Auditing Relations with the Government

The work of the State Audit Office has the closest connection to the activities of the Government. When auditing a report, activity or issue, one always tends to see it as “somebody’s” problem, meaning that it is up to that “somebody” to take responsibility to solve the problem. The “somebody” directly responsible for any problem is obviously the head of an agency but, already for years, also the responsibility of the relevant Minister has been stressed. A simple but effective way to deal with any deficiency is to present the problem to the highest executive officer in that particular area of government. Even if that officer is not “personally” involved in the problem, the final responsibility for everything that goes on within the area of government of that Ministry still lies with the Minister. Ministers are competent to deal with problems by way of, not merely improving the management systems within their own Ministries but also by initiating Government discussions and preparing draft legislation.

In organising the area of their government, the State Audit Office requires that the Ministers take into consideration the following three aspects. In the first place, a Minister should set the goals which the Ministry and the whole area of government wish to achieve. This, usually, means specification of the goals and restrictions provided by Acts passed by the Riigikogu. Specification also means determining measurable performance indicators, setting deadlines and elaborating detailed criteria for the allocation of funds. Unfortunately, often the conclusions of audits indicate that specification of the wishes of the legislative power in adherence to the purpose of law has not been carried out to a satisfactory extent. The second requirement of the State Audit Office is that the Ministers provide necessary prerequisites for reaching the goals. This includes the setting up of necessary structures and the allocation of necessary resources for such a purpose. One of the aspects evaluated by the State Audit Office is whether achievement of the objectives is possible by the means planned by a Ministry.

In the third place, the State Audit Office stresses the importance of developing the system of internal control which should consist of clear-cut and unambiguously traceable procedures. The State Audit Office verifies whether a body of established procedures exist within an area of government, which means that officials, upon making decisions, have little opportunity to make extensive exceptions or pass decisions which are not transparent. This principle also covers the area of reporting. The State Audit Office makes sure that a Minister has created a system which guarantees the provision of adequate and sufficient feedback.

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