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Shortcomings in state support to municipal alcohol and environmental inspections

Sweden's municipalities carry out supervision in several areas. For the supervision to be of equivalent value throughout the country, state authorities must support the municipalities with guidance. The audit shows that there is room for improving the guidance to alcohol and environmental inspections.

Woman with safety equipment conducting inspectionat construction site.

Photo: Maskot

Municipal supervision must protect the interests of citizens in different areas, for example by controlling environmentally hazardous activities or whether shops sell medium-strong beer to minors.

To conduct supervision is to exercise public authority and therefore it must be equivalently carried out throughout Sweden’s municipalities. Since the circumstances in the country's 290 municipalities vary greatly, this has been difficult to achieve. Therefore, several government agencies are tasked with supporting the supervision by municipalities through so-called regulatory guidance in the form of advice and support, coordination, and monitoring and evaluation.

In order to draw general conclusions on how to provide effective regulatory guidance, the National Audit Office has examined the guidance in four areas: alcohol, chemicals, food and environmental inspections. The authorities in charge are the Public Health Agency of Sweden, the Swedish Chemicals Agency, the National Food Agency, Sweden and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

The audit shows that the regulatory guidance is essentially working well regarding food control and supervision of chemicals, but that there are deficiencies in the areas of alcohol and the environment. In particular, the advice and support activities fail to meet expectations of well-functioning regulatory guidance.

– The authorities do not help the inspectors to interpret the legislation and it takes too long to answer questions. In addition, the written guidance on environmental matters is too complicated, and in the area of alcohol it is too sparse, says Leif Svensson, project manager for the audit.

A contributing factor to the shortcomings is the unclear division of labour between the central and regional level, where the county administrative boards are responsible for regional work.

– The authorities involved have been left to divide areas of responsibility between themselves. The problem could have been avoided if the government had given more responsibility to the central supervisory authorities, says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.

The audit reveals that effective regulatory guidance generally requires clear division of responsibilities, a high level of service and prompt and practical assistance to interpret laws and regulations.

– The purpose of the audit was not to criticise individual authorities, but rather to find out whether and how regulatory guidance can function well in all areas. The results of the audit will hopefully contribute to a positive development in this area, says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.

Recommendations

The National Audit Office recommends the government to ensure that the supervisory authorities have clear mandates and an appropriate division of responsibilities.

The key supervisory authorities are recommended, inter alia, to provide sufficient and adequate guidance, to ensure that questions are answered within a reasonable time, and to consider nation-wide supervisory projects to a greater extent.

Press contact: Olle Castelius, phone: +46 8-5171 40 04.

Presskontakt: , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.

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Updated: 29 January 2019

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