In the midst of corruption scandals, Sweden stands without key data

March 19, 2020 – Sweden has no open datasets in key anti-corruption areas shows a study carried out by Open Knowledge Sweden. Sweden also ranks the lowest on open data release compared to other Nordic and Baltic countries, according to a report by the partner organisation Transparency International Latvia.

Sweden is perceived as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, ranking among top-5 on the Corruption Perceptions Index (2019). However, recent years have seen a spike in high-end cases of financial crime, abuse of power and conflict of interest in the allocation of public contracts. Our research suggests that corruption is thriving in different forms and at various levels of Swedish government, while the legal framework for political integrity is not up to international standards. A key area of concern is procurement, where the value of public purchases is estimated at about SEK 683 billion (EUR 64 billion or 1/6 of the Swedish GDP). Over time, procurement has become more international, the number of private providers of public services has grown and there is a greated labour mobility between private and public sector. At the same time, Sweden lacks a national database for public procurement advertisements and there is no authority that collects information on public procurement conducted in the country.

In the framework of their study, Open Knowledge Sweden has conducted research specifically on the challenges and opportunities for harnessing open data in five key political integrity areas (public procurement, beneficial ownership, lobbying, conflict of interest/asset disclosure and financing of political parties). Our findings show that Sweden has no open datasets in the five areas under study.

The research carried out in parallel by our partner organisation, Transparency International Latvia, reveals that other Nordic and Baltic countries are also lagging behind in opening data but, in comparison, Sweden ranks the lowest on data release.

These findings are in line with Sweden’s ranking on the OECD’s OURdata 2019 Index (Open-Useful-Reusable Government Data Index). Of the 33 countries assessed by OECD, Sweden ranks 32nd, being at the bottom both in terms of the amount of data and their accessibility. In Sweden, many public authorities are not aware of the importance of open data for transparency and lack the necessary expertise to release the data, while a comprehensive open data strategy and the leadership that could drive the issue forward in Sweden is yet to emerge.

In our report, we suggest the government to develop a coherent strategy, to support civic initiatives in the area, and to invite the emergence of clear strategy and leadership in this area. We also propose a set of concrete recommendations to both public officials and the non-governmental ecosystem. Given Sweden’s strong digital competencies and human capital, as well as the openness of the Swedish democracy, there are good opportunities to make progress in this area.

Link to our report: https://sites.google.com/view/oksweden/publications

The study was carried out within the framework of the project “Building an Anti-Corruption Data Ecosystem in the Baltics and the Nordic Countries” with the financial support of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The content of the study is the responsibility of the project leaders and does not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Contact:

Alina Ostling, co-chair of Open Knowledge Sweden: alinost@gmail.com

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