The Parliamentary Ombudsmen (JO) are appointed by the Swedish Riksdag (parliament) to ensure that public authorities and their staff comply with the laws and other statutes governing their actions.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman has examined the wording of two criminal judgments. In one of the judgments, the district court included a close-up photo of the defendant. In the second judgment, the district court has taken photographs of the injured party and her home. Both judgments also include a variety of other pictures, such as alleged crime instruments and bloodstains. The Parliamentary Ombudsman notes that photographs of a person included in a criminal judgment become immediately available to anyone who examines the judgment and means that the court is helping to distribute the photographs. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, a court must not assist in the distribution of images that may jeopardise the individual’s right to privacy and protection of their private life. She is highly critical of the inclusion of the photographs of the defendant and the injured party, as well as the photographs of the injured party’s home, in the judgments under review and is of the opinion that the district court should have considered more carefully whether it was justifiable to do so in view of their privacy. The chief judge of the district court was responsible for drafting the judgments and is criticised.
In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsman discusses the considerations that a judge should make before including photographs and other illustrations in a criminal judgment.
Every year, the Parliamentary Ombudsman receives complaints concerning contact between children in care under the Care of Young Persons (Special Provisions) Act and their guardians. Against this background, the Parliamentary Ombudsman decided to carry out an investigation into how Social Services process cases relating to restricted access under the Care of Young Persons (Special Provisions) Act. As part of the investigation, the Parliamentary Ombudsman inspected six Social Welfare Boards and examined cases of restricted access. The key question of the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s investigation has involved how the boards take into account the principle of the best interests of the child.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman notes that all the boards stated that they worked actively with the principle of the best interests of the child, and that this underpins all decisions to restrict access. However, the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s review reveals a clear discrepancy between what the boards themselves have stated about the best interests of the child being taken into account in the processing and what has been documented and reported in the cases reviewed. The Parliamentary Ombudsman points out that the individual children were not highlighted at all in the cases where no assessment of the best interests of the child was expressed in either the decision or the decision guidance document, and the Parliamentary Ombudsman takes this very seriously.
The child’s right to participation consists of different elements: the right to information, the right to speak and be listened to, and the right to influence depending on their age and maturity. The child’s right to information is a prerequisite for allowing the child to be able to express their views on the issue of contact, for example. Speaking and being listened to are also an important prerequisite if the child is to feel that they have been given the influence that they are entitled to in a case. As regards the right to participation, the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s review shows shortcomings in all areas, which is worrying.
In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsman also states an opinion on certain formal issues in the handling of cases relating to restricted access and provides views on how these should be handled by the boards.
A man was stopped by the police when he was on his way to a party for motorcyclists. The police checked the man and his car. In connection with this, he had to hand over his motorcycle vest and his driving licence, which was then photographed by the police. The photograph was taken in order to document the fact that the man was at the scene and how he was dressed at the time.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman is of the opinion that the photograph should be considered as having been taken forcibly. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the measure interfered with the protection of privacy guaranteed by Section 8 of the European Convention. To be permitted, taking the photos therefore required legal grounds.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman established that there were no legal grounds for forcibly photographing the man’s motorcycle vest and driving licence. The Swedish Police Authority is criticised for taking the action anyway, and for failing to document it in an acceptable manner.
A lawyer who was the public defence counsel for a remand prisoner sought to make contact with his client over the telephone on an evening during a weekend. The deprivation of liberty relates to a criminal investigation other than the one in which the defence counsel was appointed. The prosecutor did not allow the contact unless the defence counsel explained the purpose of the conversation.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman states that the unconditional right of a remand prisoner to contact their defence counsel must also apply to a defence counsel appointed in a criminal investigation other than the one to which the deprivation of liberty relates. In view of the strict confidentiality applicable to contact between a suspect who is detained and their defence counsel, the Parliamentary Ombudsman further states that a defence counsel cannot be obliged to explain what the contact relates to.
There were therefore no legal grounds for refusing contact between the defence counsel and his client, or for asking what the contact related to. However, it would have been acceptable to consider whether practical conditions for contact were available at the time.
In assessing the prosecutor’s conduct, the Parliamentary Ombudsman takes into account the fact that there was no clear regulation in the constitution on how the situation should be handled. Furthermore, the Parliamentary Ombudsman is of the opinion that the investigation does not support the fact that the contact would necessarily have taken place on the evening in question, or that there is reason to believe that the lack of contact would have
limited the remand prisoner’s chances of preparing his defence. However, the Parliamentary Ombudsman is of the opinion that the prosecutor should not have tried to find out what the contact related to.
