Independent Supervisory Bodies

   

Does there exist an independent and effective audit office?

EUOECD
 
There exists an effective and independent audit office.
10
Australia
Under the Auditor-General Act 1997, the auditor-general is responsible for providing auditing services to parliament and other public sector entities. The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) supports the auditor-general, who is an independent officer of parliament. The ANAO’s purpose is to provide parliament with an independent assessment of selected areas of the public administration, and to provide assurance regarding public sector financial reporting, administration and accountability. This task is undertaken primarily by conducting performance and financial statement audits.
Citations:
https://www.anao.gov.au/about/auditor-general-and-office

https://www.aph.gov.au/~/~/link.aspx?_id=387AD00794BD41C39579392068D56CF9&_z=z
Austria
The Austrian Court of Audit (Rechnungshof) is an instrument of parliament. The office reports regularly to parliament, and parliament can order it to perform specific tasks. As a consequence, the parliamentary majority determines how to handle audit reports, and in cases of doubt, the majority inevitably backs the cabinet. Thus, the main vehicle by which to force the government to react in a positive way to audit reports is public opinion. If a specific audit report formulates a specific criticism, the government’s primary incentive to respond is its interest in preserving its public reputation.

The president of the Court of Audit is elected by parliament for the period of twelve years. This gives the president a certain degree of independence. At the moment of election by the National Council, he or she is the product of the majority. But as this figure cannot be reelected, and as parliamentary majorities often change in the course of 10 years, the president and his or her office in fact enjoy a significant degree of independence.

The elections of a new president for the court in 1992, 2004 and again in 2016 have underlined the possibility for opposition parties to impact these decisions due to the inability of coalition partners to unite behind a common candidate for the presidency.

One problem is the insufficient funding of the Austrian Court of Audit, while, at the same time, an increasing number of tasks are delegated to the court by the governing majority.

The Court of Audit demonstrated its independence once more when it asked critical questions concerning policies of the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition.
Citations:
The Court of Audit has already demonstrated its independence once more when it asked critical questions concerning policies of the OeVP-FPOe coalition.
Belgium
Established by the constitution (Article 180), the Court of Audit (Cour des Comptes/Rekenhof) is a collateral body of the parliament. It exerts external controls on the budgetary, accounting and financial operations of the federal state, the communities, the regions, the public-service institutions that depend upon them, and the provinces. Some public firms and non-profit organizations are also subject to review (for instance, the Flemish public-transportation firm De Lijn was audited in 2013). Its Court of Audit’s legal powers allow it considerable independence and broad autonomy to fulfill its mandate. The members of the Court of Audit are elected by parliament. The Court’s reports are public and presented to parliament along with the accounts of the state. The body regularly attracts media attention for its critical remarks regarding the management of public entities or services (such as over the roads in Wallonia).
Citations:
https://www.ccrek.be/EN/Presentation/Presentation.html

