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Sweden needs to raise awareness in the government and in the police about conflicts of interest and “friendship corruption”

Strasbourg 03/05/2019
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Sweden needs to raise awareness in the government and in the police about conflicts of interest and “friendship corruption”

In an evaluation report published today, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) called for further measures to prevent corruption in Sweden in respect of persons entrusted with top executive functions, including ministers, state secretaries and senior political experts, as well as members of the Police Authority.

GRECO notes that bribery is very rare in Sweden but that conflicts of interest and “friendship corruption” are more prevalent. More awareness about these forms of corruption is necessary and the rules applicable to top executive officials and police staff need to better focus on promoting integrity and preventing conflicts of interest. Therefore, GRECO recommends the adoption and implementation of a strategy towards these goals, the development of rules of conduct and introduction of compulsory dedicated training.

GRECO commends Sweden’s far-reaching transparency and access to public administration information policy. This transparency needs to be extended to include the contacts of top executive officials with third parties, including lobbyists. GRECO also welcomes the new law on revolving doors for ministers and state secretaries transitioning to the private sector, which attempts to address an issue that has long been problematic in Sweden. Its implementation will need to be assessed in due course – and adjusted as necessary – especially as regards the persons covered and the length of the restriction period.

Another positive element is that ministers and state secretaries are now required by law to declare their financial instruments. The system still needs to be improved, however, notably as regards the declaration of significant liabilities and an enhanced control of declarations.

As regards the Police Authority, GRECO notes that the declaration of secondary activities has to be made mandatory for all staff and coupled with effective follow-up. There should also be better communication around complaints received against police staff and the action taken. Finally, GRECO recommends providing guidance and training on whistleblower protection for all staff.

The implementation of the 15 recommendations addressed to Sweden will be assessed by GRECO in 2021 through its compliance procedure.