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.
In July, 2018 an inmate at Saltvik prison died after having refused to eat food for two months. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman has investigated the circumstances surrounding the death. In the decision she makes certain statements regarding the Prison and Probation Service’s responsibility for inmates that refuse to eat and notes that it is not enough that the authority’s staff members’ check on the inmate on a daily basis but that also medical staff should be involved. Instructions given, by medical staff, to other staff members shall be based on current and updated information, which presumes that qualified medical staff shall, on a daily basis, meet the inmate to assess if measures taken and decided on are enough. In the decision, the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman states that it is the Prison and Probation Service’s obligation to take an inmate from a prison to a health care facility, if it is necessary for an inmate to be examined or treated at a health care facility. According to the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman situations may arise where the Prison and Probation Service may need to consider taking an inmate to a hospital, even if the inmate has expressed that he or she does not consent to the transport. The conditions for conducting a thorough examination are considerably better at a health care facility than at a prison, if a serious situation would occur. In an emergency situation it can also be difficult to obtain a reliable assessment of an inmate’s capability to assess their own situation. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman also comments on the ability to decide on CPR against an inmate’s wishes, and the prison’s planning of transport of the inmate to a hospital.
An individual that is part of a case may, pursuant to section 14, first paragraph of the Administrative Procedure Act, may hire a legal representative or a council that is suitable for the assignment. The Parliamentary Ombudsman has, in several decisions prior to this one, made statements, in cases when the insured party has hired a legal representative, that Försäkringskassan shall send case documents to the legal representative and not to the insured party. In the current case, Försäkringskassan has, in four cases, sent decisions only to the individuals instead of to their representatives. These cases have been handled by various administrators, which indicates that these are not individual oversights by individual administrators, but that there are shortcomings on other levels at Försäkringskassan. The Parliamentary Ombudsman notes that measures that Försäkringskassan has taken so far have not been sufficient to ensure that this fundamental error, which is crucial for the individuals legal security, is handled correctly. The Parliamentary Ombudsman further states that administrators involved in the processing of a case must know that a legal representative is tied to the individual concerned. It is therefore not enough that measures consisting of information and training are carried out only in a specific department or unit at Försäkringskassan. It is also of great importance that the systems used for the processing give administrators conditions necessary to handle cases adequately. The Parliamentary Ombudsman directs severe criticism towards Försäkringskassan for the inadequate handling. The Parliamentary Ombudsman assumes that the authority implements all measures necessary to make sure that similar shortcomings do not recur and intends to follow up on the authority’s work regarding this matter. In the decision, Försäkringskassan also receives criticism for not adequately documenting how a decision was sent.
The Agency for Economic and Regional Growth process, since April 2020, applications from employers regarding short-time work support due to the covid-19 pandemic. The Parliamentary Ombudsman has, for some time, received many complaints concerning slow processing at the Agency for Economic and Regional Growth of cases concerning short-time work support, and also of neglecting to hand out any information regarding when the support will be given. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman states that she understands that the new cases on support, along with a large amount of applications, has resulted in a great challenge for the Agency for Economic and Regional Growth. But taking into consideration the crucial meaning of this support, for many companies, it is, according to the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman’s understanding, not acceptable to have processing times up to several months, if there are not particular reasons for why a specific case justifies a long processing time. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman directs criticism towards the Agency for Economic and Regional Growth for processing a case on support for almost four months. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman also notes that the Agency for Economic and Regional Growth has not provided any information to applicants regarding expected processing times, not in a specific case or on a general basis. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman states that the authority should have been able to give those who applied for support better insight into the processing and at least informed them on the average processing time. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman is very critical regarding the shortcomings in this regard. According to the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman’s opinion the shortcomings in the authority’s handling of cases concerning support for short-time work illustrate the importance of authorities, that are commissioned to handle various support measures in extraordinary situation, are given the necessary preconditions to fulfil their mission, for instance when it comes to capacity, system solutions and staffing, to be able to handle cases urgently and legally secure. A copy of this decision is sent to the government, for knowledge. In the decision, the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman also makes certain statements about deleted posts on the Agency for Economic and Regional Growth’s Facebook page and she notes that information covered by secrecy cannot appear on authorities’ social media accounts open to the public, and that such posts must be removed as soon as possible.
During an investigation regarding sickness benefit, Försäkringskassan has requested account information from a bank with reference to the provisions on the duty to provide information, pursuant to chapter 110, sections 31 and 33 of the Social Insurance Code. Since the information requested by Försäkringskassan was not relevant to the case the authority lacked the power to request it under these provisions. Instead, Försäkringskassan could have sent a request pursuant to chapter 110, section 14 of the Social Insurance Code, to the bank.
In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsman notes that Försäkringskassan gave the bank the impression that it was obliged to disclose the information even though this was not the case. Since the request did not indicate the type of compensation for which Försäkringskassan’s investigation was concerned, the bank was also not in a position to assess for itself whether it was liable to disclose information.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman has previously criticised Försäkringskassan for requesting material from banks with reference to chapter 110, sections 31 and 33 of the Social Insurance Code even though those provisions have not been applicable. The Parliamentary Ombudsman finds it alarming that sufficient measures to prevent this from happening again have not already been taken. Försäkringskassan receives severe criticism for what has been revealed.