https://www.courdescomptes.be/EN/
Canada
The auditor general is appointed by parliament on the advice of the prime minister for a 10-year term. Once in place, however, auditor generals have virtually a free hand in deciding who to audit and when. The Office of the Auditor General is accountable to parliament, and the removal of an auditor general requires the approval of both the House of Commons and Senate. Instances when either parliament or its Public Accounts Committee were able to direct the work of the Office of the Auditor General are rare.
Denmark
The national audit office, Rigsrevisionen, is an independent institution under the authority of parliament. It examines the soundness of state accounts and assesses whether institutions have applied funds in the best possible ways. The Rigsrevisionen may initiate investigations on its own initiative, but more often on the request of the State Auditors (Statsrevisionerne), the parliamentary audit office. The work is made public via various reports, some of which also attract quite a lot of media attention. Its work is highly respected and can lead to policy action. This was seen recently, for instance, with the report on the principles for the valuation of housing underlying the tax levied on housing values (ejendomsværdiskatten). The issue of valuation of real estate for tax purposes remains a political issue in connection with the government’s 2025 plan.
Citations:
Hentik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret, 2.
Website of national audit office: http://www.rigsrevisionen.dk/ (accessed 20 October 2017).
Finland
Legislative accountability is advanced by the audit office, which is accountable to parliament. Formerly, parliamentary oversight of government finances was performed by parliamentary state auditors. However, this institution has been abolished. In its place is the parliamentary Audit Committee, which was created by combining the tasks performed by the parliamentary state auditors with the related functions of the administrative and audit section of the Finance Committee. The office of the parliamentary state auditors has also been replaced by the National Audit Office of Finland, which is an independent expert body affiliated to parliament. Its task is to audit the legality and propriety of the state’s financial arrangements and review compliance with the state budget. Specifically, the office is expected to promote the exercise of parliament’s budgetary power and the effectiveness of the body’s administration. It also oversees election and party funding. The office is directed by the auditor general, who is elected by parliament. With about 140 employees, the office is made up of the Financial and Compliance Audit Department, the Performance and Fiscal Policy Audit Department, the Executive Office, and the Administrative Unit. Covering long-term objectives, operational emphasis and strategic policies, the current audit strategy covers the period 2013 – 2020.
Citations:
“National Audit Office”; http://www.vtv.fi/en;
“The Audit Committee”, https://www.eduskunta.fi/EN/lakiensaataminen/valiokunnat/tarkastusvaliokunta/Pages/default.asp
Germany
The Federal Court of Audit (FCA) is a supreme federal authority and an independent public body. FCA members enjoy the same degree of independence as the members of the judiciary. Its task is to monitor the budget and the efficiency of state’s financial practices. It submits its annual report directly to the Bundestag, the government and the Bundesrat. The Bundestag and Bundesrat jointly elect the FCA’s president and vice-president, with candidates nominated by the federal government. According to the FCA’s website, around 1,200 court employees “audit the (state) account and determine whether public finances have been properly and efficiently administered,” while the FCA’s “authorized officers shall have access to any information they require” (Federal Budget Act Section 95 Para. 2). The reports receive considerable media attention.
Citations:
https://www.bundesrechnungshof.de
Iceland
Iceland’s National Audit Office is fully accountable to parliament. Considering its substantial human and financial resource constraints, the National Audit Office performs its functions quite effectively. These constraints, however, mean that a vast majority of the agencies under its jurisdiction have never been audited. No significant strengthening of the office’s financial resources occurred for several years, as its staff numbers were reduced from 49 in 2009 to 41 in 2015, a total of 16%. In 2016, the staff number was increased to 47.
Citations:
Ársskýrsla Ríkisendurskoðunar 2016. (Júní 2017). https://rikisendurskodun.is/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Arsskyrsla-RE-2016.pdf. Accessed 21 December 2018.
New Zealand
The controller and auditor general is appointed by the governor-general on the advice of parliament and is fully accountable to it. The Office of the Auditor General consists of the following departments: Accounting and Auditing Policy, Legal Group, Local Government, Parliamentary Group, Performance Audit Group and Research and Development. It is empowered to survey the central government and local governments. The legal basis is the Public Audit Act 2001.
Citations:
All about the Controller and Auditor General (Wellington: Office of the Auditor General 2012).
Norway
Norway has a national audit office, an independent statutory authority that is responsible to parliament. Its main task is to audit the use of government funds to ensure they are used according to parliamentary instructions. The audit office has around 500 employees and its governing council is made up of members of the main political parties. Decisions of the audit office have consistently been consensual.
Sweden
For a long time, Sweden was one of the few countries where the audit office reported to the government and not to the parliament. In order to conform to international standards, such as the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), this institutional arrangement was changed in 2003. For all intents and purposes, the audit office now reports to the parliament. The mandate and mission of the audit office is such that this represents the only chain of accountability. In this respect, the constitutional role and mandate of the audit office is now in harmony with INTOSAI standard.

The audit office underwent a major crisis during 2016, culminating with the resignation of the three national auditors. The crisis did not trigger a revision of the constitutional mandate of the audit office, but the parliament did point out that they wanted a “closer relationship” with the audit office. After the crisis was resolved and three new “national auditors” were appointed to lead the national audit office, the institution resumed its work. It now delivers high-quality audits and appears to exhibit the integrity and autonomy necessary to pursue its mission.
Citations:
www.riksrevisionen.se

Bringselius, L. (2013), Organisera oberoende granskning: Riksrevisionens första tio år (Lund: Studentlitteratur).

