Audit operations: Sustainable Governance and Public Administration

The themes of the development of public administration and sustainable development are linked with many administrative branches and activities. The key focus areas relate to the unity of the Government, the functioning and renewal of management and steering systems, competence development, and the use of information in decision-making.

One of the NAOF’s strategic goals is producing 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. The need for reliable information is underlined by reforms of the public administration and the steering system, the aim to achieve a more unified and efficient public administration, and the preparedness for future challenges.

The themes related to the development of public administration and sustainable development are horizontal and linked with many administrative branches and activities. The key focus areas relate to the unity of the Government, the functioning and renewal of management and steering systems, the use of information in decision-making, and competence development. In our audits and other activities, we aim at strong future orientation and a development approach; our aim is to support organizations in preparing for future challenges and carrying out reforms. The activities of 2021 will be impacted by the special administrative arrangements and challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic, which will also affect the selection of audit topics and the implementation of audits.

The audit topics of 2021 will include the challenges of multi-steering in situations where organizations are steered by several ministries. We will also audit mergers and other organizational changes, the use of operating environment and foresight information in decision-making, and recruitments and competence development in central government. In addition, we will produce information on topical issues related to sustainable development of public administration by analysing and combining previously produced audit information and other information. Examples of this kind of information include a report on mining policy as well as topical articles and addresses.

We will continue our close interaction with our national and international stakeholders in order to identify the key focus areas of the coming years and define the NAOF’s special role in relation to other organizations and actors working with the same themes. In the selection of the topics and perspectives and in the targeting of our activities, a key role is played by topical reforms and phenomena, and especially by foresight, long-term review, and policy coherence.

Sustainable development and auditing

Ecological, social and economic sustainability requires systematic long-term actions by society as a whole. Effective steering instruments and holistic management are required to support this. 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 listed its own actions in its report in 2020.

Sustainable development perspectives, particularly those of the UN’s 2030 Agenda and the national sustainable development goals, are linked to the NAOF’s work. The National Audit Office monitors the promotion of the SDGs in central government. The use of state funds, steered by the Government Programme Implementation Plan, is directly included in the NAOF’s audit mandate. The NAOF will assess whether the Government’s annual report provides a true and fair view of the use of funds 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 “The state’s climate financing to developing countries”, we will examine the financing reported by the State of Finland to conferences of parties to climate change conventions, the procedures for assessing the climate impacts of financing, and the effectiveness of the steering system. The audit results will be published in 2021. 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 the future workforce and the expectations set for it. 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. The audit results will be published in the spring of 2021.

Processing of complaints and reports of suspected misconduct

The National Audit Office processes complaints submitted to it concerning compliance with the state budget, the lawfulness of the management 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.

Citizens’ contacts help us to recognize changes in the operating environment, to select audit topics, and to plan communications and auditing.