Swedish PM calls potential IT leak 'disaster' and risk to country

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Monday his country and its citizens were exposed to risks by potential leaks of sensitive material from an IT-contract that one official said had been rushed.

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Lofven told a news conference he regretted he had not been informed earlier about the issue, which stems from the outsourcing of IT-services for the Swedish Transport Agency to IBM Sweden in 2015.

The contract process was speeded up, Jonas Bjelfvenstam, the new head of the Transport Agency, said at the same news conference, bypassing some laws and internal procedures,

That resulted in people abroad, without proper security clearance, handling servers with sensitive materials, he said.

IBM Sweden declined to comment, saying it never discussed client issues publicly.

Most vehicles on land, air and sea in Sweden are registered with the agency, and whistleblowers have raised concerns that information about vehicles used by the armed forces and the police may have ended up in the wrong hands.

“This is a disaster,” Lofven said. “This has exposed Sweden and Swedish citizens to risks.”

He said the government had initiated an investigation into what had happened and vowed to tighten laws for handling of sensitive material.

The armed forces said the situation could be contained and that all registration of important military vehicles are handled by the army and were not affected. The security police said the situation was serious but manageable.

The transport agency said it had no indications sensitive material had actually ended up in the wrong hands.

However, the scandal has raised questions about the way it has been handled within the government. The security police informed the Justice Ministry in late 2015 but Lofven said he only found out about it early this year.

Lofven said Anna Johansson, minister of infrastructure and 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 scandal.

“I wish I had been informed earlier,” Lofven said while adding he had no plans to fire any ministers. “I have full confidence in them (ministers) until I say otherwise.”

The scandal has sparked a heated debate in Sweden and several opposition parties have said they don’t rule out calling a vote of no-confidence against three ministers in the government Johansson, Interior Minister Anders Ygeman, and Justice Minister Morgan Johansson.

($1 = 8.2289 Swedish crowns)

Reporting by Johan Ahlander Editing by Jeremy Gaunt