De utsatta (The art of stealing without getting caught)

De utsatta (The art of stealing without getting caught)

Organisation: Swedish Television (Sweden)

Publication Date: 04/07/2017

Size of team/newsroom:large


The story Swedens most vulnerable; the old, sick and disabled, have been robbed of their belongings by the same people who were given the confidence by the society to handle their economies. Our independent investigation showed that this is being put into system by dishonest trustees who are robbing the people they were supposed to help. In news reporting, we could show that hundreds of millions of crowns have been stolen - with no one acting to trace neither the money nor the perpetrators. Rather the opposite; while doing this investigation we found that the responsible actually protects the stealing guardians and that the central authorities call on all Swedish municipalities not to report the crimes to the police, since "that may makes it more difficult to attract new trustees". The working method To get a full view of the system with trustees and the authorities who are appointed to supervise the trustees (guardians) we set up two separate databases. Data was collected from the supervision reports from the county government and from the county court we collected appeals of decisions made by the guardians. In broadcast we used six cases in several reportages with different angles. In those six cases we provided letters of appointments from the family concerned. That way we could get access to all documents filed at the guardians office in each municipality.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

Problems with corrupt guardians have been reported before. But we managed to take the story further by identifying the system failures. We showed how several authorities in different levels were involved, but none took the full responsibility. We discovered huge shortcomings in the economic accounting. We showed the problem with the guardians having the responsibility to review the trustees and at the same time recruit new trustees. We could also show that the review of the county governments did not have impact. The response was overwhelming. The phone rang daily for several weeks, it was people who had never before contacted a journalist and now wanted to tell their story. Over a hundred people emailed, phoned and wrote letters to us. Most of them were personally affected. We showed that the authorities are not fulfilling their control duties: so we got strong reaction from the Ombudsman and the Ministry of Justice. The ministry of justice; Morgan Johansson (S) reacted strongly and demanded the went out county administrative boards to come up with suggestions on how to improve the control system. After our reporting, the national organization for municipalities; SKL changed their position on whether the municipalities guardians should report suspected crimes to the police. They are today recommending their memebers to file reports. The ministry of justice, Morgan Johansson called for the SKL and the county administrative boards and given them a mandate to improve supervision, in August 2016. After continued reporting and continued criticism of the system, the government in December 2016 finally initiated new laws, suggesting you are now able to appoint your own trustee, before you turn old and mentally ill (dement), which was previously not allowed. They also started an overlook of the whole system, open up for an eventual system change. Our reports were also widely quoted in other Swedish media, se attached prezi link.

Technologies used for this project:

Database of supervision reports from the county government We collected every supervision report from the county governments from 2012 to 2015. The supervision of the guardians in every municipality is in the hands of 7 of the 21 county governments. Each municipality has a guardian and will be reviewed every year and a report written. A random amount of cases are then picked where the trustees are scrutinized more thoroughly. 8.088 cases were picked totally in the 471 reports. We read the reports, systematized them and coded the data in an Excel-database. Example of coded variables in the database are name of county government, dates, number of reviewed cases, municipality, name of the guardian, level of criticism, if any cases had led to notification at the local police. We also note the amount of money that were missing and if the amount not noted we requested the exact amount from the municipality. This way we could see interesting patterns. Database of appeals of decisions made by the guardians from the county court A decision of the guardian can be appealed to the county court. The second database consisted every such appeal decision and was collected from all 48 county courts between 2012 and 2015. 1.592 decisions in total. Then we made a scraping of all decisions. We wrote a program in the language "Python" to extract various parts of the decisions. We made the program to open every PDF-document, search for specific headlines such as "Reason", "Decision" or "Verdict". Then the program picked the text that followed the headline. The program also picked basic data such as dates, names of people involved, social security number, case number. The result were then transmitted to a CSV-file which can be transmitted to Excel. Together with appeals data we could construct the second database. By processing this data we could get a good overview over the decisions, what they were about and the names of the people involved.


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