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More emergency management for the money? MSB's handling of appropriation 2:4 (2014:6)

The government has commissioned Statskontoret (the Swedish Agency for Public Management) to investigate how the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency's (the MSB) work to distribute and monitor funds from appropriations 2:4 Emergency management can be developed. The commission covers the portion of the appropriation that the MSB distributes as contributions to the central agencies and county councils for various development projects. The contributions that MSB distributes from the appropriation total around SEK 400 million per year.

Appropriation 2:4 – part of emergency management

Government agencies should, in line with the principle of responsibility, maintain a basic emergency management capability. This ability is to be financed within the framework of the agencies' regular appropriations. However, the government has tasked the MSB with allocating special funds from appropriation 2:4 in order to strengthen society's collective preparedness and ability to manage serious crises and their consequences.

In order to avoid the appropriation being used for the agencies' regular activities, the Swedish parliament and the government have identified a number of principles and conditions for how the appropriation should be used. The appropriation should for instance be used to finance direct additional costs for operations and not administrative costs and salaries.

Since 2010, the Swedish Parliament also decides each year in conjunction with the Budget bill on the appropriation's continued focus. In recent years focus decisions have, among other factors, emphasised that the appropriation must be used to stimulate cross-sector collaboration, and that financed actions must have demonstrable effects on community preparedness and the overall capability of handling crises.

The MSB has a broad scope to decide how the appropriation is used

Statskontoret is of the opinion that the MSB has a relatively broad scope in deciding how the appropriation will be used. The MSB decides how much of the funds are to be allocated to development projects and also has the option of making contributions to its own development projects. The MSB can also influence the configuration of the focus that controls the distribution of the appropriation as the focus is developed in the interaction between the government and the MSB. Ultimately, it is the MSB that determines which projects are to receive funds.

Two decision-making processes that can be developed

The MSB allocates appropriation 2:4 through an application process in which 27 state agencies and all county administrative boards have the right to apply for funds. The agencies that can apply for funds include the MSB itself. This means that the MSB handles both internal and external applications. The MSB has developed two processes for allocating funds from the appropriation, one for applications from other agencies and one for internal applications. Statskontoret believes that the MSB is well placed to have a good overview of the agencies and operations that have applied for and received funds from the appropriation. But we are of the opinion that the processes can be developed.

Lack of documentation of the assessment of external applications

According to Statskontoret's judgement, the MSB has a clear and structured process for how external applications must be tested in relation to given principles and conditions.

Among other things, the MSB must in its selection process use assessment criteria which, as far as Statskontoret can determine, correspond well with the principles, conditions and focus decisions which the Swedish parliament has adopted.

However, Statskontoret can declare that while the process of how funds should be distributed is clear and structured, in practice it is sometimes difficult to determine how the assessment has been made in relation to the appropriation principles and conditions. This is because the MSB's documentation of the assessments the agency makes is in some cases flawed. For example, this applies to documentation of the overall assessment of each application and the summary justification for decisions the MSB provides to the applicant agencies.

Transparency in the internal allocation process needs to improve

As for the MSB's handling of internal applications, it is difficult to assess how the investigation is conducted. This is partly because the process is currently undergoing change and partly due to the total absence of documentation of the assessments the MSB makes. Statskontoret believes that it is important that transparency in dealing with internal applications improves in order to ensure that internal and external requests are handled in a similar manner and are assessed using the same criteria. It is a matter of urgency that the MSB better documents the assessments that serve as the basis for the selection of projects to be granted funds from the appropriation.

The MSB needs to clarify how it interprets the principle of responsibility

In accordance with the principle of responsibility, funds from appropriation 2:4 should only finance those activities that go beyond the basic emergency management capability that an agency must maintain. Because it can be difficult to assess what is included in an agency's basic capability, it can also be difficult to assess whether a project falls in line with the principle of responsibility.

However, Statskontoret believes that it is not possible for the government and the Swedish parliament to define the principle of responsibility more clearly. The MSB therefore needs to work to better justify, document and communicate its assessment of how applications relate to the principle of responsibility.

