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Evaluation of the new organisation at the Swedish Migration Agency (2017:6)

To achieve a more flexible and efficient service, in February 2014 the Swedish Migration Agency decided to transition from an organisation based on the area of activities to a regionally divided organisation. With this reorganisation, the agency wanted to increase local responsibility whilst simultaneously strengthening central governance. In conjunction with the reorganisation, the agency’s process-oriented work methods were also developed. The new organisation was launched on 1 January 2015.

The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has been commissioned to analyse how the Swedish Migration Agency has conducted the reorganisation of the operations. The assignment has included charting and evaluating the division of responsibilities; internal governance and the support to the operations corresponding to the purpose of the new organisation.

The implementation was well grounded

Our assessment shows that the implementation of the reorganisation generally appears to have worked well, and activities have essentially continued undisturbed. We believe that the reorganisation decision was based on a well-founded analysis and the idea that increased local responsibilities balanced with strengthened central governance was justified based on previous experiences. The new organisation was also well supported amongst employees prior to its implementation.

Large parts of the organisation are fit for purpose

Statskontoret believes that the new organisation very much meets the aims of the reorganisation. The division of responsibilities between the central functions and regions have made it easier to transfer resources between the areas of activities and have made the routes to decisions shorter in certain cases. Statskontoret also believes that consequently, the new organisation is in line with many parts of the organisation. At the same time, we believe that the objectives established for the reorganisation to ensure uniformity and efficiency in the organisation are yet to be met.

Central governance has not had full impact

In order to increase efficiency and uniformity in activities at the Swedish Migration Agency, Statskontoret is of the opinion that central governance requires a clearer breakthrough in the operative activities. Our analysis has identified a number of obstacles for this.

The mandate of the Director of Operations creates problems

The Swedish Migration Agency has placed all core activities under one director, which is unusual for large authorities. Statskontoret believes that this creates an imbalance, as a director of operations is therefore responsible for almost 90 per cent of the agency’s workforce. This additional managerial task means that the senior management become further removed from the regions, thus complicating governance. Furthermore, it makes it difficult for the supporting functionaries to conduct their assignments.

The work for uniformity and efficiency needs to be strengthened

The process-oriented work must contribute to uniform and efficient work processes. Although the attitudes towards more process-oriented work are essentially positive, the objective is yet to have its full breakthrough into the operations. There are several explanations for why this work has not fully succeeded.

The Quality Department has not been successful
Statskontoret has ascertained that the Quality Department that is responsible for the agency’s on-going improvement work lacks sufficient legitimacy in the regions. The operative part of the organisation feels that the Quality Department does not understand their activities and their needs. This has complicated work in the Quality Department and the possibility to support the operational activities.

The divided responsibility complicates the success of process-orientation.
The division of responsibility between the Director of Quality and the Director of Operations leads to double governance signals, meaning it becomes unclear for employees to establish what to prioritise.

No clear counterpart in the regions
Currently, the heads of unit in different regions have process responsibility, whereas the others do not. The lack of a clear counterpart to the central governance in all regions has hampered the success of the process orientation.

The need for strategic governance and combined head office

The Migration Agency has had limited space to manage strategic matters. Statskontoret believes that there is an additional need for more strategic and collected governance. The management group currently discuss the overall priorities on a relatively small scale. In addition, we have seen that the Director-General has delegated the long-term strategic agency governance to the Director of Financial Affairs and there is a lack of coherency in the departments at head office. When combined, this restricts harmonised and strategic governance of the operations.

Statskontoret’s proposal

Statskontoret provides a number of proposals in its report that aim to rectify the problems identified. The Swedish Agency for Public Manager suggests that the Migration Agency

  • abolishes the level with a director of operations and investigates where the existing support functionaries beneath the director of operations will be placed
  • abolishes the Quality Department and allocates the work towards change and development of processes to the head office with representatives in the regions
  • establishes the department directors’ responsibilities in the process work
  • ensures strategic governance, by concluding the work with an organisational strategy and that the Director-General does not delegate long-term strategic agency governance
  • clarifies which issues, forums and forms of the collaboration between the agency’s units will take place.