Region Skåne receives government funding to reimburse for the costs incurred by healthcare services when their resources are used for clinical research. Lund University proposes to the region how the funds should be allocated. A researcher at the university complained to the Parliamentary Ombudsman that his research team had been denied access to resources financed by the funds in question, with no reasons given by the university.
The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman is of the opinion that the procedure for allocating the funds is much more similar to an employer’s management decision than, for example, to an authority’s processing of applications for benefits regulated by public law. According to the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman, this means that the university’s decision on the proposed allocation of the funds has not affected anyone’s situation in the manner required for the university to have been obliged to justify the decision.
In a criminal case of aggravated assault on a woman, it took almost a year after the charge was filed for the district court to convene the main hearing. However, the hearing was cancelled and the processing time was approaching two years when the case was settled. In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsman found that the district court had not taken sufficient action to ensure that the case was settled within a reasonable time, pointing out – for example – that several offences were already old when the charges were brought. The Parliamentary Ombudsman criticises the district court for its handling of the case.
In another criminal case, which involved unlawful driving, the defendant was 17 years old when the charge was brought. Because the defendant was so young, the case had to be handled promptly under Section 29 of the Young Offenders (Special Provisions) Act (1964:167), but it took four months for the district court to hand down a judgment. Although the Parliamentary Ombudsman is of the opinion that it is debatable whether the time taken is in compliance with the requirement for promptness, she does not find grounds for criticism in this case.
In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsman makes statements on the division of responsibility for criminal cases and on the importance of clear and written procedures for scheduling. According to her, a court may need to consider matters such as whether there are particular factors which make a particular case a priority, such as the nature of the crime or whether most of the evidence consists of verbal information. The court must also note whether previous main hearings have been cancelled and the reason for this. The Parliamentary Ombudsman also points out that the requirement for promptness in cases involving juveniles makes it particularly imperative for the court to immediately reschedule such a case after a hearing has been cancelled, and for the procedures to include specific instructions on how cases involving young offenders should be handled; how quickly the court should convene a main hearing, for example.
Finally, the Parliamentary Ombudsman makes certain statements on the scheduling of criminal cases during a pandemic.
The Director-General of the Swedish Forest Agency provided his private email address to an external actor upon request. This actor then sent a message to that address, which was not registered by the Swedish Forest Agency but deleted by the Director-General.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman concludes from the investigation that the message in question constituted an official document. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Director-General’s statements on the incident cannot be understood in any way other than that his actions were aimed at circumventing public access to the documentation. Such action is contrary to the requirement for objectivity and impartiality laid down in the Instrument of Government. The Director-General is therefore criticised for his actions.
A case officer at the Swedish Social Insurance Agency had submitted a notification of concern to the Social Welfare Board and attached to this several documents containing confidential information, including a medical certificate submitted to the agency in a case relating to sickness benefit, without a prior confidentiality assessment having been carried out.
The decision states that the Swedish Social Insurance Agency may report concerns about child abuse and may disclose confidential information if it is obvious that the interest in its disclosure overrides the interest protected by confidentiality. This balance must take into account, on the one hand, the possibility of providing Social Services with information in order to help a child in a potentially vulnerable situation and, on the other hand, the parent’s interest in being able to provide a detailed description of their health in a case relating to sickness benefit without this information being disclosed to unauthorised persons. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, it may be considered sufficient for the case officer working on the notification of concern to describe the circumstances underlying the concern for the child without submitting any other documentation. It is then up to the Social Welfare Board to decide whether there are grounds for requesting additional documents that the board may need for its review.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman takes a very serious view of the fact that the case officer at the Swedish Social Insurance Agency reproduced confidential information in the notification of concern and attached several medical documents to the notification without first considering whether there was legal support for it. The agency is severely criticised for what has come to light.
A Chief Guardian Board decided to prohibit the use of a future power of attorney for certain actions. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the reasons for the decision are so inadequate that it is impossible to understand why the board felt that the ban was necessary. The Chief Guardian Board is criticised for failing to provide the clarification required by the Administrative Procedure Act.
A communications officer and an area manager in the municipality of Uppsala interrupted a questioning that a journalist was conducting with a headteacher at a municipal preschool.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman notes that the officials prevented the headteacher from exercising his constitutionally protected freedom to communicate information and criticises the Municipal Executive Board and the Education Committee of the municipality of Uppsala for this.