Bringselius, L. (ed.) (2017), Den statliga revisionen i Norden: forskning, praktik och politik (Lund: Studentlitteratur).
UK
The National Audit Office (NAO) is an independent office funded directly by parliament. Its head, the comptroller and auditor general, is an officer of the House of Commons. The NAO works on behalf of parliament and the taxpayer to scrutinize public spending and is accountable to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
USA
The General Accountability Office (GAO) is the independent nonpartisan agency of the U.S. Congress charged with auditing activities. It is responsive to Congress alone. The GAO undertakes audits and investigations upon the request of congressional committees or subcommittees, or as mandated by public laws or committee reports. The GAO also undertakes research under the authority of the Comptroller General. In addition to auditing agency operations, the GAO analyzes how well government programs and policies are meeting their objectives. It performs policy analyses and outlines options for congressional consideration. It also has a judicial function in deciding bid protests in federal procurement cases. In many ways, the GAO can be considered a policy-analysis arm of Congress.
9
Croatia
The Auditor General is elected by the parliament (Sabor) for an eight-year mandate and can be removed by the Sabor only if he or she is unable to conduct his or her work or is convicted for a criminal act. The Audit Office reports to the Sabor at the end of every fiscal year. It undertakes a broad range of audits and acts independently.
Ireland
The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (OCAG) reports to the lower house of parliament. The OCAG attends meetings of the lower house’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as a permanent witness. The results of the OCAG’s independent examinations are used for PAC enquiries.

The PAC’s effectiveness is enhanced by having the OCAG’s reports as a starting point, and in turn the OCAG’s scrutiny gains significantly in impact and effectiveness because its reports are considered by and used as a basis for action by the PAC. The PAC examines and reports to the lower house as a whole on its review of accounts audited by the OCAG. This process ensures that the parliament can rely on its own auditing processes and capacities.
Israel
The Knesset’s audit functions are divided between three main institutions: the State Comptroller, the State Audit Committee and the Knesset Internal Audit Department. However, the State Comptroller is independent and legally anchored in a basic law that acknowledges its importance. The Knesset audit committee is in charge of following up on reports issued by the State Comptroller. While the State Comptroller enjoys independence and adequate resources, it does not hold sanction power. Instead, its mandate ends with the submission of its findings and the establishment of an advisory committee for implementing its recommendations in the audited office. However, its responsibility to audit financial contributions during elections is accompanied by external judicial sanction powers.

The State Audit Committee’s chairman, MK Shelly Yachimovich, mentioned in a recent interview that, while reports that deal with important issues and failures don’t have much hope of repairing systemic problems, “reports that involve the ministers directly are of great concern to them,” even if the reports themselves don’t include any real sanction.

The law establishes the State Comptroller as exclusively accountable to the Knesset. Accordingly, while the judiciary’s budget is determined by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice, the State Comptroller’s budget is allocated by the Knesset’s finance committee. Some argue that the State Comptroller could benefit from further institutional independence, since current arrangements allow the Knesset to request an investigation into a specific area, for example. While understandable, this may undermine the office’s ability to set an independent agenda and strategic yearly plans.

In 2017, MK Bezalel Smotrich presented to the Knesset a bill to amend the State Comptroller Act of 1958, proposing to strip the comptroller of substantial authorities that in actuality cement his independence. The most important of these authorities is the State Comptroller’s authority to choose any topic or field to audit that was not specified in this act. At the time of writing, the bill is still awaiting its preliminary reading in the plenum. The State Audit Committee’s chairman, MK Yachimovich, mentioned in that same interview that, in addition to this bill, “there are a lot of schemes and intentions of audited corpora [lit. factors] to sterilize the comptroller.”
Citations:
Avital, Tomer, “The State Comptroller: In recent years there has not been actual auditing of the Knesset’s administration,” Calcalist 11.5.2010: http://www.calcalist.co.il/local/articles/0,7340,L-3404250,00.html (Hebrew).

