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Politicians seek to close 'elephant graveyard'

Published: 07 Aug 2012 17:33 GMT+02:00
Updated: 07 Aug 2012 17:33 GMT+02:00

After the severely criticized head of the Agency for Economic and Regional Growth was forced to leave her post, politicians are calling for an end to the system in which sacked heads of government agencies are kept on with full pay in alleged "non-jobs", in what is becoming known as the “elephant graveyard”.

“This is not reasonable when we ask of unemployed assistant nurses that they move to Malmö and accept a low-paid job. The higher echelons of society must have similar demands put on them,” said Anders W Jonsson, the Centre Party's group leader in the Riksdag, to news agency TT.

Recently deposed head of the Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket), Christina Lugnet, is leaving her post on Thursday with a guaranteed salary of some 91,000 kronor ($13,600) per month until her appointment runs out in 2015.

According to the ministry of enterprise, she will be given another post within the government offices. Among the civil servants and politicians the placement of removed agency heads is referred to as the “elephant graveyard”, and it is said to cost the government millions of kronor every year.

There are currently six ex-directors general who have been relieved of their original duties employed by the government offices. Their salaries, together with Lugnet’s, will cost the government 8.4 million kronor a year, excluding pay roll tax and other fees.

Jonsson thinks that this is a drain on government money.

“These are highly qualified people who can get a new job without a problem. We can’t have this kind of privileged system,” he told TT.

However, legal expert and previous minister Sten Heckscher defends the current system.

“It comes down to the fact that it must be possible for the government to step down from their posts as the government is politically responsible for all that the agencies do. And that means that they live a little dangerously and need to have guarantees for the time that they are appointed,” he told TT.

Hecksher says that there is no basis to the claim that the sacked agency heads sit around and do nothing whilst getting paid.

“There are a few examples of directors general that have been sacked and then been of no use to the government but generally they are, by heading commissions of enquiry and sometimes taking up the reins of another agency. It is drivel to say that they just sit there twiddling their thumbs and claiming salaries.”

Rune Premfors, professor of political science at Stockholm University sees no alternative to the system as it stands today.

”It may look like a waste but there isn’t much the government can do,” he told TT.

According to Premfors, the government office is a place where there are always roles that need filling and where highly qualified and highly knowledgeable people should be welcomed.

“It is interesting to look at what kind of tasks they are given and it is hard not to think that it is absurd that they get to keep their salaries. If they have made a mistake they shouldn’t be allowed just to continue on in jobs with less responsibility. However, one must remember that the government has no alternative but to find another place for them,” Premfors told TT.

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Your comments about this article

18:29 August 7, 2012 by Trenatos
This needs to be fixed, we can't just drop millions and millions into these peoples bank accounts just because they had an important job.

If we keep this system, I suggest we expand it to include other people who have important jobs and who REALLY risk something, soldiers in our Armed Forces, Law enforcement, Fire departments, EMS, etc., should all then receive full pay for at least 3 years after they leave their job, to ensure their economical safety and make sure they know how much we as a society appreciate all they do for us on a daily basis.

Most politicians do not have "risky" lives, they're simply high profile lives, and as stated in the article they can easily get another job on their own.
18:44 August 7, 2012 by RobinHood
So, ex Social Democrat minister Sten Heckscher supports the idea of disgraced heads of department receiving 91 000 kronor a month for three years, for counting the paper clips.

No Sten. This sort of thing was what the Swedish electorate voted against when your party was twice rejected by the electorate. We find it disgusting: first that these people receive 91 000 kronor a month, and second that no matter how morally corrupt and incompetent they might be, they continue to receive a salary for three years after their downfall.

Show a little humility Sten. Your ways are the old ways. Annie Lööf, the minister who sacked Lugnet is the future, and has the support of the electorate. You are the past, and your Social Democrat culture of nepotism for Social Democrat party apparatchiks is over. Have a good look at the others too Annie. All new contracts of employment for department heads should be approved by you personally, and their terms made public. As for Sten, your time is done, say less, retire now on your huge ex minister's pension, and be grateful for what you squeezed out of the long-suffering Swedish tax payer. I hope you and Lugnet apreciate how luck you are, and are some of the last to benefit from your corrupt system.
18:52 August 7, 2012 by Hisingen
More like the elephant 'trough', designed for failed politicians.
19:51 August 7, 2012 by Svensksmith
Once again, the politicians play by a different set of rules than the rest of us.
20:13 August 7, 2012 by Great Scott
@Robin Hood

