Auditing Relations with the Parliament

Based on historical, cultural and political reasons, the relationship between the state and the state audit authority is different in every country. In some countries, the state audit office may form a part of the executive or legislative power while in others, it may be an independent entity. The fact that the Estonian State Audit Office is independent of the executive and legislative powers does not, by any means, indicate indifference. The attention of the Riigikogu is always welcome to the Office as the interest that the parliament shows towards the results of audits helps, to a significant extent, to deal with problematic issues and to promote trends of development which lead to a more efficient use of the taxpayers’ money.

In most countries, parliamentary committees deliberate only a half of all the audit reports: above all the conclusive reports which are subject to Parliament discussion, and the reports which are provided as a result of audits ordered by the committees themselves.

In Estonia, the final destiny of the State Audit Office audit reports has been under discussion for some time. Until the entry into force of the current State Audit Office Act, the role of the Riigikogu in discussing the reports was not regulated. The Office used to send audit reports to the Parliament and, when necessary, also provided explanations to the relevant permanent committees but such action was not regulated by law and was based on the Office’s own initiative.

The contacts between the Riigikogu and the Office became more regular in March 2002 when it was stipulated by the new State Audit Office Act that the Office must submit its reports to the financial committee of the Parliament. As a result, the Office gained a permanent co-operative partner. The practice of presenting audit reports to other permanent committees was still continued by the Office. Beginning from 2004, all audit reports issued by the State Audit Office are forwarded to a special committee of the Riigikogu, the State Budget Control Committee. The Committee aims to co-operate with the State Audit Office in exercising supervision over the implementation of the state budget by the Government in the part of the economical, efficient, resourceful and lawful use of the state budget funds. The rules and regulations for organising the work of the Committee prescribe reviews of audit reports but also discussion of auditing principles as well as of any important matters brought to the attention of the Committee by the Auditor General. Where necessary, the Committee organises joint sessions with the permanent committees of the Parliament.

Estonia deems it important to take an approach different from the practice of other Eastern and Central European countries, where parliamentary committees discuss audit reports but fail to decide upon them. The State Audit Office does its best to assist the Commission in its work by pointing out the issues in which the Riigikogu is competent to pass resolutions based on the results of the audits. These usually involve an amendment to an Act or the necessity to discuss the activities of Ministers.

In addition to the new areas of co-operation, the Office still performs its basic duties. Based on the results of the audits conducted during a year, the State Audit Office submits to the Riigikogu a conclusive annual report prescribed by the Constitution concerning the use and preservation of state assets during the last financial year. The Auditor General presents the report concurrently with the discussion of the consolidated annual report of the state by the Riigikogu.

Providing an answer to the question “who audits the auditor?” remains within the competence of the Parliament. The State Audit Office is audited on an annual basis by an auditor designated by the Riigikogu who, for such task, has similar authorities as the State Audit Office in the performance of its tasks. The State Audit Office is also required to submit to the Riigikogu its annual report not later than within a month after receipt of the conclusion of the auditor.

Details about this article