According to Chapter 24, Section 9 a of the Code of Judicial Procedure, the detained person has the right to be informed of the circumstances on which the detention order is based. The defence counsel for a detained person complained in a report to the Parliamentary Ombudsman that the information provided by the prosecutor did not meet the legal requirements.
According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the details of what is required of the prosecutor’s letter of notification must be determined on the basis of the circumstances of the case in question. However, as a starting point, the prosecutor cannot simply refer to information from questioning or technical evidence, for example, as the basis for the detention order. The letter of notification normally needs to be more specific than this in order to achieve the purpose of the regulation. The detained person has the right to access the relevant parts of the questioning if information from questioning is of direct relevance to the detention order. If there are traces of DNA or other similar technical evidence, the detained person has a corresponding right of access to what is directly relevant to the detention order.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman is of the opinion that the information provided by the prosecutor in the case in question was far too general and that the detained person’s rights under Chapter 24, Section 9 a of the Code of Judicial Procedure were not respected. The prosecutor in charge is criticised for this.
In recent years, the Parliamentary Ombudsman has received a number of complaints from individuals about the fact that it is difficult to get through to the Swedish Pensions Agency over the telephone. In December 2019, the Parliamentary Ombudsman severely criticised the Swedish Pensions Agency for the shortcomings in accessibility and service that this entails (ref. no. 3555-2019). Since this decision, similar complaints have continued to be received by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. This was also the background to the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s decision in March 2021 to investigate the matter again in this and another case (ref. no. 974-2021).
The Swedish Pensions Agency’s response indicates that the Agency has not been able to answer all incoming calls for some time, and that a lot of calls have been disconnected and have not even reached the Agency’s customer service telephone system. In January 2021, as many as 76 per cent of incoming calls were disconnected. In this case, as well as the other case that the Parliamentary Ombudsman chose to investigate (ref. no. 974-2021), the Swedish Pensions Agency is criticised for the shortcomings in accessibility and service due to the difficulties in contacting the Agency by telephone.
To conclude, the Parliamentary Ombudsman refers to the fact that today, in two other cases (ref. no. 5920-2020 and ref. no. 6365-2020), he has criticised the Swedish Pensions Agency for slow processing of cases concerning housing supplements. The Parliamentary Ombudsman states that a key element of the requirements defined for good administration is that an individual who contacts an authority should receive a decision within a reasonable time, and that he or she should also be able to get in touch with the authority. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the fact that the Swedish Pensions Agency demonstrates shortcomings in both these respects is very serious. This is also something that risks damaging public confidence in the Swedish Pensions Agency, and according to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, it is extremely important that the Agency remedies these shortcomings without delay. The Parliamentary Ombudsman states that he will follow developments in both these areas and that he finds reason to send a copy of this decision to the Government Offices of Sweden for information.
The Minority Languages Act gives people the right to use Finnish in certain cases in contacts with the authorities.
An individual complained to the Parliamentary Ombudsman that he had not been allowed to use Finnish in his contacts with the Swedish Police Authority in connection with two preliminary investigations in which he was an injured party. The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s investigation substantially confirmed the information in the complaint.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman noted, among other things, that no real effort was made to ensure that the complainant was able to speak Finnish when contacting the authority over the telephone, and that he had the right to have two decisions translated into Finnish, which was not done by the Swedish Police Authority.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman criticises the Swedish Police Authority for the shortcomings revealed in the case.
In April 2021, Region Stockholm published information on vaccination against COVID-19 that was aimed at people aged 65 or above. Among other things, the information stated that if a person refused the Astra Zeneca vaccine, they could not be offered another vaccine.
The regulations in the Healthcare Act and the Patient Act provide an opportunity for patients to choose the option they prefer when several treatment options are available that are in line with science and proven experience. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman states that in his opinion, vaccination should be included under the concept of treatment options in this respect.
According to the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman, the investigation shows that the Region has not taken into account the relevant regulations in the Patient Act and the Healthcare Act or the basic principles in the field to a sufficient extent when targeting the vaccination at the people in question. Not least, the information published by the Region reflects this situation. Therefore, the Region cannot escape a degree of criticism.
The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman has previously stated that there may be a case for considering the need for specific provisions for dealing with vaccinations during a pandemic. The findings of the investigation by the Parliamentary Ombudsman sheds further light on the issue. The decision is therefore submitted to the Government and the special committee that has been tasked with reviewing the Communicable Diseases Act and analysing the need for new provisions in the face of future pandemics.
