On commission by the Government, Statskontoret (the Swedish Agency for Public Management) has carried out an agency analysis of Ekonomistyrningsverket (ESV, the Swedish National Financial Management Authority).
ESV's operations are rather diversified. The authority develops and administers the financial management of government authorities. ESV also provides the Government Offices of Sweden and the authorities with expert support in order to develop appropriate financial management. ESV performs analyses and prognoses for government finances and follows up the budget policy goals. ESV also develops the basis for the consolidated accounts for the Government. ESV's tasks also include revising Sweden's management of EU funds and promoting correct management of these. The authority also administers the information system Hermes, which is used by the Government Offices and other government authorities. ESV also has certain advisory functions within the government's provision of premises.
Statskontoret's overall assessment
Statskontoret's assessment is that ESV is a largely functional authority and that its performance is of a high quality on the whole. For example, the authority generally receives positive feedback in its customer surveys and from different actors within its sphere.
At the same time, there are indications of quality problems in ESV's operations. Among other things, grades have dropped in authorities' customer surveys in recent years, albeit from a high level. One important challenge for ESV is thus to ensure that the quality of its services develop in a positive direction.
Work with government commissions
In recent years, ESV has received more government commissions of a general investigative nature, primarily where management issues in government are concerned. Statskontoret's assessment is that ESV should develop its ability to carry out such commissions. The authority should consider recruiting new expertise in certain areas and partly develop new working methods. ESV should also review its procedures for quality assuring its reports.
An authority with many different types of tasks
ESV's basic assignment focuses clearly on financial management, and as such questions related to this area. Over time, the Government has also given the authority other types of tasks, which has led to its present, more diversified activities.
The diverse composition of operations does not seem to entail any disadvantages, but nor does it seem to result in any significant synergies for the authority. It is possible that some of ESV's operations could function more effectively for the Government as a whole if they were moved to other authorities. This relates more specifically to the administration of framework agreements, which could potentially be transferred to Kammarkollegiet, and ESV's work with prognoses, which could be transferred to the National Institute of Economic Research. Statskontoret recommends that the Government have these issues evaluated.
A more effective EU revision
Sweden has a relatively low proportion of EU funds which have been incorrectly issued. This may suggest that Sweden can change the current balance between the resources invested in checks and the expected effect in the form of fewer erroneous disbursements. This does not necessarily entail a lower level of ambition in the EU revision, as it may be possible to make savings through changing the working methods and by increasing focus on the risk of erroneous payments. Statskontoret's view is that the Government should investigate whether or not it is possible and appropriate to change the working methods in Sweden's EU revision, with the purpose of achieving savings.
Increasing the efficiency of government operations
According to its instruction, ESV shall provide the Government with the basis it needs in order to ensure that public administration is effective and that the internal management is satisfactory. Based on the results of the agency analysis, it seems that there are certain differences of opinion between ESV and the Government Offices concerning some of the finer details of ESV's role in the work to increase the efficiency of public administration.
Statskontoret's view is that it reasonable for ESV to have a role in this area, but that ESV's role can be perceived as ambiguous at present. Statskontoret feels that the Government should clarify ESV's role in this work as part of the Government's endeavours to achieve a more efficient public administration.
A more proactive working method
There are also reasons for ESV to consider a more proactive approach in their work to increase efficiency in public administration. Statskontoret feels that ESV should recommend possible measures for increasing the efficiency of public administration, and to a greater extent, on its own initiative. This also concerns the work with internal management and performance management.
Evaluating the work with prognoses
Statskontoret can´t see any indications of systematic errors in ESV's prognoses. However, in order to ensure the quality of its prognoses, Statskontoret feels that ESV should analyse, in this short-term, whether there are systematic prognosis errors for central variables in the prognoses. This type of analysis should be carried out with the support of a formal statistics evaluation model.