Swedish Government in Event Spending Furor

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SWEDEN

Swedish Government departments, and semi-private foundations are under the spotlight for overspending and lack of transparency regarding events and promotional budgets.  In a situation similar to the USA governmental department over-spending on events , heads are beginning to roll.  In times of tight budget control, serious question are now being asked of government departments, funding institutions and quasi government agencies to justify their event and conference spending.

The questions began after the news that the Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket) had spent several million Swedish kronor(Sek) on expensive internal entertainment.  The resulting investigation and outcry caused its director general, Christina Lugnet, to be removed from her post.

The Swedish Competition Authority (Konkurrensverket) is demanding that the Swedish Ministry for Enterprise provide information regarding a Christmas celebration in 2011.  “The Swedish Competition Authority asks that the Government Offices produce copies of all contracts regarding the Ministry of Enterprise’s purchase of goods and/or services in connection with above event,” said Magnus Johansson of the Competition Authority.

The party, cost about 616,000 kronor ($92,734) and was also tagged as a seminar in order to avoid a tax bill of 123,000 kronor.  The Swedish Competition Authority is also requesting details on why the event was not put out to tender as is required by Swedish legislation.  Annie Lööf, the Minister for Enterprise(Näringsminister) and other officers are under pressure to tighten control of its spending and oversight, and answer questions to the Konkurrensverket regarding their management and conduct.

Under a similar cloud is Steftelsen för Strategisk Forskning, known as the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF), where the  Foundation  spent about 9.3 million kronor(about $US1.4 million) to prominent Swedish event organizer Michael Bindefeld over three years without it appears, transparent accounting control over the spending.  

Lars Rask (head) and Ulla-Britt Fräjdin-Hellqvist (chairman) of the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (Stiftelsen för strategisk forskning are now facing the prospect of justifying their lack of oversight.  It appears that the contract with Bindefeld has never been put out to tender.  Chairperson, Fräjdin-Hellqvist admits that the foundation had not acted properly by not putting the contract out to tender.

Michael Bindfeld is a prominent event organizer and publicist in Sweden.  While highly competent, SSF are being asked if such a high profile organizer was appropriate.  The funds in question have apparently also been used to promote individual researchers, rather than be directed at research itself.

With government agencies and foundations coming under the spotlight when spending taxpayers funds, it seems that the events and conference organizers in Sweden and those contracting will face increased pressure to conform to oversight.  Where such high value event budgets appear to be either mishandled or seem to be preferentially awarded, many governments around the globe have begun processes to investigate and control how conferences and events are awarded, justified and costed when citizens are asked to bear tax burdens and difficult economic times.

 

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