One of the Riksdag's principal tasks is to examine the work of the Government and the public agencies. This scrutiny is known as parliamentary control. The Committee on the Constitution is responsible for ensuring that the Government observes existing regulations. Here, the Committee on the Constitution is holding a public hearing with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (Social Democratic Party). Photo: Melker Dahlstrand The various instruments of parliamentary control are set out in Sweden's Constitution: All members of the Riksdag have the right to address questions to the Government. This is one of the ways in which the Riksdag is able to monitor the Government's actions. The Committee on the Constitution has a special task of ensuring that the Government observes existing regulations. All members of the Riksdag have the right to report Government ministers to the Committee on the Constitution. If the Riksdag no longer has confidence in a minister or in the Prime Minister, it can decide to make a declaration of no confidence. It is the task of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen to ensure that all members of the public are treated in compliance with existing laws in their dealings with public agencies. The Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen is an authority under the Riksdag. The National Audit Office examines what central government funds are used for and how efficiently they are used. The National Audit Office is an authority under the Riksdag. Parliamentary control is designed to help the Government and public agencies to work in an efficient manner, in conformity with the rule of law, and to help citizens feel that they can trust the way in which the public agencies exercise their powers. Two examinations by the Committee on the Constitution The Committee on the Constitution monitors the Government to ascertain whether it has observed current rules in the handling of Government business. The Committee on the Constitution carries out two examinations per year. The first involves ensuring that the ministers have complied with the rules that regulate the work of the Government, and that their behaviour has been appropriate in other ways. It is known as a special examination and is based on reports from members of the Riksdag when they consider that a minister has acted inappropriately and want the Committee on the Constitution to examine the matter more closely. The second examination is known as a general examination and is focused on administrative matters. The Committee on the Constitution scrutinises various documents, for example from the Government Offices, to ensure that the Government has complied with existing laws and established practice in its handling of Government business. Reports to the Committee on the Constitution Members of the Riksdag can report instances of what they consider to be inappropriate behaviour to the Committee on the Constitution at any time during the year. The Committee then examines whether or not the minister in question has acted inappropriately in a specific situation. The reports may, for example, involve a case of "ministerial rule", i.e., that a minister has tried to intervene in a matter that should be determined by a public agency. Other instances could include a comment made by a minister, a trip at the expense of the state or an appointment to a top position in a public agency. Hearings in the Committee on the Constitution In order to carry out its examination, the Committee has the right of access to all Government documents, even if they contain classified information. If the Committee needs more information, it may address written questions to the Government or it can summon both ministers and officials to supply oral information. Private individuals can also be called for questioning, but only if they agree to do so. These hearings are open to the public and the media. Debate in the Riksdag Every spring when it has completed its special examination, the Committee on the Constitution submits a report to the Riksdag on its findings. The report is known as a scrutiny report. In the report, the Committee can criticise a minister but has no power to enforce sanctions or demand the minister's resignation. The underlying purpose is to give the Government cause to reconsider its work procedures so as to avoid making the same mistake in the future. Should the Committee on the Constitution conclude that a minister has committed an offence in the performance of his or her duties, it can institute criminal proceedings in the Supreme Court. However, this is very uncommon and has not been known to happen in modern times. After the special examination has been carried out, the members of the Committee on the Constitution normally hold a press conference, at which they present the main findings of their examination. Before the matter is closed, the scrutiny report is debated in the Chamber. The Committee on the Constitution's general examination is presented in a separate report during the autumn. This is also followed by a debate in the Chamber. Questions from members The right to address questions to the Government is the most frequently used of all the parliamentary control instruments. Several thousand questions are addressed to the Government each parliamentary year. The questions may involve any subject from youth unemployment and student accommodation to foreign policy and the situation for asylum seekers. By addressing questions to the Government, members of the Riksdag can find out what the Government intends to do about a specific problem. It is also a way for members of the Riksdag to attract attention to an issue and to sway public opinion. The right to address questions to the Government is mainly used by members of the opposition who make use of this opportunity to put questions to the Government. Sometimes, however, questions may come from a member of the party or parties in Government, for example, if he or she considers the matter to have been neglected by the Government. Interpellations are debated regularly Interpellations are a kind of question that are used as the basis of debates in the Chamber almost every week. The member submits the question - the interpellation - in writing, but receives the answer both in writing and directly from the minister who attends a meeting of the Chamber. The ministers should answer within 14 days, and if they are unable to do so they must explain why they need more time to reply. All members of the Riksdag receive the answers to interpellations in writing in advance and are informed of when the minister intends to visit the Riksdag to reply. The minister has six minutes in which to read his or her answer to the interpellation. During the debate, the member who has submitted the question and others wishing to speak have four minutes each. This is followed by a