Bezalel Smotrich. Serial number: P/20/4167. Internal number: 2010953. Placed in the Knesset’s plenum on May 8th, 2017. (Hebrew). Full text: https://www.nevo.co.il/law_html/law04/20_lst_383235.htm (most specifically article 1, “Amendment of Article 10,” clause 1)

Gideon, Alon. “‘There Are Schemes of the Audited to Sterilize the State Comptroller,” Israel Hayom, October 22nd, 2018, p. 21. (Hebrew)

Israel. The Knesset. Bill of the State Comptroller Act (Amendment – Reporting of Correction of Deficiencies), 2017.

“Law Bill.” In the Knesset’s official website (regarding “Bill of the State Comptroller Act (Amendment – Reporting of Correction of Deficiencies),” by Bezalel Smotrich). Last seen: October 24th, 2018. (Hebrew). https://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Legislation/Laws/Pages/LawBill.aspx?t=lawsuggestionssearch&lawitemid=2010953.

Tamir, Michal, “The State Comptroller: A critical look,” Israel Democracy Institute. (2009). (Hebrew).

The State Comptroller Act, 1958 [Integrated Edition [or Version]] (Hebrew) (most specifically article 10, “The Audit’s Magnitude,” clause A, reference 3)

The State Comptroller and Ombudsman of Israel website, http://www.mevaker.gov.il/En/Pages/default.aspx
“Basic Law: The State Comptroller, passed by the Knesseth on February 15, 1988,” text (English), http://www.mevaker.gov.il/En/Laws/Documents/Laws-Basic-law.pdf
Luxembourg
The Chamber of Auditors was upgraded in 1999 to become the Court of Auditors which manages the finances of the state administration. While keeping a low profile, the court effectively controls government spending, including that of ministries, public administration and other state services. It can audit the use of public funds and subsidies granted to public and private entities. The court essentially controls the effectiveness and efficiency of public spending, yet it is not authorized to express its opinion on the political wisdom of public spending. Its scrutiny completes the ongoing work done by internal auditors in each ministry. Furthermore, the court’s main interlocutor is parliament and undertakes cases voluntarily or through parliamentary instruction.
Citations:
Annual reports and special reports are available at:
“Rapports.” Cour des comptes du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg. http://www.cour-des-comptes.lu/fr/rapports.html. Accessed 23 Oct. 2018.
Malta
The National Audit Office is an independent institution, reports exclusively to parliament and is charged with scrutinizing the fiscal performance of public administration. Both the auditor general and his deputy are appointed by a resolution of the House, which requires the support of no less than two-thirds of all of its members. The auditor general enjoys constitutional protection. The Public Accounts Committee has limited means at its disposal and depends on the audit office for support. Referrals by the prime minister and parliament to investigate matters that fall into his competence have been regular and increasing in recent years. The office audits all central government ministries and local government as well as publishes special reports on key and often controversial policy areas (currently higher education and health).
Citations:
2013 A Challenging year for the National Audit Office. Malta Today 12/03/14
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150731/local/national-audit-office-investigation-requests-quadruple.578701
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20151119/local/PM-welcomes-NAO-s-inquiry-on-visa-claim.592668
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160202/local/nao-stands-by-its-findings-in-gaffarena-scandal.600970
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160627/local/spend-more-on-primary-health-care-nao-urges-government.616991
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20151110/local/NAO-finds-25-permits-issued-just-before-poll.591562
Report by the Auditor General on the public accounts 2016
Annual Report on the working of local government 2016
Performance audit: outpatient waiting at Mater Dei hospital
Ombudsman annual report 2016
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20171215/opinion/Eventful-year-for-NAO-Charles-Deguara.665670
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20171114/local/most-nao-recommendations-addressed.663116
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20181008/local/audit-office-adopts-new-strategy-to-improve-governance.691098
Slovenia
According to Article 150 of the Slovenian constitution, the Court of Audit is the supreme auditing authority in all matters of public spending. The Court of Audit is an independent authority accountable exclusively to parliament. The Court of Audit scrutinizes the performance of national and local governments and all legal persons established or owned by them. The chairman and the two vice-chairmen are elected by the parliament for nine years – on the basis of secret ballots – and the office reports regularly and whenever requested to the parliament. The Court of Audit has far-reaching competencies and enjoys a good reputation and high public trust. Its reports have impact on the policymaking process and its criticisms are mostly regarded as positive. However, its position is somewhat limited by a lack of both financial and human resources. While it can propose its own budget to the legislature, the ultimate decision regarding the Court’s resources rests with parliament.
Switzerland
Switzerland’s Audit Office is an independent and autonomous body. It supports the Federal Assembly and the Federal Council through the production of analyses and reports. The chairman of the Audit Office is elected by the Federal Council; this election must be confirmed by the Federal Assembly. In administrative terms, the Audit Office falls under the authority of the Department of Finance.

