The main objective of the project group established by the SAO is to widen the scope of the social utilisation of the audit work and to establish the necessary conditions for the possibilities of its measurement. As a result of the project, the supreme audit institutions can develop a modern and efficient set of tools for presenting their activity and providing information to the society, with which they are able to effectively draw the attention of the media, the citizens and further stakeholders. The work within the international project group is intense. The eight participating supreme audit institutions had filled in the second questionnaire, which investigates the relationship between SAIs and the legislation. The SAO of Hungary evaluated and summarized the results, which reveal the different communication types and the degree of utilisation between the SAIs and the legislative bodies.
International project for utilisation
In May 2017, the 10th Congress of the European Supreme Audit Institutions (EUROSAI) approved the new EUROSAI Strategic Plan for 2017-2023, one of the main elements of which is to increase the state audit offices' capacity to react to new challenges and opportunities and to support the capacity development of the institutions. Having expressed its commitment, the SAO has set up a social utilisation project group to fully meet this goal. Based on international audit standards (ISSAI 12, ISSAI 20), this project group uses various tools to find an answer to the question of what objective tools should be used on the various utilisation levels mapped to monitor the social utilisation of public finance audits.
Seven EUROSAI member states have joined the project (Albania, Finland, Croatia, Ireland, Romania, Switzerland and Latvia as observer). The aim of the SAIs is to reach the highest possible level of social utilisation of their audit work, share their relevant good practices, as well as to improve their possibilities and practices in this field. In order to achieve this goal, they consider ISSAI 20 on the "principles of transparency and accountability" and ISSAI 12 on "the value and benefits of supreme audit institutions – making a difference to the lives of citizens" as authoritative. ISSAI 20 and ISSAI 12 are documents issued by the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI).
Results of the second questionnaire
The main objective of the project group is to widen the scope of the social utilisation of the audit work and to establish the necessary conditions for the possibilities of its measurement, therefore the circulated questionnaires within the project group specifically target this area. The research question of the second questionnaire was how do SAIs communicate with their legislative bodies and to what extend do their audit recommendations and opinions utilise in this area.
Existence of specific quantitative and/or qualitative criteria in relation to the SAI's goals regarding parliamentary utilisation
SAIs are keen to set out goals regarding their activity. However, the measuring of compliance with these goals are often neglected. When SAIs create tangible and measurable qualitative or quantitative targets regarding their utilisation goals it becomes much easier to assess the effectiveness of these goals. SAIs of the project group reported that they mostly create targets to their goals. Only 12,5% of the SAIs reported that they do not have any quantitative or qualitative targets assigned to their goals
Communication types between the SAI and the Parliament
There can be many communication channels between SAIs and Parliaments. Based on the questionnaire there are several methods that are used by most SAIs, such as electronic provision of information to the Parliament or passive information gathering from the Parliament in order to optimise the parliamentary utilisation of the SAI. Many SAIs set up a separate organisational unit with the purpose of fulfilling parliamentary liaison tasks or maintaining electronic two-way communication with the Parliament. SAIs regularly represent themselves on parliamentary plenary and committee meetings to give and gather information.
Many SAIs do as much research as possible: they interactively collect information by conducting questionnaires and surveys to better understand the expectations of MEPs and the Parliament in general. Less SAIs choose the method of organising meetings with the representatives of the Parliament and even less have a consultation mandate (eg. to formulate opinion on legislation). There are very interesting cases where the Parliament has a specially designated committee where high ranking officials of the SAI are present to communicate audit results and report on the implementation of audit recommendations in presence of the audited entities.
Most of the members of the project group reported that the good practice of a separate Parliamentary Committee where SAI reports are being discussed is present in their country.
This practice can be beneficial for the SAI in multiple ways. Discussions of the reports in these committees put spotlight on the findings of the SAI in front of the representatives of legislation, the MEPs. With the professional insight of the auditors MEPs are able to gain first-hand information on the malpractice of public entities and thus be able to initiate the necessary legislative changes to avoid misuse.
International Relations Officer
State Audit Office of Hungary