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Politicians seek to close 'elephant graveyard'

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17:33 CEST+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.

TT/The Local/rm

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