Evaluation of employer policy delegation in the central government sector (2020:20)
On behalf of the Government, the Agency for Public Management has evaluated how employer policy delegation in the central government sector has developed since 2002, when the latest evaluation of this delegation was carried out.
Delegation of employer policy means that the Government has delegated the right to conclude central collective agreements in the central government sector to the Swedish Agency for Government Employers (SAGE), which in turn has delegated the right to conclude local agreements on wages and conditions to the individual agencies. As a result of the delegation, the Government has handed over responsibility and authority to the agencies for, among other things, skills provision, skills development, wage and other employment conditions, working environment and work on the central government’s basic values.
In the report, we analyse how SAGE and the agencies have taken the responsibility assigned to them within the delegated system. We also investigate whether the Government’s follow-up in this area is appropriate. We also highlight the impact of the delegation on confidence in public administration and how the delegation has developed the central govnernment sector and its effectiveness and efficiency.
Delegation works well overall
The Swedish Agency for Public Management’s conclusion is that in general the delegation works well. Our overall assessment is that the development of employer policy since 2002 has been positive. The agencies perceive that their responsibilities and powers in employer matters are clear. The shared responsibility and loyalty to the State as a whole is greater among the agencies today than at the time of the previous Inquiry. Since 2002, central government wage formation has been responsible, and we also believe that the agencies regard central government to a greater extent than before as an employer policy group.
Delegation contributes to effectiveness and efficiency but has both advantages and disadvantages for trust
The Swedish Agency for Public Management's conclusion is that delegation has contributed to positive development of public administration and its effectiveness and efficiency. The main strengths of a delegated model are opportunities for adaptation of activities, flexibility and local solutions. We believe that the administration utilises these opportunities in a way that promotes government effectiveness and efficiency.
The central government sector’s basic values should contribute, through a sound administrative culture, to maintaining public trust in public administration. In our opinion, delegation facilitates the work of promoting a sound administrative culture, as the agency head is responsible for issues such as leadership and organisation.
At the same time, delegation can entail a disadvantage when it comes to maintaining trust in public administration, among other things because it complicates shared administrative solutions. It has so far been difficult to establish a functioning organisation for joint training efforts and to ensure that state employees have equal access to education in the central government sector’s basic values.
The strengths of delegation could be better utilised and weaknesses bridged
Even if delegation in general works well, we believe that the actors in Swedish public administration could be better at utilising the strengths of delegation and that they need to bridge the weaknesses. In the report, we elaborate on what we believe is required of SAGE, the agencies and the Government in order for delegation to be safeguarded and developed in the future.
The steering by the Government over SAGE should continue to be limited
As in the previous evaluation, we do not consider that the dual roles of SAGE, as an administrative authority and member organisation, affect government agencies’ confidence in the Agency. In order to maintain this confidence going forward, we believe that the Government should continue to steer the Agency to a limited extent. It would therefore be inappropriate for the Government to give SAGE new tasks, such as providing support to agencies to develop more trust-based governance, as proposed by the Delegation of Trust-Based Governance.
SAGE has legitimacy but needs to improve information and inclusion
SAGE’s co-ordination and development of central government employer policy generally corresponds to the needs of its members. However, we believe that SAGE needs to be better at including all members in the coordination, by adapting contact paths and forms of meeting.
We also believe that SAGE needs to be better at providing information to the Government and other agencies with special responsibility in the delegated model. SAGE and the Government need to take joint responsibility to develop their informal contacts with each other so that the Government obtains the information it needs. Furthermore, SAGE, together with the National Government Employee Pensions Board and the National Government Service Centre need to ensure the effectiveness of the dialogue between them.
The agencies can strengthen shared responsibility
The Swedish Agency for Public Management's analysis shows that the agencies’ ability to handle all the components included in employer policy varies. The agencies face the greatest challenges in the area of skills provision and there is great variation in the extent to which the agencies handle these issues strategically in their own organisations. The agencies need to ensure that the employer policy perspective is included when planning and developing their own activities.
We also assess that public administration as a whole could prioritise collaboration on employer policy issues to a greater extent than at present in order to create benefits for its own operations and for the central government sector as a whole. A developed partnership on issues such as skills provision also increases the opportunities to market both the individual agency and the State as an attractive employer.
The Agency for Public Management also considers that the agencies should take greater responsibility for enabling SAGE to function better as a member organisation. Participation in SAGE’s annual Employer’s Council has been low. If participation falls too low the agencies are not taking their most fundamental responsibility in the delegation model.
The Government’s follow-up has improved but could be developed more
The Swedish Agency for Public Management's conclusion is that the Government has improved its follow-up of central government employer policy since the 2002 Inquiry presented its report. The follow-up is now integrated into the annual budget process, which creates better opportunities to monitor employer policy conditions throughout the central government sector. Nevertheless, we believe that the Government can improve its follow-up of employer policy in several ways.
We believe that the Government should engage more in employer issues in dialogue with the agencies and that follow-up work could be more systematic. The Government needs to a greater extent to consider the interim targets of central government employer policy while conducting a dialogue and follow-up with individual agencies.
Furthermore, the Government’s reporting could be clearer as regards how well the overall objective of central government employer policy is met. The Government should therefore consider instructing SAGE to draw up a proposal, in consultation with the agencies in the member organisation, for how the overall objective should be analysed and reported.