Swedish state auditor resigns after criticism

Swedish state auditor resigns after criticism
From left, auditors Susanne Ackum, Margareta Åberg and Ulf Bengtsson. Photo: Izabelle Nordfjell/TT
An auditor-general has quit Sweden's state watchdog Riksrevisionen following a series of controversies sparked by a newspaper revealing claims of cronyism within the agency.

Riksrevisionen is tasked with making sure that Sweden's parliament receives a coordinated and independent audit of state finances, while it also “contributes to the democracy of other countries through international assignments,” according to its website.

In a series of articles which began in July however, Dagens Nyheter (DN) reported that Riksrevisionen's auditors-general Ulf Bengtsson and Margareta Åberg appeared to have bypassed strict rules the office must follow as a reviewer of public authorities.

Fellow auditor-general Susanne Ackum stepped down at the time after she was accused of tailoring the authority's recruitment process to favour former colleagues.

On Wednesday Bengtsson followed suit, writing in a press statement: “The questioning of my independence in combination with my health makes me conclude that I do not have the power, the strength and the commitment necessary to carry out my duties as auditor.”

Later in the evening DN published new claims saying that he had discussed a Riksrevisionen inquiry into the State Service Centre (which carries out some administrative work for other government agencies) with the authority itself, of which he was a former board member. Bengtsson denied any wrongdoing.

“It's about a conversation I have had with an agency head during an ongoing investigation. The conversation took place during my period of illness and my memory is that it was about my health. But it's one word against another,” he wrote in a letter to colleagues.

Dan Brännström, the secretary-general of FAR, a professional institute for public accountants, welcomed Bengtsson's decision to step down. He told the TT newswire that Åberg should also leave and that the claims of cronyism risked damaging the industry.

But Åberg rejected calls for her resignation.

“I'm staying. There is a clear democratic process regulating whether an auditor-general keeps her position or not. And I believe that process should be followed,” she said.

The Swedish parliament will now be tasked with appointing two new auditors-general.