Logotype The Swedish NAO, link to startpage.

More amending budgets than is desirable

The Government submitted a large number of additional amending budgets when managing the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. The Swedish National Audit Office assesses that this management was necessary and was carried out in a reasonable way – but that the Riksdag should have been provided with a clearer picture of which crisis measures were proposed, why they were proposed and how large the costs were expected to be.

Mouthguards are thrown on the street.

Photo: Jens Lindström

An additional amending budget may only be used in situations that require quicker action than is possible within the regular budget process. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020–2021, the Government submitted 20 additional amending budgets to the Riksdag with proposed measures amounting to more than SEK 400 billion.

The Swedish National Audit Office (Swedish NAO) has audited how the Government managed and designed the additional amending budgets. The overall conclusion is that this was done in a reasonable way, given the presence of a pandemic.

However, several pandemic measures could have been handles within the regular budget process if the fiscal readiness had been higher.

“For budgetary and democratic reasons, additional amending budgets are a last resort. In light of having submitted 20 amending budgets in two years, the Government needs to improve its fiscal readiness,” says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.

The Swedish NAO further notes that improvements are needed in several important respects. Primarily, the Government should have developed its decision support in the additional amending budgets more, to give the Riksdag a clearer picture of which measures were proposed, why they were proposed and how much they would cost. In addition, the Government should more clearly have justified why the extensive proposals could not be submitted through the regular budget process.

The largest deficiencies were present in the descriptions of the proposal costs, as it is neither clear how the amount was arrived at nor how long the funds would last. There is also a lack of reasoning about the uncertainty of the proposed amounts.

“The Government needs to report more clearly the overall consequences of the proposals for the central government budget. This is of particular importance when several additional amending budgets are submitted over a short period of time just as the expenditure ceiling was raised sharply and did not act as a restraint,” says Per Franzén, Project Leader for the audit.

Recommendations in brief

The Swedish NAO’s recommendations to the Government include the following:

  • develop the decision support submitted to the Riksdag in additional amending budgets so that the background and context of each individual proposal is clear, as well as how the cost is calculated and what time period the funds are intended to cover.
  • consider investigating whether the process for how necessary decisions taken during a society-wide crisis needs to be changed, and whether the fiscal readiness – for example in the form of prepared, thoroughly investigated measures – can be developed.

See the report for full recommendations.

Additional amending budgets

If a situation arises between the budget bills that requires measures that cannot wait, the Government can ask the Riksdag to approve ‘additional amending budgets’. However, additional amending budgets risk resulting in a weakened budget process and a deterioration in the Riksdag’s overall perspective of the central government budget. Different courses of action are not weighed against each other, and the Riksdag has limited opportunities to consider alternatives. Furthermore, preparation times are usually significantly reduced. This means that both democratic and quality assurance elements are limited. Therefore, additional amending budgets may only be submitted if the Government considers that there are special grounds for doing so, and the Government must clearly explain why the matter is urgent and what effects it will have on central government finances.

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

Presskontakt: , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.

Updated: 01 December 2022

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