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Agency analysis of the Swedish Inheritance Fund Commission (2017:20)

The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has carried out an agency analysis of the Swedish Inheritance Fund Commission (Arvsfondsdelegationen) on behalf of the Swedish Government. The Inheritance Fund Commission has the task and responsibility of making decisions concerning the allocation of funds to projects from funds in the Swedish Inheritance Fund (Allmänna Arvsfonden). The funds in the Swedish Inheritance Fund consist of estates for which no heirs have been located.

The Commission is to have a comprehensive strategy for the evaluation and monitoring of the activities that receive funding from the Swedish Inheritance Fund plus informing the public about the purpose of the Inheritance Fund and how the funds are being utilised. The Swedish Inheritance Fund Commission is a public authority governed by a Board (nämndmyndighet). The Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency (Kammarkollegiet) is responsible for providing processing and administrative support to the Commission.

The Agency carries out its tasks and responsibilities in all essential aspects

Statskontoret has made the assessment that the Swedish Inheritance Fund Commission fulfils its tasks and responsibilities in all essential aspects. The Swedish Inheritance Fund distributed more than SEK 700 million last year. It is Statskontoret’s assessment that the Commission is performing its tasks and responsibilities to make decisions concerning the allocation of funds and conducts a review of the foundations for the decisions based on quality in a proper manner.

Additionally, it is Statskontoret’s assessment that the Commission fulfils its two other tasks and responsibilities relating to dissemination of information to the general public about the activities as well as having a strategy in place for follow-up monitoring and evaluation. However, it is our view that the focus on these two tasks can be further developed in order to better meet both the needs of its own activities as well as the needs of the target groups for general awareness and knowledge about the Inheritance Fund and which projects can receive funds from the Fund.

The evaluations have a far too narrow perspective

The strategy for evaluation and follow-up was adopted in 2011. Statskontoret has noted that all projects receiving funding from the Swedish Inheritance Fund are monitored and many of them are also evaluated. However, few of those who have been interviewed are using the evaluation reports and there is a demand for more information about the overall outcome of the Inheritance Fund’s projects. Statskontoret has therefore made the assessment that the evaluation activities have a far too narrow perspective concerning who should be the target groups for the evaluations, which results in that the usefulness of the evaluations is somewhat limited.

An integrated approach is lacking in the communication area

The communication activities are vitally important for the strengthening of the legitimacy of the Swedish Inheritance Fund Commission’s activities and for obtaining appropriate project applications. However, the awareness of Inheritance Fund among the general public, and especially among young people, has declined in recent years. The Commission’s communication efforts have been further developed taking this into regard, however there are no follow-up reviews that can show if the measures have been effective.

The communication activities are organisationally separated from the remainder of the administrative support. It is Statskontoret’s assessment that how the activities are organised obstructs a broad overall perspective and a coordination of the activities, and makes it more difficult to be attained. The Commission’s informational and communication work appears to be weakly rooted among those in the administrative support, who have expertise in the allocation of funds and the Inheritance Fund’s projects. Additionally, the results from the evaluations of the projects are utilised only to a limited extent by the communication unit. Statskontoret’s assessment is that taken overall this poses a risk for the effectiveness of the communications work, and ultimately the outcome.

Shortage of time available for strategic discussions

Statskontoret has made the assessment that there is a need for the Commission to set aside time to discuss the focus which the communications and evaluation tasks are to have. Likewise, the Commission also needs to decide on the focus of the direction of the administrative support.

The Advisory Board meets six times a year and the workload is high prior to each meeting. All members take part in a comprehensive basis for decisions about the allocation of resources, since every decision taken collectively. However, there is limited time for discussion of the strategic decisions taken.

The Commission has introduced a change entailing that the Commission is making multi-year decisions concerning the allocation of funds. Statskontoret has made the assessment that this has the possibility of reducing the workload of the Commission, however the impacts of the change have not yet been realised.

Difficult to be fully responsible for both governance and management

The Swedish Inheritance Fund Commission must, with a few exceptions, comply with the requirements of the Swedish Government Agency Ordinance regulation. Statskontoret’s analysis shows that in practice the Commission does not have the preconditions to be able to fully assume such responsibility.

The Commission has an ever-expanding operation to be responsible for, both in terms of the volume of funds that is to be distributed as well as the size and structure of its administrative support. The Swedish Inheritance Fund’s office for administrative support has grown in recent years in order to be able to cope with the increasing volumes and the increased demands for governance and monitoring, and compliance with the relevant legal rules.

Within the administrative support, requests have been expressed at various different levels for increased management and monitoring. The perceived lack of management and monitoring has adversely affected the administrative support’s work environment. Statskontoret assesses that this has not affected the quality of the processing of the applications, however the risk exists that in the future the work environment may impair the quality of documentation and information provided for the Commission’s decision-making activities.

The Government should consider whether civil servants from the Swedish Government Offices should be included as a part of the Commission

By law, the Commission’s chairperson is to come from the Swedish Government Offices. Even though the experience so far has been good, it is recommended that the Government consider whether the Commission should continue to be led by a civil servant from the Swedish Government Offices. It is Statskontoret’s assessment that arrangement may give rise to problems with insufficient transparency in the governance and impair the possibilities for clearly-defined accountability.

Alternative 1: A special decision-making body in the Kammarkollegiet

It is Statskontoret’s assessment that the the Commission does not have the prerequisites to take full responsibility for all of its tasks and responsibilities. Statskontoret’s view that a solution to the problems we have uncovered could be to convert the Swedish Inheritance Fund Commission into a special decision-making body within the Kammarkollegiet. The Commission’s other tasks, in regards to disseminating information to the general public about the Swedish Inheritance Fund and the Fund’s purposes, as well as the strategy for monitoring follow-ups and evaluations, the Kammarkollegiet should therefore receive the responsibility for.

There are several advantages to such a solution. The collective decision-making in the allocation of funds can be maintained. The Commission obtains better preconditions to make decisions even with increased volumes. The responsibility for governance and management also becomes clearer. Kammarkollegiet obtains better possibilities for transparency in the activities of the administrative support and a greater overall responsibility for the matters relating to the Swedish Inheritance Fund.

Alternative 2: Remedial measures within the current organisation

If the Government chooses to maintain the organisational structure as it currently is, Stats­kontoret has made the assessment that there are remedial measures that the Government and the Swedish Inheritance Fund Commission could take in order to strengthen its operations and the governance of it. The measures could provide the Commission with better preconditions to make decisions in the future and also provide the possibility for the expansion of the administrative support.

Statskontoret recommends that the Swedish Government:

  • Consider increasing the number of members and broadening the expertise within the Commission.
  • Further develop the steering of the agency.

Statskontoret recommends that the Swedish Inheritance Fund Commission:

  • Investigate the possibilities to free up time for strategic discussions.
  • Review the focus of the activities, especially regarding the responsibility to provide information to the general public and its strategy for evaluation and follow-up.