As usual, you waffle on about nothing. Think about what you are saying before you comment. If you think this practice is so disgusting and immoral, why hasn't the current bunch of incompetence that runs Sweden noticed this before? For 6 years this disgusting practice as you put has been allowed by Reinfeldt and co. while huge cuts were made to health and education. Reinfeldt hasn't even noticed unemployment going through the roof, so I am not surprised he missed this one. What you should notice is people are starting the see through this incompetent government, so I think you should prepare yourself for a shock.

By the way, yes I do agree it is a disgusting and immoral practice.
20:14 August 7, 2012 by EmployedProfessional
Again:

No rules= no crime comitted.

They get to stay on with non jobs at full compensation?

It's a gift for comitting a crime against the entire population!

Really,really-really?

Where do I sign up(to sentance them to a filthy jail in southern Asia)?
21:13 August 7, 2012 by RobinHood
@Great Scott

As always, it's good to hear a voice from the past. Fortunately, for all of us, the past is where you and your ilk will remain: morally, ideologically and economically bankrupt, and in disgrace. It must be painful for you to see your ideology and your comrades exposed and disgraced, one by one revealed as incompetent, corrupt charlatans, preaching socialism but all the while lining their own pockets with vast sums of tax payer's money (91 000 kronor a month indeed!). Entire countries have been ruined by people like you, millions of people in Greece and Spain now living in destitution as a consequence of your failed experiment. But, the people responsible rich and secure with their huge government pensions paid directly into their Swiss bank accounts.

As always, I look forward to your missives. They are a useful analysis of what went wrong, and how to stop it happening again.

Your game is up, you have been betrayed by your heroes, and you have my sympathy.
22:54 August 7, 2012 by Abe L
Such people usually cause less damage being left alone and payed then when they get appointed new positions. Competent people get well paying jobs outside of politics in the first place.
08:22 August 8, 2012 by robban70226
Sounds live Rune Premfors, is more interested in covering himself for the future than what it is in bst interest for the taxpayers and people, If he Another elephant protecting his grave?
09:12 August 8, 2012 by jostein
Such an unrealistic article. Obviously an "elephant graveyard" is absolutely necessary. Since if sacked agency heads had nothing left to lose they might start telling inconvenient truths about the politicians. And we acnt have that. Or at least. The mediopolitical class cant have that.
11:17 August 8, 2012 by McChatter
Here's a nice job for the journalists. Do some research into the "elephants" in the graveyard. What kind of important work have they been doing recently? Don't forget to publish the results!
12:58 August 8, 2012 by Great Scott
@RobinHood

So this is your response, more useless waffle. You fail to acknowledge what is being said to you, I wonder if you are as incompetent as the people that are misleading you. You talk so much of the past, the past for Sweden was very good with one exception and that was when Carl Bildt led the country to close on bankruptcy in 1992. Having said that you must feel the current and future state of Sweden is bright, which is what, increased poverty, a third world health and elderly care system, high unemployment and discontent. All this paid for by tax cuts to provide generous tax breaks for the tax evader's.

Do NOT use Greece or Spain in your argument, this is due to an imbalance of exchange rates when the Euro was first set up (prices soared in these countries but wages didn't, hence the need to borrow). You need to point your finger at Germany and France for this, at the time both run by right wing parties.

And finally let me remind you again to change your user name, as I said before the REAL Robin Hood would turn over in his grave if he saw how you were misusing his name.
14:28 August 8, 2012 by cogito
"These are highly qualified people who can get a new job without a problem...."

"...government office is a place where...where highly qualified and highly knowledgeable people should be welcomed."

what has "highly qualified" got to do with the typical Swedish bureaucrat?
17:21 August 8, 2012 by Trinidiva
And this tidbit comes from someone who is completely out of the loop, and a hopeful immigrant. How about something completely radical? Sack them completely, ergo, loss of all pension and compensation. Why should they be allowed to continue drawing an exorbitant salary for being scoundrels? This is totally outrageous. Kind of reminds me of one of the lines from George Orwell's "Animal Farm". "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." A point to ponder.
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