Intelligence service's party broke rules
The newspaper Dagens Nyheter reports Monday on a series of irregularities when Säpo, the intelligence service of the Swedish police, threw a James Bond themed party for itself last year.
One thousand domestic spooks and other agency staff were treated to a three course dinner accompanied by entertainment from a bevy of well-known comedians, bands, specially recorded videos, and other performers.
According to the newspaper, the bill for the whole event came to around US$ 800,000. The entertainment alone cost more than US$ 75,000, and the James Bond décor, compete with casino blackjack tables and croupiers, was nearly as expensive.
Keeping to the British spy theme, Dagens Nyheter says that among the guests was none other than the head of the British domestic anti-espionage agency MI5.
But the newspaper reveals a number of irregularities in the party spending. It says the police agency broke the public procurement rules by not taking bids for organizing the event. Instead they just signed on with a consultant without an open bidding process.
Moreover, the agency claimed around 150,000 dollars in VAT refunds for the event, even though that compensation is severely limited for internal parties.
The boss of the agency at the time, Anders Danielsson, approved the event, and he tells the newspaper he takes full responsibility. But he also says he doesn’t think the improper VAT claim was particularly serious.
His successor Anders Thornberg just says they weren’t aware of the VAT rules.
The revelation is the latest in a series in Dagens Nyheter about spending irregularities at Swedish public agencies. The series started with a report on lavish spending at a state pension fund. Then the newspaper revealed that the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth spent more than 2 and a half million dollars on internal seminars and entertainment, usually combined with expensive dinners at fancy restaurants, sometimes hosted at castles or spas.
The agency’s director general resigned in the wake of the reportage, and the Swedish Competition Authority has launched an investigation into both a growth agency party at a luxury hotel and a research grant foundation’s million dollar contract with a party planner. Kristoffer Sällfors of the competition authority tells Swedish Radio News the investigation has a high priority.
But he says it’s too early to disclose anything about the investigation, and he doesn’t want to anticipate their conclusions. Justice Minister Beatrice Ask, who actually sent a prerecorded greeting to the party, now tells the TT news bureau that it is proper that spending by public agencies is reviewed and that the rules are followed and mistakes are corrected.
According to Dagens Nyheter, the police intelligence service Säpo threw its expensive party in June 2011 following three years of major reorganization that left many feeling bitter.
The newspaper says many staff members chose not to go to the party, over dissatisfaction with the reorganization and concern over the high cost of the event. And now it seems, the agency spooks have an investigation from the competition authority and possible fines to look forward to, after their visit to the world of 007.