The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has completed its commission from the Government to survey the work of government agencies to prevent corruption. The commission included describing the agencies' current work and analysing the need for changing to their way of working.
In accordance with what the Government specified in its commission, we have started from a broad definition of corruption as involving the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. In our investigation, we carried out a questionnaire on the occurrence of suspicions of corruption and on the corruption prevention work at 260 agencies.
Agencies have suspicions of corruption
Our questionnaire survey shows that one in three agencies (28 per cent) has had suspicions of corruption in its activities over the past two years. It is reasonable to assume that this means the occurrence of actual cases of corruption. We interpret this result with some measure of caution. We have examined suspicions of corruption and not the actual occurrence of corruption. Our broad definition of corruption also means that responses might encompass phenomena that vary greatly in severity, ranging from wilful and gross crime to occasional incidents of a more simple nature.
Variations dependent on size and risk
Our questionnaire shows that agencies with many employees have more often had suspicions of corruption than agencies with few employees. Furthermore, suspicions are more common among agencies with a high degree of expected corruption risk in their activities than among other agencies. Agencies with a high risk include those subject to the Ordinance on Internal Control and those headed by a board. We also see that the scope and focus of measures taken by individual agencies against corruption correlate with size and risk.
However, there are some agencies which deviate from this pattern; namely, higher education institutions and courts of law. At higher education institutions, suspicions are relatively common, but they take fewer preventive measures than other similar agencies. In courts, suspicions are uncommon and they analyse risks for corruption to a lesser extent than other agencies.
Another variation is that some areas of agency activities are particularly vulnerable to corruption risks, mainly public procurement and purchasing and the management of sensitive information. Among higher education institutions, suspicions of corruption are often linked to secondary employments and conflicts of interest.
The preventive work of agencies
Suspicions become known through employees and internal controls
Suspected corruption can come to an agency's attention in different ways. However, we see that the most common way for this to happen is through information from an employee or through internal controls.
Corruption risks have not always been analysed
Under the Ordinance on Risk Management by Government Agencies, every agency is to identify risks of damage or loss in its activities. Despite this, only half of the agencies have analysed the risk of corruption. Agencies that are large and/or are subject to the Ordinance on Internal Control perform risk analysis more often than others. For overseas activities, one in three agencies has not analysed the risks of corruption.
All have taken action to some extent, but few follow up
Almost all agencies have taken at least one measure to prevent corruption. Most have taken several. However, we see that only half of the agencies have appropriate follow-up of whether their employees have adequate knowledge about corruption and are aware of rules and guidelines.
One in four agencies does not have an operational manager
In large agencies, responsibility for corruption issues is often spread across several functions. At smaller agencies, it is common for an individual with overall responsibility for the entire organisation to be sole responsible, such as a Director-General. One in four agencies lacks a designated function or person with operational responsibility for corruption issues. This is particularly common among smaller agencies.
Support is requested – especially by large agencies
In the questionnaire, many agencies state that they would like to have some form of external support for corruption issues. Large agencies request this to a greater extent than small ones. What the agencies particularly request is support materials for managers and employees working in risk areas.
Statskontoret's proposals for measures
The Government should develop the support for the agencies' management of corruption risks
Statskontoret proposes that the Government commission the Swedish National Financial Management Authority to develop the support for the agencies regarding corruption prevention work. This development work can be done as part of the tasks assigned to the agency by the Government and should build on the work it already conduct in the area.
The Government might need to further raise the issue of corruption
The Government might need to further raise the issue of corruption in order to draw greater attention to the need for corruption prevention work in the civil service. If the Government sees such a need, Statskontoret proposes that the Government consider the following.
- Investigate the possibilities of establishing a joint whistle-blower function in the civil service.
- Establish a meeting forum for directors-general with particular responsibility for corruption prevention work in the civil service.
Proposals for the agencies on how to develop their corruption prevention work
Based on our survey and knowledge overview, Statskontoret proposes that the agencies pay special attention to the following in their corruption prevention work.
- Risk analysis is a necessary tool for the work.
- Ensure good employee knowledge.
- Establish information and procedures.
- Follow up the work.