An official at the County Administrative Board has on several occasions expressed himself in emails to an individual in a manner that violates the requirement for objectivity in Chapter 1, Section 9 of the Instrument of Government by providing false information and stating how certain losses occurred without having sufficient grounds for his conclusions. The Parliamentary Ombudsman takes the official’s actions seriously and criticises him for them.
Within the framework of a follow-up under Chapter 11, Section 4 a of the Social Services Act concerning two children, representatives of the board talked to the children without the children’s guardians having been informed about the questioning beforehand and having had the opportunity to express their opinion on the action.
In a follow-up under Chapter 11, Section 4 a of the Social Services Act, a child may be questioned without the consent of the guardian and without the guardian being present (Chapter 11, Section 4 c and Chapter 11, Section 10 of the Social Services Act). In several previous decisions, the Parliamentary Ombudsman has commented on the option for the board to question children within the framework of an investigation under Chapter 11, Section 1 of the Social Services Act without first discussing the matter with the child’s guardians. At that time, the Parliamentary Ombudsman stated: as a general principle, the guardians’ agreement to allow questioning to be held with the child should be sought and taken into account as far as possible. It is not sufficient to simply inform the guardian that an questioning will be held when the board contacts a guardian before a questioning takes place with the child. The board must also ask for the guardian’s opinion on the action. If the child has two guardians, their respective positions must be clarified.
In this decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsman states that there is no reason to view the matter differently when it comes to holding questioning with children within the framework of a follow-up under Chapter 11, Section 4 a of the Social Services Act.
In its consultation response to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the board stated that the children were questioned after several unsuccessful attempts to contact the guardian, and that it was deemed necessary to talk to the children about their situation.
In their decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsman sees no reason to criticise the board for having not asked the guardian about her opinion on questioning the children before the questioning took place. However, the Parliamentary Ombudsman emphasises in their decision that considerations as to why questioning takes place without contacting the parents beforehand must be documented.
After the Administrative Court had decided to uphold a woman’s appeal and declared that she was entitled to sickness benefit for a certain period, the Swedish Social Insurance Agency only paid sickness benefit for parts of that period. Instead, the agency investigated the woman’s qualifying income for sickness benefits once more. As a result of the investigation, no sickness benefit was paid for most of the period that was considered by the court.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman states that the Administrative Court’s judgment meant that the woman’s appeal was upheld in full and that all the conditions for entitlement to sickness benefit were met. Following such a judgment, the Swedish Social Insurance Agency should not implement any specific investigative measures with regard to the issues on which the court has already ruled. If the Swedish Social Insurance Agency was of the opinion that the judgment was incorrect, it could have appealed against it instead.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman is very critical of the findings, and the Swedish Social Insurance Agency is severely criticised for its handling of the matter. The Parliamentary Ombudsman also intends to monitor developments in this regard.
In a complaint against Helsingborg Remand Prison, it was alleged that the remand prison played the same rock music from afternoon to early morning for a time, which affected an inmate. The Swedish Prison and Probation Service rejected the allegation. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, there are no grounds for criticism of the remand prison.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman discusses the health effects of unwanted noise in her decision. At the same time, she notes that entirely silent cells can be perceived as unpleasant or frightening for inmates, as well as posing security risks. As remand prisoners, particularly those under restrictions, are at risk of deteriorating mental and physical health as a result of being deprived of their liberty, the Parliamentary Ombudsman underlines the importance of ensuring that the physical environmental conditions in the remand prison are such that they provide inmates with the best possible conditions for good health. This includes the opportunity for a good night’s sleep and an acceptable soundscape 24 hours a day. This is important not only for health reasons, but also to ensure that inmates are able to exercise their rights. The same applies to prisons.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s supervisory activities have brought to light information indicating that inmates in the criminal justice system are in some cases exposed to unwanted noise to such an extent that it may have an adverse impact on their physical and/or mental health. The Parliamentary Ombudsman states that it is highly important for the Swedish Prison and Probation Service to consider the problem of unwanted noise in a careful and structured manner and to take reasonable action in the case in question to make things easier for an inmate who is disturbed by a certain noise. The Government will receive a copy of the decision.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman receives frequent complaints from inmates at various remand prisons about responsive holding cells, and the matter has also been raised during inspections. The complainants in these cases allege that inmates at the remand prisons in Gothenburg and Huddinge are able to communicate with one another despite restrictions, that there is noise at night and that some people are threatened. They also believe that their sleep and health are adversely affected.
