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Ineffective use of project grants to strengthen emergency preparedness

Each year, central government distributes around half a billion kronor to government projects that are to strengthen Sweden’s emergency preparedness and civil defence. The Swedish National Audit Office’s (Swedish NAO) audit shows that there is a risk that the project grants will be used for regular activities and therefore will not be the reinforcement that was intended.

Helicopter drops water over a forest covered in smoke.

Photo: Håkan Hjort

Swedish emergency preparedness is handled by a number of government agencies and thus funded within the framework of their ordinary appropriations. In addition, the central government budget includes appropriation 2:4 Emergency preparedness, which can finance projects to strengthen national preparedness and capacity to deal with serious emergencies.

The Swedish NAO’s audit shows that there is a high risk of such project grants going to activities that are actually to be financed by the agencies’ ordinary appropriations.

“There are indications that many agencies mainly fund their emergency preparedness work with the help of project grants. That is not how the system was intended to work. If the Government wants to continue using temporary project grants, it should consider making changes," says Mikael Halápi, head of the Swedish NAO’s Performance Audit Department.

The agencies themselves state that project grants are important and enable interventions that otherwise would not have happened. However, funding the agencies’ preparedness work with temporary project grants has a number of negative side effects, including that

  • long-term planning is hampered when a large part of the preparedness work is funded through project grants
  • some agencies have become completely dependent on project grants to develop emergency preparedness
  • the agencies lack their own resources for utilising the results of the projects, which may lead to a failure to achieve the intended effects.

In addition to temporary project funding, since 2015 the County Administrative Boards can also apply for funding of so-called coordinated projects.

“Project grants now constitute more or less permanent co-financing of the County Administrative Boards’ basic emergency preparedness work. It is at odds with what the Government and the Riksdag originally said that the grant should be used for," says Daniel Bjerstedt, project leader for the audit.

The Swedish NAO also notes that there is a problem of legitimacy in that the Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) has been given responsibility for allocating the grant to applicant agencies, while MSB also funds parts of its own activities with money from the same appropriation.

Recommendations in brief

If the Government wishes to continue to use the appropriation for temporary special initiatives to strengthen national emergency preparedness and civil defence, the Swedish NAO recommends that the Government, among other things,

  • ensure that appropriation 2:4 will not be the main source of funding
  • decide whether the County Administrative Boards’ permanent activities are to be funded with project grants from appropriation 2:4
  • decide whether MSB will continue to distribute project funding from appropriation 2:4 for its own activities.

See the report for full recommendations.

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

Presskontakt: , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.

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Updated: 03 May 2021

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