second and third, shorter, round. The minister gets the final closing reply. Minister for Justice Morgan Johansson (SocDem) answers an interpellation on the EU Copyright Directive from Niels Paarup-Petersen (Cen). The Minister was asked to give an answer regarding the Government’s plans for implementation of the Copyright Directive in Sweden. Photo: Anders Löwdin On-the-spot questions at Question Time Every Thursday, Question Time is held at the Riksdag. About once a month, the Prime Minister comes to the Chamber to answer questions, with four ministers attending the other sessions. This is an opportunity for members of the Riksdag to ask questions without advance notice. To give them time to prepare their questions, they are informed which ministers will be attending in good time. The questions asked during Question Time often concern highly topical issues. All contributions should be brief. The session lasts for about one hour, and it is up to the Speaker to decide how many times the ministers and members are allowed to speak. Written questions without any debate Written questions can be posed to the ministers at any time during the year. The time available for the minister to answer depends on when the question is submitted. Written questions which are submitted before 10 a.m. on Thursday are to be answered no later than 12 noon the following Wednesday. During the summer holidays, however, the ministers have more time to answer. The ministers reply in writing and no debate is held afterwards. Declaration of no confidence If it no longer has confidence in the Prime Minister or a minister, the Riksdag can force the Government's or minister's resignation by making a declaration of no confidence. The procedure for a declaration of no confidence is as follows: For a vote on a declaration of no confidence to be held, at least 35 members of the Riksdag must collectively support a proposal for such a vote. At least 175 members must vote in favour of a declaration of no confidence if the Riksdag is to declare that the Government or a minister no longer has its confidence. This represents a majority of the Riksdag's 349 members. If the Riksdag decides that it does not have confidence in the Prime Minister, the Government must resign or call an extraordinary election. If the members of the Riksdag vote in favour of a declaration of no confidence in a minister, the minister must resign. Ten votes To date, there have been ten votes on declarations of no confidence, but on each of these occasions the Riksdag voted against the motion. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen The Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen is an authority under the Riksdag and it is responsible for part of the Riksdag's parliamentary control functions.The Parliamentary Ombudsmen exist to guarantee that the treatment of all individuals by public agencies is in accordance with Swedish law. If you feel that you have received unfair treatment by a public agency, you can lodge a complaint with the Parliamentary Ombudsmen It is not necessary to be a Swedish citizen or to live in Sweden to lodge a complaint with the Parliamentary Ombudsmen. Complaints should concern: Central government agencies (including courts of law) Municipal agencies Officials employed at central government and municipal agencies Other institutions which are entrusted to exercise public authority The Parliamentary Ombudsmen give criticism and advice It is up to the Parliamentary Ombudsmen to decide whether or not to consider incoming reports. They can also initiate inspections of various public agencies and courts themselves. If a Parliamentary Ombudsman discovers that a public agency or a court has violated a law, the Ombudsman may deliver a statement containing criticism and suggest what could have been done instead. The public agencies generally observe the recommendations of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen. Since the Office of the Ombudsmen is not a court, the decisions are only recommendations and cannot be appealed.If the Parliamentary Ombudsmen consider that an official has committed a serious violation in his or her handling of a matter they may bring charges against the individual. If they suspect that a minor breach has been committed, they may propose that, for example, a warning be issued to the person in question. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen may also conclude that an amendment needs to be made to an existing law, in which case they may propose this to the Riksdag. First in the world The Parliamentary Ombudsmen receive some 8,000 reports every year. They are politically neutral. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen are chosen by the Riksdag. There are currently four Ombudsmen. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen have existed in Sweden since 1809. Sweden was first country in the world to establish an Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen. Today there are similar institutions in hundreds of countries. They are also referred to using the Swedish word "ombudsman" in English and several other languages. The National Audit Office The National Audit Office is an authority under the Riksdag. It is responsible for examining - on behalf of the public - how and for what purpose central government funds are used. The overall purpose of the National Audit Office is to help to promote good use of central government resources and an efficient public administration. It does this through independent examination of all central government activities. The independent status of the Auditors General is set out in the Swedish Constitution. Three Auditors General The Office is headed by three Auditors General who are elected by the Riksdag. The Auditors General decide what is to be audited, how to go about it and what conclusions to draw. The National Audit Office carries out two main types of examination: an annual audit which involves examining the annual reports of all central government agencies. The Auditors General examine whether the accounting is reliable, whether the accounting records are true and fair, and whether the authorities audited have observed existing regulations. a performance audit consisting of random checks of the efficiency of the activities of the Government, the Riksdag Administration or the public agencies. The aim is to examine whether these bodies are efficiently managed and whether tax revenues are used in accordance with the Government's and Riksdag's objectives. Their examination may, for example, concern the Swedish Public Employment Service's labour market measures, or the functioning of the pension system. The National Audit Office presents the findings of its examinations in reports. If it identifies shortcomings, it gives recommendations to the agencies concerned and the Government, with the aim of increasing efficiency.