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The government service offices – expansion with teething problems

Three years ago, the National Government Service Centre took over responsibility for the national service offices. The Swedish National Audit Office’s audit shows that the activities have a series of deficiencies and that no additional government agencies should be affiliate before these shortcomings have been remedied.

Facade sign for the government service office in Uppsala.

Photo: Statens servicecenter / Anders Wiklund, TT

The national service offices provide people with help in handling matters at the various government agencies. The offices are particularly aimed at people who need a physical meeting.

Previously, the offices were run by the Swedish Social Insurance Agency, the Swedish Pensions Agency and the Swedish Tax Agency together. The offices’ transfer of responsibility to the National Government Service Centre in 2019 entailed among the largest and most complex changes of government agencies in Sweden in a long time. The Government wants to ensure and strengthen access to government service, and the activities are therefore expanding rapidly. By the end of 2023, the number of offices is expected to be 147.

The Swedish National Audit Office (Swedish NAO) has audited whether the national service organisation is appropriate and effective. The overall conclusion is that the organisation is currently unable to guarantee that all visitors receive equitable service of good quality.

“Since the National Government Service Centre took over office activities, it has expanded rapidly. Many new offices have opened and additional government agencies have become affiliated. This has led to problems that the agency has only partially managed to handle,” says Daniel Bjerstedt, Project Leader for the audit.

The National Government Service Centre inherited some problems from the previous organisation. Some of these problems have become exacerbated by working methods that do not take current technical solutions and premises limitations into account.

The Government’s objective is that activities from more government agencies will become affiliated with the service offices, and that more offices will be established in new localities. The Swedish NAO assesses that the problems highlighted in the audit will become exacerbated as the activities expand.

“The Government and National Government Service Centre should not affiliate more government agencies before the service offices can cope with their current tasks. This includes ensuring that information provision, technical solutions, interpreting services and premises are working,” says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.

The Swedish NAO also notes that the Government’s micro-management concerning where the service offices should be located and how many there should be has made it difficult for the National Government Service Centre to direct the resources where they bring most benefit.

“It would be more effective for the Government to delegate the decision on where to establish service offices to the National Government Service Centre. This would give the government agency greater possibilities to strike a balance between demands for onsite presence, cost-effectiveness and quality,” says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.

Recommendations in brief

  • The Government should delegate to the National Government Service Centre to decide where offices should be established.
  • The Government and the National Government Service Centre should wait to connect more government agencies until the organisation can deliver quality service within the framework of the existing and new tasks.
  • The National Government Service Centre should produce a model for following up cost progression and staffing at office level.
  • The National Government Service Centre and the agencies whose cases are handled by the offices should ensure that the follow up is sufficient to be able to assess the quality of the service.

See the report for the full recommendations.

Press contact: Olle Castelius, phone: +46 8-5171 40 04.

Presskontakt: , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.

Updated: 13 March 2023

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