Audit operations: A Safe, Healthy and Affluent Society

The audits conducted in the impact area A Safe, Healthy and Affluent Society have focused on assessing the functioning, efficiency, and indirect financial impacts of the different areas of an affluent society and their interconnections.

Strengthening public finances permanently requires measures to support economic growth. During the rest of the period, the impact area will focus on assessing the appropriateness and coordination of social security benefits and related services, as well as on issues related to measures to promote employment and economic growth. Multi-channel financing, where the state is one of the key providers of financing, is typical of these areas. National steering plays a prominent role in the operating environment, while the results and societal impact are created regionally and locally.

We provide reliable information on complex issues through our audits: we focus our resources on topical issues that are significant for society and utilize different audit types, the competence of our personnel, and external data and specialist services in a versatile manner.

Social security

We audit the knowledge base of central government finances and the state’s financial management on which the decisions on the social security reform are based by

  • identifying risks related to central government finances and the state’s financial management,

  • assessing the interconnections between benefits and services, their appropriateness, and their impacts in relation to each other and to the targets set,

  • providing information on the systemic interdependencies and mutual relationships of issues for the preparation of the social security reform,

  • assessing the link of social security expenses to the development of general government finances.

The so-called incentive traps hamper the supply of labour, and therefore their removal can have positive impacts on employment. At the end of 2021, we will complete an audit where we assess the appropriateness of the preparation and implementation of legislative measures aimed at removing unemployment, income, bureaucracy, and information traps. By auditing the interconnections between social security and the systems interacting with it, such as taxation and enforcement, we can produce material and timely information on the functioning and success of different reforms made so far. Auditing these issues serves the need for information of the committee that is preparing the overall reform of social security.

An audit is also underway to examine the extent to which the objectives set for the reforms of student financial aid in 2011, 2014 and 2017 have been achieved, whether the reforms have had unforeseen impacts, and on what kind of knowledge base the impact assessments of the reforms have been based. As a result of the reforms, the conditions for student financial aid have been tightened, incentives for the use of student loans have been increased, and students have become eligible for the all-year housing allowance scheme. The audit will be completed in spring 2022.

An audit of the general housing allowance will also be launched in 2021. It aims to assess what kinds of fiscal problems the current act on general housing allowance poses and how they could be solved.

Healthcare and social welfare reform, and rescue services reform

In our expert opinions to parliamentary committees, we have taken a stand on the economic aspects related to the establishment of wellbeing services counties and to the healthcare and social welfare reform and rescue services reform.

In summer 2021, we completed two audits related to the steering, data utilization, and monitoring of healthcare and social welfare.

In the other audit, we examined the production of financial data on health and social services and their utilization in cost effectiveness indicators and expert assessments. The knowledge base of healthcare and social welfare used in the financial steering is currently compiled through many different processes and developed in several projects, which makes it challenging to manage the whole. The comparable knowledge base needed for effective national steering is still defective, and there are delays in the receipt of data. An up-to-date knowledge base on the costs and operations of healthcare and social welfare still requires further development, national guidelines, and legislation also from the perspective of the needs of the health and social services reform. The ongoing reform of the automation of financial reporting should be monitored closely in order to ensure that the data are up to date and of high quality.

The other audit was targeted at the development, steering, monitoring, and assessment of patient and client safety. The steering and guidelines related to patient and client safety form an extensive entity that is difficult to interpret and that the public administration has not managed to steer in a long-term and consistent manner. At the same time, many of the key national targets set for patient and client safety have not been met. National data on patient and client safety are fragmented and incomplete, and no key indicators have been defined for monitoring. Although the overall picture of the work done in healthcare and social welfare organizations is positive, there is not enough data available on the safety of services to be used in developing activities, comparing organizations, or disseminating good practices. The national responsibility for the management and development of patient and client safety should be more clearly assigned to one competent authority. The role that the wellbeing services counties under preparation will have in the development and supervision of the quality and appropriateness of services should also be considered when the responsibilities are developed.

Employment and entrepreneurship

In summer 2021, we launched an audit of the promotion of the growth and competitiveness of regional trade and industry. In the audit, we will assess whether the implementation of the regional development decision 2020–2023 has provided sufficient conditions for economic activities in the business sector. In addition, we will assess how changes in the operating environment have affected the implementation of the decision and the operating conditions of business in different regions. The audit will also examine the preparation and implementation of the regional stimulus measures resulting from the Covid-19 crisis, as well as the fulfilment of the conditions of the national decisions taken on business subsidies related to the Covid-19 crisis.

At the end of the year, we will start to audit the entrepreneurship service system. In this audit, we will examine whether the public business services are organized in such a manner that they provide appropriate support at different stages of the life cycle of business activities.

Research, development, and innovation

The aim of Prime Minister Marin’s Government is to secure long-term funding for research and development (R&D funding), strengthen Finland’s investment environment, and improve companies’ investment capacity. One of the objectives is to increase Finland’s R&D expenditure from the current 2.8% to 4% of GDP by 2030. Achieving this objective would mean additional annual R&D investments of nearly EUR 600 million, of which public sector funding would amount to approximately EUR 200 million.

In the audit “Managing the utilization of research data in health sector business”, we assess the effectiveness of the support, guidance, and improvement of research data utilization in strategies and programmes, as well as through health sector financial instruments.

Continuous learning

Long-term sustainability of central government finances requires that vocational education should provide a solid foundation for students’ employment and that it meets the changing competence needs of business life and enterprises. The audit completed in spring 2021 found that the implementation of the reform had progressed in line with the objectives. According to the principle of continuous learning, the education system should support the combination, deepening and targeting of different skills, not only through qualifications and qualification units but also through smaller education modules. Safeguarding learning in workplaces is of utmost importance for ensuring the sustainability of the education system. The Incomes Register is a useful tool for monitoring the effectiveness of education and training.

The reform of continuous learning was launched in 2021. We are currently preparing an audit in order to produce information on the conditions for the implementation of the reform of continuous learning, on the funding base of the planned service system, and on ensuring the risk management.