In May 2020, the Parliamentary Ombudsman criticized the Administrative Court in Malmö for slow processing in a case involving occupational injury and a so-called dental care case. The Parliamentary Ombudsman stated that until August 2019 the court had put considerable efforts into striking the balances of the court, and that it was therefore alarming that the processing times for social security cases were nevertheless increasing at that time.
In the decision, the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman again criticises the court for slow processing of three cases. A sickness benefit case commenced at the Administrative Court on 29 November 2018, but was not settled until 27 April 2020, approximately one year and five months after the case was brought before the court. After the Administrative Court of Appeal in Gothenburg referred the case back to the Administrative Court, it took roughly an additional five months for the case to be decided. The total duration of the processing time was thus approximately one year and ten months. The Administrative Court is criticized due to slow processing. The court is also criticised for slow processing of case involving wildlife control. In that case, the processing time was roughly one year and five months. According to the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman, processing times have exceeded what has been reasonable and acceptable.
The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman notes that the court has continued its work to address the processing times and that the situation in December 2020 has improved slightly. At the same time, according to the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman, the processing times reported by the court, in particular with regard to social security cases, are still too long and give cause for concern. However, the court predicts that the situation will improve further. The decision is submitted to the parliament (Riksdag), the government and the National Courts Administration, for knowledge.
In June 2012, the Chief Guardian Board was informed that two underage children owned property in the form of assets in bank accounts exceeding eight price base amounts. As a result, the rules on so-called controlled management pursuant to the Children and Parents Code applied, however, the board took no action apart from sending out a letter to the children's guardians. Three years later, the Chief Guardian Board learned that the children's father had died. It was not until May 2016 that the board requested information from the bank and was informed that the children's bank accounts had been closed in 2012. In November 2016, the Board appointed a trustee pursuant to chapter 11, section 2, third paragraph of the Children and Parents Code in order to, among other things, supervise the minors' rights in an investigation into the missing money. In January 2018, the trustee requested a dismissal from her assignment. She was dismissed a year later and at the same time a new trustee was appointed with the same assignment.
In the decision, the Chief Guardian Board receives severe criticism for, among other things,
- 2012-2016 failing in its supervision of how the parents managed the children’s assets and neglecting to process the case
- in the appointment of the trustees acting beyond its authority and in violation of the principle of legality that is set out in chapter 1, section 1 of the Instrument of Government and section 5 of the Administrative Procedure Act
- failing in its supervision of the activities of the first trustee and
- taking more than a year to make the decision to dismiss the trustee.
In the spring of 2020, Region Västmanland imposed a restraining order on all hospitals in Västerås, Köping, Fagersta and Sala as well as in psychiatric care in Västmanland. The purpose of the ban was to counteract the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19. Similar decisions have been taken in many other regions. In this case, the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman has examined the formal conditions for making such decisions.
The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman emphasises that it is of course very important that authorities have the opportunity to take adequate and necessary measures to protect people's lives and health in the event of a pandemic. Healthcare services should be conducted in a way that is safe and secure for patients. In view of the situation the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman understands that there may be a need for healthcare services to regulate, for example, who can be in the premises of the healthcare facility, in order to protect both patients and healthcare professionals from infection.
In the decision, however, the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman states that there is no legal support for deciding on a general restraining order against patients being cared for in the voluntary healthcare sector. She also notes that the region's decisions have entailed a risk of restrictions on the individual’s right to family life according to, among other things, the European Convention and that it was imposed without legal support. The region has also not handled the issue correctly in the case of patients admitted for certain coercive care. Despite the extraordinary situation, the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman is critical of the region's management. Finally, the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman notes that she has previously drawn the government's attention to the need for a review of the issue of visiting restrictions in the voluntary healthcare service. During the pandemic, this issue has re-emerged and become even more urgent to deal with. The commission appointed by the government to review measures during the pandemic will, among other things, analyse whether the infection control legislation and other legislation have provided society with effective conditions to limit the spread of infection. In light of this, the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman refrains from making a new request for a review of the legislation and instead submits its decision to the Corona Commission and to the government, for knowledge.
In February and March 2020, a large number of inmates were placed in seclusion, pursuant to chapter 6, section 5 of the Act on Imprisonment, for approximately two weeks due to collectively shutting down the work. The Parliamentary Ombudsman states that it is a very interventionist measure to keep inmates separated from each other for two weeks. However, during the period examined by the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the facility took measures to limit the time that the inmates were kept in seclusion by, among other things, allowing them to spend common time together in their spare time. In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsman notes that the inmates were not separated from each other for more than a few hours at a time. The Parliamentary Ombudsman does not find any reason to criticise the correctional facility.
A summary of the Annual Report for the fiscal year 2019/20 is available for download on the web site.
Annual report from the Swedish National Preventive Mechanism – NPM.
The Parliamentary Ombudsmen's overall statements for each supervisory area the year 2019/20.
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