Administrative policy is about the design of the administrative structures that will transform decided policy into reality. Several of Sweden’s political problems can be at least partially explained by an administration that does not meet the expectations that are rightfully placed on it. In order to strengthen the administration and its efficiency, the Pirate Party proposes several measures in the area of administrative policy. We believe that the administration’s management is an important piece of the puzzle in explaining its problems, and therefore present several proposals on how it should change in order to strengthen the administration’s competence and the management’s business connection.
Overview – The Pirate Party wants to:
- Appointments of directors-general are anchored in the Riksdag
- An administrative education is created
- One year of practical experience in the same or similar activity is required to be a manager in an authority
- The financing of the administration returns to the grant model
Introduction – Management
Administrative policy is about the design of the administrative structures that will transform decided policy into reality. Several of Sweden’s political
problems can be at least partially explained by an administration that does not meet the expectations rightfully placed on it. In order to strengthen the administration and its efficiency, the Pirate Party proposes several measures in the area of administrative policy. We believe that the administration’s management is an important piece of the puzzle in explaining its problems, and therefore present several proposals on how it should change in order to strengthen the administration’s competence and the management’s business connection.
The appointment of directors-general is an important part of the political control over Swedish administration. The Swedish administration must have a high degree of independence, but must still be able to be controlled politically. This is mainly achieved through regulatory letters and the power of appointment. However, the appointment power has been abused by several governments to either reward party-loyal employees or send in “torpedoes” at authorities that were too independent.
Sweden is governed through parliamentarism. By appointing directors-general requiring a qualified majority in a vote in the Riksdag, parliamentarism in Sweden is strengthened. It strengthens the anchoring of the de facto pursued policy among the country’s elected officials, and increases the chance that meritorious and expert candidates will be presented by the government to be accepted by the Riksdag.
While there are of course certain generic skills that make a person suitable for a manager – leadership, charisma, personnel administration – it is a problem that “management” has come to be seen as such a general skill in itself in the public sector. But someone who is a good manager in the police is not necessarily a good manager in social services or the traffic authority. Each part of the administration has its own requirements, problems and working methods. Being a manager in administration should not be a general career path, but every manager should have at least limited experience “from the floor”.
Therefore, whoever leads personnel within the administration must have practical experience from the same or similar activity for at least one year, with the exception of the director general, who will continue to be appointed politically.
Therefore, we want to:
§1 Appointment of directors-general takes place by the government submitting proposals to the Riksdag, where a simple majority is required for the proposed director-general to begin his duties;
§2 One year of practical experience in the same or similar type of activity for which an authority is responsible is required for personnel management positions within the authority, with the exception of the director general.
2. Officials’ training and working conditions
Exercising authority within the public sector imposes special conditions on the official. In order to ensure that the exercise of authority takes place in a legally secure manner, as well as with respect for the office and its consequences for the individual and the public, requirements for a degree from a newly introduced administrative education must be made for employment that involves the exercise of authority. In cases where special vocational training is already in place, administration training should become part of the training, for example regarding teacher training.
Today it is difficult for the individual citizen to defend himself against abuse of the administration’s power by civil servants. Therefore, a classic white-collar liability should be reintroduced. The individual civil servant is thus liable for damages towards the citizen for carelessly incorrect exercise of authority.
Employment as a public official exercising authority is a different matter from employment in the private sector. A special right to work for these officials is therefore justified, and should specifically include the possibility of dismissal in the event of self-interested or negligent exercise of authority.
Therefore, we want to:
§3 Official liability is introduced;
§4 An administrative education is introduced with courses in administrative law, administrative ethics and administrative theory;
§5 The right to work for officials exercising authority is changed so that dismissal can be carried out in case of self-interested or negligent exercise of authority.
3. Financing and New Public Management
The current system of funding governance has reached the end of the road. What is known as New Public Management means that the administration is financed based on its “production”. The school is financed through the school fee, which is calculated per admitted student; the universities are financed through admitted and graduated students; et cetera.
The system makes it easy for politicians to decide on savings requirements by turning the compensation levels per production, and protects the treasury against administrations that use all their budget space even though they didn’t need it, which was a problem in the era of grant funding. Unfortunately, the system also creates incentives for the administration to lower the quality of its activities – a passed student is a passed student, regardless of how much they have de facto learned during their education.
In addition, power over the business is taken away from the professions. Instead of healthcare, based on its medical knowledge and proximity to the actual needs of the business, being allowed to distribute its resources where they do the most good, it must adapt to political wishes and demands for “production”.
Finally, the financing model leads to an expansion of the surveillance and control society. Effective measurement requires effective monitoring and the strong incentives to “polish” the production figures require effective controls. Every unit of care or education produced must be documented, checked and monitored. In addition to the limitation of the professionals’ authority and freedom that the monitoring entails, the need for control also leads to swelling paperwork and bureaucracy.
Fundamentally, the funding issue is about trust in the administration. If the administration does not deserve trust, it needs to be fundamentally reformed; If politics cannot trust its administration, it needs to be fundamentally reformed. The Pirate Party believes that trust is an important piece of the puzzle in strengthening Sweden’s administration and therefore wants to reintroduce grant funding for Swedish administration. This means a risk that appropriations may be exceeded and that budgets are used up to be able to justify asking for the same levels in subsequent years, but these are risks that can be managed. They are less than the negative consequences of New Public Management, which has been tried for the last 40 years.
