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Public agencies and how they are governed

The remit of each ministry includes responsibility for a number of government agencies. The police, the Swedish Migration Board and the Swedish Tax Agency are a few examples. The agencies must apply the laws and carry out the activities decided by the Riksdag and Government.

In addition to the general system of rules on financial management and the agencies' powers and obligations, the Government decides on the preconditions for the individual agency's operations. This is effected on the one hand in the annual appropriations directives and, on the other, by ordinances. The practical work of producing appropriation directives and ordinances is done in the Government Offices. The appropriations directives set out, among other things, the goals an agency is to reach in its operations, how much money the authority has at its disposal and how the money is to be distributed between its different activities. The ordinances contain various general administrative provisions concerning how the agencies are to carry out their work.

More about Government agencies

Appointment and recruitment of top management

Government agencies are the Government's most important instruments in carrying out its policies. Agency heads are often accountable to the Government for the agency's operations, which is why the Government's power of appointment and managerial policy is important. The Government's power of appointment covers decisions on the employment of agency heads, deputy directors-general and county directors. Decisions on other appointments are the responsibility of the agency in question.

The Government monitors agencies' activities

Public sector resources must be utilised in an optimal manner and used where they are most needed. Agencies' activities and results must therefore be followed up and evaluated. Every year they submit an annual report to the Government containing information about, inter alia, expenses, revenue and results. On the basis of the reports the Government can follow up and evaluate agencies' operations. The annual reports together with budget data submitted by agencies are also the basis for work on next year's national budget and appropriation directives.

Ministerial rule prohibited in Sweden

The Government, in other words, has quite substantial scope for steering the operations of government agencies. However, it has no powers to intervene in an agency's decisions in specific matters relating to the application of the law or the due exercise of its authority. In many other countries, it is common for an individual minister to have the power to intervene directly through a decision in an agency's day-to-day operations. This possibility does not exist in Sweden, however. Collective Government decision-making and the ban on instructing agencies on individual matters are expressions of the prohibition of 'ministerial rule', as it is often called. The Riksdag is responsible for monitoring to ensure that ministerial rule does not occur. Should the Government consider that an agency has not applied a law correctly its only remedy is to seek to amend the relevant legislation.