Ministerial rule (Swedish: ministerstyre) is the informal term for when a public authority in Sweden — including the Riksdag, or a decision-making body of a municipality — tries to influence how an administrative authority (Swedish: förvaltningsmyndighet) decides in a particular case relating to the exercise of public authority vis-à-vis an individual or a local authority, or the application of legislation. This is a violation against the Instrument of Government, the main part of the constitution of Sweden.
Swedish public administration is dualistic, meaning the governmental departments are under the direct control of a minister, but the administrative authorities (or government agencies in other words) under these departments are ostensibly autonomous. The agencies work according to laws and rules decided on by the Riksdag, but apply them on their own accord. So while the agencies are formally connected to some department, a minister cannot exert control over these agencies on individual matters, and they do not have the authority to direct daily operations. Ministers are thus expressly prohibited to intervene in matters relating to the application of the law or the due exercise of an agency's authority, quite unlike the situation in many other countries. If the government believes that an agency has not applied the law correctly, its only remedy is to change the relevant legislation. There are frequent occasions where ministers on questions from the press answers "I can not comment on this individual case".
The reasoning behind this is to prevent government corruption and to ensure that laws and regulations are applied equally. It also incentivises the Government and Riksdag to get rid of hard-to-interpret or problematic laws and regulations. There are rare exceptions to this distinction, such as when a natural disaster or war occurs and there is a need for a shorter chain of command.
Government owned commercial companies are not formally covered by the rule of Ministerstyre. However, the government still generally instructs them to maintain themselves in a commercial way and turn a profit. This can create conflicts. For example, the electrical power company Vattenfall is creating profit through some environmentally unfriendly activities outside of Sweden, even though the Swedish government tries to maintain green policies.[relevant? ]
How government agencies are governed
The agencies do not have complete freedom to interpret the law and the government has a right to influence the agencies, but only through strictly general policy instruments which are described in the constitution. These instruments are:
- Acts of Law and Other Provisions — This includes laws adopted by the Riksdag and ordinances issued by the Government (Swedish: förordning). They are interpreted by courts of law.
- Financial Power — The Government Offices issues a letter of appropriation (Swedish: regleringsbrev) once a year, based on the budget set by the Riksdag, which regulates the general activities and overall objectives for an agency.
- Power of Appointment — The Government decides on the employment of agency heads, deputy directors-general and county directors. Special rules apply for the appointment and dismissal of permanent salaried judges and other positions, where independence is of vital importance.
- Parliamentary Control — This is done by the Swedish National Audit Office, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Chancellor of Justice and the administrative courts.
- 1.^ The Instrument of Government, Chapter 11, Articles 6 and 7. The Letters Patent Act (1994:261) governs the dismissal of certain employees, such as permanent salaried judges (Swedish: ordinarie domare) and the Prosecutor-General of Sweden.
- "The Instrument of Government" (PDF). The Riksdag. Chapter 12, Article 2. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- "Regeringsformen (RF) 12 kap. 2 § (1974:152)" (in Swedish). lagen.nu. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- Rätt handlagt (PDF) (5 ed.). Stockholm: Swedish Tax Agency. 2011. pp. 11–12. ISBN 9789186525415.
- "How public agencies are governed". The Swedish Government. Archived from the original on 29 July 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
- Katz, edited by Richard S. (1987). Party governments : European and American experiences. Berlin: W. de Gruyter. p. 180. ISBN 3110109409.
- Regerar regeringen över de centrala ämbetsverken? (Swedish) by Nils Stjernquist (1984) ISSN 0039-0747
- Statsbyggnad: den offentliga maktens organisation (Swedish) by Olof Petersson (2007) ISBN 9789185695324
- Administrative Independence and European Integration by Thomas Bull, European Public Law - Volume 14, Number 3 (2008) pp. 285–296