Johan Pehrson has to clean up Samhall

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For just over 30 years, Samhall’s operations have been conducted in the form of a limited company. The corporatization took place in order to control scattered activities with what was called protected work. Over time, this business has also moved more from the manufacture of goods to the sale of services. People with disabilities who have a certain ability to work should receive society’s help for employment that is adapted to their conditions. Doing this through a company that then sells the services on the open market does not have to be wrong. But that requires the state to take responsibility for the business so that it does not distort competition. The government does not take that responsibility well enough. The Swedish Competition Authority has previously investigated Samhall’s operations in cleaning services, which is the company’s largest service area. The investigation took place after a number of complaints had been received by the authority. Last time, in 2017, the Swedish Competition Authority stated that there was “a certain freedom of movement” in the internal guidelines for pricing. This was considered to be the explanation for Samhall selling its services cheaper than its competitors. In the new investigation, it is again cleaning services that are at issue. There are formulations that should be devastating for Samhall, such as “in some cases there may be clear incentives for Samhall to depart from its calculation model and set a lower price in order to win a deal”. And: “The preliminary results indicate a clear underpricing in terms of invoicing for at least 16 of the 18 grocery stores that have been included in the analysis.” The review emphasizes the importance of Samhall taking powerful measures to counter underpricing. In its submissions to the Swedish Competition Authority, Samhall says that it wants to introduce new processes to “reduce the areas of conflict in relation to private players in the market”. But it is scandalous that such proposals are presented under the gallows, only when the authorities once again examine the company. Samhall thus distorts the competition in its mission to help people with disabilities, contrary to its guidelines. It gets even worse in light of the fact that the company is not succeeding in its main task. In a recent report, the National Audit Office has reviewed how Samhall fulfills its societal mission, to provide meaningful and developing employment for the disabled, and writes that “Samhall’s governance and organization have too much prioritized business development over the development of the employees’ work skills”. The National Audit Office says that the work tasks that people with disabilities get are meaningful, but questions whether they are developmental. The criticism is also that the Employment Agency’s directions for places at Samhall lack efficiency. When Samhall has a vacancy, it takes too long for the Employment Agency to find a candidate, according to the National Audit Office. Even the government receives criticism from the National Audit Office because it directs towards financial goals rather than how the social mission itself is carried out. The responsible minister Johan Pehrson (L) must now take these matters seriously. The cleaning industry is an extremely competitive part of the economy. It is a service sector where the entry threshold is low. The fact that the heaviest player in this industry is the state is already a big problem. Overall, Samhall is one of Sweden’s largest companies with 24,000 employees. They appear in the market like any other company, but they are not. The company receives SEK 6.5 billion per year in additional cost compensation from the state for good reason – it’s about helping the most vulnerable. This money and the size that Samhall has must not be used in a way that crushes private businesses.

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