The report shows that there are problems with responsive cells in some of the country’s remand prisons. The Parliamentary Ombudsman takes the scale of the problem seriously. According to her, it is remarkable that the Swedish Prison and Probation Service is unable to fully enforce restrictions as this is likely to affect the chances of prosecuting offences and may also have an adverse impact on public confidence in the judicial system. At the same time, she recognises that there are difficulties in addressing the problems: for example, fully soundproofed cells may present security risks and have an adverse impact on inmates’ health.
Based on this investigation, the Parliamentary Ombudsman is unable to assess in greater detail how the Swedish Prison and Probation Service has dealt with the matter so far. However, given the serious consequences of receptiveness, she queries whether the authority should not have acted more quickly and forcefully in order to try and find short- and long-term solutions to the problems. She is of the opinion that the conditions described are in compliance with neither the fundamental values that should permeate the Swedish Prison and Probation Service’s treatment of inmates nor the authority’s mission, and is in any event critical of the fact that the problems still persist. The Parliamentary Ombudsman emphasises the importance of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service continuing to work actively on the problem. The Government will receive a copy of the decision.
The questions asked in the Swedish Defence Conscription and Assessment Agency’s enrolment documentation included questions on whether the person obliged to do National Service thinks it is important for Sweden to defend itself and whether it is good that we have compulsory military service so that we have the opportunity to defend Sweden and one another. The person obliged to do National Service is obliged to answer the questions truthfully.
In the decision, the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman addresses the matter of whether answering the questions means that people obliged to do National Service have been forced to express their political views in violation of Chapter 2, Section 2 of the Instrument of Government. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman reflects on what is meant by the concept of political views, and concludes that the concept is most closely synonymous with a person’s view or opinions on political matters. According to him, the answers to the questions are an expression of political opinion. This means that people who have responded to the questionnaire have been forced to express their political views in violation of the above-mentioned provision.
The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman also makes certain statements on the interpretation of the concept of personal circumstances in Chapter 2, Section 1 of the Total Defence Service Act.
The decision severely criticises Saltvik Prison for not splitting up inmates who had been placed in the same cell even though one of them was confirmed as having been infected with COVID-19. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, locking up an inmate who has tested negative with an inmate who is confirmed to be infected with the disease is inhumane. Nor can this be considered compatible with the provisions of either the Act on Imprisonment, the Communicable Diseases Act or the European Prison Rules.
The basic principle of the Act on Imprisonment is that a segregated inmate should be placed in a single room. In the case of the incident in question, the prison decided to segregate inmates who were confirmed as or suspected of being infected with COVID-19. Subsequently, as the Swedish Prison and Probation Service understands it, two inmates who were subject to a decision to segregate them continued to share a cell. They were not even asked for their preference, and inmates who asked to be placed in single rooms were refused.
According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, it is clear that having two segregated inmates share a cell in such circumstances must be regarded as being more intrusive than if they had been placed in single rooms. The preparatory works to the Act on Imprisonment do not explicitly address whether the legislator intended double occupancy to be possible for segregated inmates. The Parliamentary Ombudsman thus notes that the situation in question at Saltvik Prison was not the object of the legislator’s assessment.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman is sending a copy of the decision to the Government and to the investigation on statutory preparedness for future pandemics for information.
In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsman commented on the possibility of relying on the provisions of the Communicable Diseases Act regarding voluntary measures to prevent the spread of a disease endangering the public in remand prisons and prisons. If it is possible to deal with a suspected or confirmed infected inmate in a legally secure manner by voluntary means, a facility should choose that option. However, according to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Swedish Prison and Probation Service must ensure as far as possible that there is a genuine voluntary nature behind a decision to self-isolate, for example.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman also comments on the options for the Swedish Prison and Probation Service to segregate inmates in order to prevent the spread of infection. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the mere fact that an inmate is confirmed or suspected to be infected with COVID-19 should not constitute a basis for segregation. This is particularly true in cases of suspected infection. However, if an inmate does not comply with the provisions of the Communicable Diseases Act, etc., situations may arise in which conditions are in place for placing the inmate in segregation.
In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsman notes that the Act on Imprisonment, unlike the Act on Imprisonment, does not have a specific provision that explicitly allows for segregation in order to protect the health of inmates. For this reason, among others, the Parliamentary Ombudsman makes a request under Section 4 of the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s Instructions on the need to review the rules on segregation. A copy of the decision is therefore submitted for information purposes to the committee that has been tasked with reviewing the Communicable Diseases Act and analysing the need for new provisions in the face of future pandemics.
