The Parliamentary Ombudsmen (JO) are directly accountable to the Swedish Riksdag and form one pillar of parliamentary control in Sweden.
Parliamentary control is a collective term for the Riksdag’s special powers to review and monitor the work of the Government and the public administration. The three pillars comprise:
- Parliamentary review: the right of Members of the Riksdag to pose questions to the Government, the Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution (KU) reviews the actions of ministers and the handling of government matters, the Riksdag has the power to initiate a vote of no confidence in a minister or the Government.
- Judicial review: The Parliamentary Ombudsmen (JO) ensures that governmental authorities treat citizens in accordance with the law.
- Efficiency audits: The Swedish National Audit Office reviews what government funds are used for and how efficiently they are used.
The four Parliamentary Ombudsmen are appointed directly by the Riksdag. The ombudsmen are independent in their decisions and answer directly to the Riksdag. Each autumn they submit an annual report to the Riksdag which contains an account of the work carried out during the previous working year with statistics and a selection of decisions.
The task of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen
The main task of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen (JO) is to ensure compliance with the law. The ombudsmen are specifically tasked with ensuring that public authorities and courts abide by the provisions of the Instrument of Government concerning impartiality and objectivity and that the public sector does not infringe on the basic freedoms and rights of the citizens. The ombudsmen's supervision includes ensuring that public authorities deal with their cases and in general carry out their tasks in accordance with existing legislation.
The ombudsmen's enquiries are prompted both by complaints filed by the public or initiated by the ombudsmen themselves. Regularly inspections are made of various public authorities and courts in the country.
Powers and sanctions
The Parliamentary Ombudsmen have the authority to issue statements if the measures taken by a public authority or a public official are in conflict with an existing law or other statute or are incorrect or inappropriate in some other way.
The ombudsmen have the right to issue advisory opinions intended to promote uniform and appropriate application of the law.
In the role of extra-ordinary prosecutor, the ombudsmen may initiate legal proceedings against an official who, disregarding the obligations of his office or his mandate, has committed a criminal offence other than an offence against the Freedom of the Press Act and the right to freedom of expression.
The ombudsmen may report a civil servant for dereliction of duty.
The ombudsmen may recommend changes to statutes to either the Riksdag or the Government.
The ombudsmen may refer cases to a regular supervisory authority for action.