment is that the annual reports do not provide the Government with a sufficient basis for assessing which results are being delivered by the Agency and whether its resources are being used in an efficient manner.
The Government should clarify its expectations of the Agency
Statskontoret recommends the Government to provide The Swedish Performing Arts Agency and its management with better guidance for setting priorities in core activities. This is a matter of urgency in view of the risks that the Agency might find it difficult in the future to cope with its commission, particularly its cultural heritage commission. Statskontoret believes that the Government can use its appropriation directions to express its expectations regarding the level of ambition and results as well as priorities it would like to see in order to strengthen the opportunities of the Agency's management to steer its operations. This would also make it clearer to external interested parties what they might expect of the Agency.
The Swedish Performing Arts Agency should strengthen several parts of it operations
Statskontoret recommends The Swedish Performing Arts Agency to strengthen its internal control and follow-up of operations. A more developed performance analysis and reporting is also important for enabling the Government to assess operations.
Statskontoret also recommends the Agency to improve its handling of the state subsidy to musical life. The system support needs to be developed in order to make processing more efficient and thereby create scope for a more qualitative and legally secure treatment of applications. The current selection and assessment criteria leave too much room for individual interpretation, both by administrators and by members of the artistic council.
Statskontoret also recommends The Swedish Performing Arts Agency to work more strategically with regard to skills provision. In this respect, systematic work environment management should be seen as a key prerequisite for retaining and recruiting necessary skills.
Development projects correspond to the recommendations
The Swedish Performing Arts Agency states that, in 2015, it has started several projects to develop and integrate operations. These correspond well to the observations made in Statskontoret's analysis and the recommendations we submit to the Agency. This development work is urgent and strategically important for the Agency. However, multiple parallel initiatives can have an adverse effect on results and further add to the workload. For this reason, the Government and the Agency may need to discuss the order of priority for these initiatives. The Government also needs to monitor the progress of development work.