Interaction with European citizens - this is in the focus of the annual meeting of the supreme audit institutions of the European Union and the European Court of Auditors. The two-day meeting on 11-12 October 2018 is intended to provide a forum for EU SAIs to discuss current issues. On the first day PhD László Domokos, President of the State Audit Office of Hungary and Bálint Horváth, Head of the Communication and Institutional Relations Department in their joint presentation introduced the focus and facts of the proactive utilization activity of the SAO. In addition, the audience of the meeting looked at video showing comparisons of public opinion surveys on the public awareness and recognition of the SAO.
The Heads of supreme audit institutions of the European Union and of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) meet once a year in a meeting of the Contact Committee with the aim to discuss the current issues of mutual interest and the issues of EU audit-related issues. This year's meeting was opened by Ivan Klesic, President of the State Audit Office of Croatia, afterwards Grozdana Peric, Member of the Croatian Parliament welcomed the participants. Croatia is hosting the event for the first time, which is held every autumn.
The first sub-session of the meeting started with short presentation and panel discussions focusing on innovative products promoting communication with citizens and was followed by comments. The President of the Court of Audit of Slovenia, Tomaz Vesel, as being the moderator of the sub-session stressed that the essence of the activity of audit institutions is the interaction and the launch and maintenance of positive changes. As he said, it is essential that the national audit institutions carry out their work in the interests of citizens, and with this in mind, select their audit topics and submit their findings to taxpayers.
Ivica Tolic, representing the European Parliament, summed up the results of the European Union and the challenges facing the EU. As he said, the European community has overcome the economic crisis, European economies have been on the upswing, but in the global world economic competition, new challenges have to be faced by EU Member States. Representative of OECD SIGMA, Karen Hill, pointed out that the involvement of the public in the creation and implementation of each policy is essential, since it is the only way how the real needs of citizens can be assessed and their interests served. Laetitia Veriter, representative of Citizens for Europe, gave a lecture on the possible means of informing and involving citizens in decision-making processes and how they can support the activities of the supreme audit institutions.
The opening presentations was followed by a panel discussion. During the panel discussion representatives of the SAIs discussed the challenges SAIs are facing in the very rapidly changing environment, and also covered possible solutions. They concluded: while informing the public all actors should be taken into who represents the citizens. A common objective is to respond to the current challenges facing by the EU through taking into account the view of citizens, to seek for innovative tools by involving citizens and their representatives, and to strengthen the outcome, importance and legitimacy of the audit process.
Charles Deguara, Auditor General of the National Audit Office of Malta and Kay Scheller, President of the Federal Court of Audit of Germany as well as Klaus-Heiner Lehne, President of the European Court of Auditors were invited as keynote speakers of the panel. The latter speaker underlined that the decline of social trust in public and European institutions is a general phenomenon. The underlying causes lie in the economic crisis and in the migration crisis, he said. Citizens may feel that public and European organizations and institutions have failed to respond adequately to the problems that arose, so restoring confidence should be approached from the side of predictability and social utilization. “People need to be asked what they need and answers should be given to their problems, "the keynote speaker highlighted, adding that the Court should refrain from party politics, while retaining their independence, at the same time must endeavor to ensure that on the basis of their audit experience topics of public interest are timely addressed by the SAIs.
During sub-session 2a, President of the State Audit Office of Hungary and the Head of Communication and Institutional Relations held their presentation. PhD László Domokos emphasized that the SAO has renewed its communication activity based on international standards. As he said, SAO of Hungary put a great emphasis on the wide ranging utilization of its work, identifies its target groups and communicates messages to stakeholders through the use of innovative communication technologies. As what regards keeping contact with and the involvement of the citizens, PhD László Domokos highlighted preparations for the audit of the UN's sustainable goals. Bálint Horváth, Head of the Communication and Institutional Relations Department continued the presentation of the SAO's utilization practices and the indicators for measuring the results.
Bálint Horváth demonstrated through two case studies how proactive communication can contribute to the social recognition and strengthening of international reputation of an audit institution. By presenting the Open Budget Survey (OBS) survey, the SAO highlighted that even a relatively small energy investment can result in great achievements. Since the SAO has significantly improved its results over two years in this international survey assessing the budgetary transparency of countries. In addition, Bálint Horváth presented the experiences of Hungarian public opinion poll assessing the public recognition and reputation of the SAO, which revealed that public trust in the State Audit Office of Hungary has increased significantly in the last three years and the social awareness of the SAO has also improved.
In the afternoon session of the first day, participants could see a video session of innovative communication activities, results, and social dialogue. These included a video on the comparison of public opinion surveys on the public awareness and recognition of the State Audit Office of Hungary. The first day of the Contact Committee meeting of the Head of SAIs and of the European Court of Auditors was closed by discussing the current topics within the In Camera session of the Heads and the Liaison Officers.
Communication and Institutional Relations Department