At the start of the school year, the school management and staff at an upper secondary school conducted body searches of Year 3 students, checking what they had in their bags and, in some cases, their pockets. These measures were implemented because the school had been experiencing disruptions in connection with the start of the school year for a number of years. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman notes that the headteacher or a teacher may implement immediate and temporary measures as are justified to ensure the safety of students and give them peace and quiet to study, or to deal with a student’s disorderly conduct, but that there are no explicit legal grounds to allow the headteacher or teacher to subject students to body searches. The fact that students were asked to show the contents of their bags or pockets themselves does not detract from the nature of the actions as body searches. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman states that protection against body searches is constitutionalised and that restriction of this requires explicit legal grounds, and that the person concerned cannot decline the protection by giving consent for the measure. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman further states that the school has a far-reaching duty to supervise and in some cases a duty to intervene, but that the measures undertaken by the school in this case in the form of body searches were unlawful and that the school management cannot therefore escape criticism.
A complaint was submitted to the Parliamentary Ombudsman against a Local Building Committee for failing to reopen a supervisory case that was referred back to it. According to the committee’s response to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the committee only became aware of the decision to refer the case back to it when it received the referral from the Parliamentary Ombudsman in early March 2021.
The investigation by the Parliamentary Ombudsman has revealed that the committee did not make enquiries about the decision, despite the fact that individuals pointed out in early 2020 that such a decision existed. The investigation also shows that officials within the administration and two of the committee’s members were informed of the decision much earlier than the committee states in its response to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the circumstances give the impression that both the officials involved and the two members deliberately avoided taking action that would allow the case to be reopened. The Parliamentary Ombudsman states that this is contrary to the requirement for objectivity and impartiality in Chapter 1, Section 9 of the Instrument of Government
The committee’s response to the Parliamentary Ombudsman also prompts statements on the duty to tell the truth that follows from Chapter 13, Section 6(2) of the Instrument of Government when making a statement to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
The Swedish Pensions Agency has had problems for several years with long processing times in cases relating to housing supplement. In October 2019, the Parliamentary Ombudsman issued two decisions criticising the Agency for slow processing of two cases relating to housing supplement (ref. nos. 686-2019 and 1833-2019). Since these decisions, similar complaints have continued to be received by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. This was also the background to the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s decision in October 2020 to investigate the matter again in this and another case (6365-2020).
The Swedish Pensions Agency’s response indicates that the Agency has continued to experience major problems with long processing times in cases relating to housing supplement. The Parliamentary Ombudsman states that there are reasons to question whether the measures undertaken to date have been sufficient, and notes that the Swedish Pensions Agency’s annual report for 2021 shows that individuals will continue to be affected by the Agency’s problems in this regard. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the explanations given by the Swedish Pensions Agency for the problems, such as huge backlogs of cases and a shortage of case officers, cannot in any way justify the fact that the administration has been unable to meet the requirements for as long as is the case here. The Swedish Pensions Agency deserves criticism for that.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman also criticises the Swedish Pensions Agency for its handling of an individual case that had been pending without action for almost nine months. Moreover, the Parliamentary Ombudsman is critical of the fact that it took almost three years from the time the Administrative Procedure Act (2017:900) came into force on 1 July 2018 for the Swedish Pensions Agency to have a procedure in place for the application of Section 11 of the Administrative Procedure Act.
To conclude, the Parliamentary Ombudsman refers to the fact that today, in two other cases (ref. no. 568-2021 and ref. no. 974-2021), he has criticised the Swedish Pensions Agency for a lack of accessibility and service. The Parliamentary Ombudsman states that a key element of the requirements defined for good administration is that an individual who contacts an authority should receive a decision within a reasonable time, and that he or she should also be able to get in touch with the authority. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the fact that the Swedish Pensions Agency demonstrates shortcomings in both these respects is very serious. This is also something that risks damaging public confidence in the Swedish Pensions Agency, and according to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, it is extremely important that the Agency remedies these shortcomings without delay. The Parliamentary Ombudsman states that he will be monitoring developments in both these areas, and that he feels there is reason to send a copy of this decision to the Government Offices of Sweden for information.
A summary of the Annual Report for the fiscal year 2021/22 is now available for download on the web site.
The Parliamentary Ombudsmen's overall statements for each supervisory area the year 2021/22.
Summaries of the latest decisions.
The Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsmen - JOBox 16327 • SE-103 26 Stockholm • SwedenVisiting Address: Västra Trädgårdsgatan 4 AOpening hours: 9.00–11.30, 13.00–15.00