Lex Ågren: Corruption can be prevented and managed

The irregularities that occurred within the Swedish Transport Agency and the government should not be regarded as a lightning from clear skies, but rather as the final stage of a long and lasting degeneration. A degeneration of morality and understanding of the rules of the game.

Corruption research often refers to corrupt countries and environments where deviant behavior and irregularities thrive. However, there are no corrupt countries or environments without corrupt individuals. Therefore, in order to overcome corruption, one must look at the individuals.

Much is being said about how the Transport Directorate's Fired Director, Maria Ågren, should have been properly punished for her violations. Less is being said about why a Director General or Ministers so clearly disregards his or her duties and responsibilities.

Now the axe is falling over certain ministers – and rightly so, but also less rightly over others. Before the debate is entirely about the government crisis at a structural level, the following two aspects should be lifted from the general murmur and kept on the surface until Sweden's citizens receive proper answers.

First, the impact assessment of what the IT accident means for national security - naturally, this is a largely classified report. However, it is not enough with the new Director General's vague statement that there are no indications that sensitive information has been leaked.

Prime Minister Löfven claims that both the government and several other authorities, such as the Police and Armed Forces, have worked hard to minimize the damage since the problems were discovered. This assertion fails to indicate that there are no indications of possible leakage.

Secondly, it is important to learn what has happened and implement actions thereafter. The government has already begun extensive work to strengthen Sweden's information security. Among the measures is to set limits on how much and what kind of activity can be outsourced to private actors. Thus, reviewing the regulatory framework in the matter.

The problem is only that there was already a regulatory framework that was quickly violated, namely the Swedish law. The decision to shut down the operation of the IT system was illegal, which Ågren readily rejects with the comment that she is not a lawyer.

In what way should the regulations be designed for Ågren to understand that what she did was wrong?

The first half of the answer is well formulated by Alice Teodorescu. She believes that the alleged naiveties of Director Geenrals’ and Ministers’ are nothing but creative attempts to avoid dealing with difficult situations and complex conflicts norms, values and interests.

The other half consists of taking these conflicts at the horns and addressing the root of the problem in the government - strengthening morale and ensuring everyone is working according to the same rules of the game.

We would be able to avoid this type of debacles by installing insightful and well-educated leaders and key decision makers in the administration. Because, it is all about competence and knowledge as a tool for preventing and managing corruption.  

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This is a translation of the article ”Lex Ågren: oegentligheter kan förhindras och förebyggas” originally published in SVT Opinion.