Audit operations: Sustainable Governance and Public Administration

One of the focus areas defined in the strategy of the National Audit Office is provision of information to support the development of public administration, to strengthen the link between sustainable development and the management of central government finances, and to ensure the quality of legislation. Information is needed to support the ongoing reforms of public administration, the targeted more uniform and efficient public administration, as well as the increasingly popular experimental culture and structural reforms.

These subjects are horizontal and cross-sectional in nature and linked with several administrative branches and operations. The themes related to them and their role in the NAOF’s operations are only beginning to take shape. It is particularly important to identify the NAOF’s special role in relation to other organizations and actors working with the same themes. To be able to clarify the division of labour and the status picture, we must interact and cooperate actively with our national and international stakeholders.

The key focus areas are a uniform Government, the implementation of SDGs, the state’s employer policy, and the quality of legislation. These issues will be examined from the perspectives of, for example, the steering systems, the implementation of the Government Programme, the reforms of central government, the structural reforms and experiments in public administration, and the reorganization of operations. As regards sustainable development, we will pay special attention to the implementation of the goals of the UN’s 2030 Agenda and the national sustainable development goals, as well as their different dimensions of sustainability.

We will monitor the legislative projects of the government term and the reform and development of the legislative process from the perspective of the quality of legislation. We will also examine the quality of the knowledge base of legislation, the functioning of legislation in the implementation of the goals of the different policy areas, and the transparency of legislative drafting.

The themes of Sustainable Governance and Public Administration are highly topical and strongly linked with, for example, the objectives and measures included in the Government Programmes of Marin and Rinne. One of the key tasks in 2020 is to outline the focus areas of the coming years within Sustainable Governance and Public Administration, as well as available alternatives, and on the basis of them, to draw up a concrete preliminary action plan for 2020–2022 with audit topics and other measures. Another key task is to provide information on topical issues related to the area by analysing and combining previously produced audit and other information.

The issues will be approached through political coherence review and phenomenon-based review of the budget.

Implementation of sustainable development

Sustainable development perspectives, particularly those of the UN’s 2030 Agenda and the national goals, will be linked to the NAOF’s work. The national SDGs of Finland are specified in the Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development, issued by the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development. The Government will outline its measures in its report in the first half of 2020. The previous report had two focus areas: carbon neutral and resource smart Finland, and equal and competent Finland.

Sustainable development is indirectly highly significant to central government finances. The National Audit Office monitors the promotion of the SDGs in central government. Ecological, social and economic sustainability requires systematic long-term actions by society as a whole. Functional steering instruments and management of the whole picture are required to support these actions. The use of state assets as guided by the Government Programme Implementation Plan is directly included in the audit mandate of the National Audit Office. The National Audit Office will assess whether the Government’s annual report provides a true and fair view of the use of assets and cost-effectiveness in the case of sustainable development actions and goals. The link with the SDGs will be assessed in the planning stage of each audit.

In the audit “Climate financing provided by the state to developing countries”, we will examine the financing reported by the State of Finland to conferences of parties to climate change conventions. The aim of the audit is to support better cost-effectiveness of the climate financing Finland provides to developing countries (i.e. that the goals are promoted as much as possible with as low costs to central government as possible) and the development of its steering system. The work is closely related to the work programme of the INTOSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing (WGEA), coordinated by Finland in 2019–2021.

In the audit “Future workforce 2030”, we will analyse how the preparation, implementation and maintenance process of the curricula of grade levels 1–6 in comprehensive school take into account the competence needs of and the expectations set for future workforce. The audit will be conducted as an international parallel audit that aims to identify different countries’ practices in basic education, vocational education, and continuous learning.

Otherwise the audit topics will be specified as a result of ongoing or future surveys and reviews. In addition to the sustainable development framework, the audit will be based on, for example, the targets set for the development and streamlining of Finnish public administration, and the ongoing projects related to knowledge-based management, data policy, the harmonization of the Government’s steering policy, and administrative reforms. Foresight, long-term review, and the consistency of different policies have a key role for the impact of information.

Processing of complaints and reports of suspected misconduct

The National Audit Office processes complaints concerning compliance with the state budget, the lawfulness of central government finances, or election campaign and political party funding. It also processes reports of misconduct as laid down in section 16 of the of the Act on the National Audit Office (676/2000).

The estimated annual number of complaints concerning issues other than election campaign and political party funding is 30–40. Around half of these are processed as complaints. The goal is to resolve a complaint usually within three months of its submission. The NAOF can launch a compliance audit to resolve a complaint, in which case the goal is to resolve the complaint within six months.