In order to counteract the risks, the requirements for transparency within the administrations’ finances should be tightened. In addition, the National Audit Office must be able to forcibly manage the authority that has not kept its budget for five consecutive years. Under compulsory administration, money must be collected internally for each measure, and the National Audit Office is responsible for granting or denying such grants within the framework of the authority’s grants. Compulsory administration ends after two years of a budget.
In many places in Sweden, hidden cuts are carried out by counting on efficiencies in the budget that do not exist in reality. By counting on a one percent efficiency improvement when none of this can be implemented in reality, the company’s employees are forced to complete more work in less time or cut back on their ambitions. The same thing happens when costs are not calculated at the index level, but are unjustifiably placed below the index. Politicians must be honest with their administration and towards the citizens, and not call savings requirements for efficiency improvements. If the tasks of the business are to be pruned, it is the task of politics to tell what should be prioritized.
Therefore, we want to:
§6 The financing of administrations returns to the grant model;
§7 Administrative finances shall become more transparent;
§8 De facto savings requirements through streamlining items without explanation of which streamlining is intended, or reduced forecasts of cost development compared to the index without explanation, shall not be included in budgeting for the administration;
§9 An authority that has not been able to keep its budget for five consecutive years can be forcibly managed by the National Audit Office, which then gains the power to grant or reject internal grants within the authority. Such forced administration ends after two years of the budget being maintained.
That each authority only devotes itself to its own tasks, without effective coordination with other authorities that are involved in the same case based on their own tasks, is a problem for several reasons. This means that different parts of the administration work against each other and that the citizen is met with contradictory information and actions, so that the effectiveness of the administration’s measures as a whole decreases along with the citizen’s trust in the administration.
Any requirement for coordination entails cost and bureaucracy. The sought-after efficiency is lost by the cost being transferred from one point within the administration to another. Through the coordination of diary and register systems, different administrations can more easily gain insight into each other’s activities regarding overlapping matters, which at least gives the officials the opportunity to more easily adapt to and communicate with each other for coordination.
Such a solution, if not implemented, leads to extensive and dangerous privacy problems. In the worst case scenario, each individual administrator gets access to all of the individual citizen’s interactions with the public. Therefore, a coordination of registers must be implemented through a digital system where the citizen always has control over which information is shared with which actor. Each authority’s register must be able to communicate with other authorities’ registers, but the possibility must technically be limited to cases where the citizen has authorized data sharing, an authorization that must be specific in its scope.
Therefore, Sweden must join NIIS (Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions) and introduce a Swedish implementation of the X-Road system or an equivalent alternative.
Therefore, we want to:
§10 Sweden applies for membership in NIIS;
§11 Sweden implements X-Road or equivalent alternative system for coordination of authority registers.
5. Automated decision making
We are in a phase where the use of artificial intelligence and automated decision-making is increasing sharply, also within Swedish authorities. Just like the path choices made during the start-up phase of digitization, the choices we make now will leave a mark on the administration’s culture for a long time to come. Therefore, it is important that ethical, as well as careful, considerations are given great weight; that so-called “tacit knowledge” as a basis for exceptions and flexibility does not disappear in a rigid digitization.
It is important that we ensure from the outset that all software used is free and open source, so that we avoid being locked into old software, the maintenance of which costs gigantic sums and is difficult to replace. Due to incorrect choices during the initial digitization of authorities, public Sweden pays tens of billions of kroner for such maintenance.
Open source and free software are the only guarantors of the transparency in the decision-making process that we as citizens can expect. It must be possible to review how automated decisions have been made. This means that training data for systems based on machine learning must also be made available. In addition to this technical information, documentation of the system must be made publicly available so that at least outside experts can understand how the system works.
Such transparency is a key in preventing situations such as the one that occurred when the Employment Service through automated decision-making denied payments to 70,000 people who were eligible for support. Up to one-seventh of all decisions made by the authority regarding withdrawn activity support could have been affected by flaws in the software.
Automated decision-making has already been shown to be able to improve legal certainty and efficiency in administration if the implementation ensures, among other things, transparency, and that special competence regarding translation between law and code is retained within the organization.
Automated decision-making should not become what is called “governance through numbers”, or “styrning through numbers” in Swedish. Such governance constitutes attempts to depoliticize political decisions by transferring these to supposedly objective and neutral algorithms. The design and implementation of automated decision-making are political processes, and should be managed as such.
Nor should the introduction of automated decision-making be part of a frantic hunt for welfare users and be motivated by the hope of being able to find extensive fraud. The Pirate Party wants to dismantle the control society, not build it up.
Therefore, we want to:
§12 The administration must be able to delegate decisions according to the Administrative Act to automated decision-makers;
§13 Citizens must be informed when decisions have been made by automated means;
§14 Citizens exposed to automated decisions have the right to appeal them to the responsible person or representative of the responsible authority;
§15 Software, training data and documentation belonging to automated decision-making are subject to free and open licenses.