Need to assess whether the appropriation can finance the salary costs

In some cases the MSB may allow the appropriation to be used to finance salaries. However, according to the appropriation financing principles, the funds should only finance direct additional costs for operations, and not, for example, costs for administration and salaries. Meanwhile, there are sometimes circumstances and good reasons that justify that the appropriation should sometimes be used for salaries. Statskontoret therefore believes that the government should consider changes to the financing principles on this point.

The MSB's allocation of the appropriation is largely in line with the government's focus for the appropriation

Statskontoret believes that the MSB's allocation of the appropriation is largely in line with the focus decision adopted by the Swedish parliament for appropriation 2:4. As the basis for its allocation of funds from appropriation 2:4, the MSB has decided on a more detailed focus for the appropriation that is largely in line with the focus specified by the government. Statskontoret can also state that the MSB mainly grants contributions to collaborative projects, which are in line with the appropriation to stimulate cross-sector collaborative projects in compliance with the government's focus.

The MSB has taken important steps towards an effective monitoring process

The MSB already has a system available for external and internal reviews of the projects financed by appropriation 2:4. There is also a financial analysis of both internal and external projects. The MSB has in recent years begun to monitor all development projects in relation to the project plan and the arrangements reached between The MSB and the agencies that receive funds. To assess project results and effects, The MSB has also taken the initiative to develop assessment criteria and initiated efforts to implement in-depth evaluations.

Statskontoret therefore believes that the MSB has taken significant steps to develop an effective monitoring process. However, it should be further improved by being adapted to the scope and focus of the project to a much greater extent.

A continuing problem in the monitoring process is that it is based on the agencies' self-assessment of the projects. This is particularly problematic when it comes to assessing project results and effects. Statskontoret therefore believes that it is important that the MSB continues its work to develop assessment criteria and evaluations.

Reporting to the government can be easily improved

Statskontoret believes that it would be possible to get a better overview of how the appropriation is used through quite simple changes in the MSB's monitoring and accounting of the use of the funds. The MSB has more information about how the appropriation is used than what is reported to the government, including information on the number of projects per focus area. The MSB could also account for the proportion of the funds which is used for inter-sectorial projects.

The MSB also collects data on how much of the appropriation is used for salary costs, travel expenses, etc., information that could be presented to illustrate how the use of the appropriation relate to the appropriation's financing principles.

Based on the monitoring, it is difficult to comment on whether the projects have had the intended and lasting effects

Based on the MSB's monitoring and reporting it is difficult to comment on whether the projects have had the intended and lasting effects. This is partly due to the MSB's assessment of project effects to a large extent being based on the agencies' own estimates. Statskontoret also believes that these difficulties arise because the MSB does not reassess previous projects, which according to Statskontoret's assessment is necessary in order to determine whether the projects have long-lasting effects.

The government should consider longer terms for decisions on the focus and reporting of the appropriation

Statskontoret can state that the government's and the MSB's focus on appropriation 2:4 has remained relatively unchanged over the years surveyed. This is due to the fact that the needs of the area emergency management change relatively little from one year to another. In light of this, Statskontoret believes that it would be more efficient to establish a focus that extends over a longer period of time. Statskontoret believes that the government should consider avoiding the formulation of a new focus every year, but rather decide on a focus that could apply for a period such as, for example, three years.

In order to provide better opportunities to analyse and evaluate the results and effects of the appropriation, the government should also consider reporting project results and effects that might occur over a longer period of time. Such a change would enable that the monitoring and reporting of results and effects would to a lesser extent be based on self-assessment, since it would make the MSB better able to analyse and evaluate the effects of the appropriation. A better analysis of the appropriation results and effects would in turn facilitate the government's efforts to design an effective management system for the appropriation. However, a longer focus and monitoring process does not prevent the MSB from continuing to deliver an annual report to the government on how the appropriation has been used.

The management of the entire appropriation should be analysed

The funds used for the agencies' development activities only account for about one third of the appropriation 2:4, which amounts to more than 1.1 billion SEK in its entirety. The MSB also allocates funds from the appropriation to other fields which include research, NGOs and municipalities and county councils. To get an overview of how the entire appropriation is used and how the MSB prioritises between different fields, Statskontoret's judgement is that there is a need to survey the MSB's handling of all parts of the appropriation.