Swedish opposition seeks ouster of government ministers over transport data contract

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 26, 2017 4:42 AM

By Helena Soderpalm

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A brewing political scandal in Sweden intensified on Wednesday when center-right opposition parties said they would call for a no confidence vote in three government ministers, a vote they may win.

The opposition is seeking to boot out the ministers of infrastructure, defense and the interior -- Anna Johansson, Peter Hultqvist and Anders Ygeman, respectively -- for their role in outsourcing IT-services for the Swedish Transport Agency in 2015.

The minority government has said that contract process -- won by IBM Sweden -- was speeded up, bypassing some laws and internal procedures in a manner that may have led to people abroad, handling servers with sensitive materials.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Monday his country and its citizens were exposed to risks by potential leaks as a result of the contract.

The center right opposition Alliance, comprising the Moderate, Centre, Liberal and Christian Democrat parties, has taken aim at the three ministers.

"It is obvious (they) have neglected their responsibility. They have not taken action to protect Sweden's safety", Centre party leader Annie Loof told a news conference.

The government said it had no comment pending a later statement. IBM Sweden says it never comments on relations with clients.

Parliament is in recess but the opposition parties will submit a request to the speaker to summon legislators for a vote within 10 days.

If the opposition gets a majority the ministers will have to resign, a likely outcome as the nationalist Sweden Democrats have said they will support a vote of no-confidence.

"It feels like it's possible, yes," Anna Kinberg Batra, leader of the Moderates said.

The Transport Agency said on Monday it had no indications sensitive material had actually ended up in the wrong hands, but Lofven said the government had initiated an investigation into what had happened, vowing to tighten laws for handling of sensitive material.

The security police informed the Justice Ministry in late 2015 on the issue, but Lofven only found out about it early this year.

He said on Monday that Johansson, the infrastructure minister responsible for the Transport Agency, had not passed information on to him. Johansson on Sunday in turn blamed one of her former state secretaries for not informing her about the issue.

(Reporting by Helena Soderpalm, Johannes Hellstrom and Johan Ahlander.)