The Audit Office acquired a very independent and self-confident role in the recent case of the politically controversial export of arms to war-prone regions. It has harshly criticized the federal administration as being insufficiently critical and working too closely with representatives from the arms industry.
Citations:
NZZ 4. Sept. 2018

https://www.efk.admin.ch/images/stories/efk_dokumente/publikationen/_wirtschaft_und_verwaltung/wirtschaft_und_landwirtschaft/17159/17159BE_WiK_d.pdf

https://www.efk.admin.ch/images/stories/efk_dokumente/publikationen/_wirtschaft_und_verwaltung/wirtschaft_und_landwirtschaft/17159/17159BE_Endg%C3%BCltige_Fassung_V04.pdf
 
There exists an effective and independent audit office, but its role is slightly limited.
8
Bulgaria
The Audit Office underwent complete overhauls in both 2014 and 2015 through adoption, in both years, of completely new Audit Office Acts, changing the office’s governance structure in its entirety. In both cases, the new laws served as an excuse for the early termination of the mandates of the existing audit office leadership. While the present governance structure, established with the act of 2015, has made the office more professional than in the past, the repeated changes have undermined the independence and credibility of the audit office.

Since 2015, the Audit Office has performed its tasks in a clear and professional manner with a high degree of openness and has made its findings available to the general public. Under the present framework, the Audit Office’s capacity to contribute to the improvement of the effectiveness of government expenditures and assessment of the overall impact of different policies remains severely underutilized. Its effectiveness has also suffered from the fact that it is not vested with sufficient powers to act based on its findings. Such powers are reserved for government bodies with dubious reputations, such as the prosecution service.
Chile
Chile’s General Comptroller (Contraloría General de la República) has far-reaching competences, and is invested with strong political and legal independence. The officeholder is nominated by the president and must be approved by a three-fifths majority vote in the Senate. The comptroller has oversight power over all government acts and activities, and investigates specific issues at the request of legislators serving in the Chamber of Deputies. The office presents an annual report simultaneously to the National Congress and the president. The National Congress has the right to challenge the constitutionality of the comptroller’s work.
Czechia
The Supreme Audit Office (Česká republika Nejvyšší kontrolní úřad, NKÙ) is an independent agency which audits the management and performance of state property, institutions and the national budget. In doing so, it has also paid special attention to examining the financial resources provided to Czechia from the EU budget. The functioning of the NKÙ is regulated by the constitution, whereby the president and vice-president of the NKÙ are appointed for the period of nine years by the president of Czechia, based on proposals from the lower house of parliament. In addition, the NKÙ prepares at the request of the Chamber of Deputies, the government and individual ministries, comments and opinions on proposed legal regulations, especially those concerning the budget, accounting, statistics, auditing, tax and inspection activities. On the basis of the identified shortcomings, the NKÙ regularly analyzes the weaknesses of the budgetary process and formulates recommendations. In 2017, the Audit Committee of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of Czechia discussed 12 audit conclusions. The government considered 28 audits and implemented 220 NKÙ recommendations.
France
Parliament does not have its own audit office, except for a special body called the Office Parlementaire d’Évaluation des Choix Scientifiques et Technologiques, which is responsible for analyzing and evaluating the impact of technology. In practice, its role has been rather limited.

Instead, the Court of Accounts is now at the disposal of any parliamentary request and can act both as auditor and adviser. While much progress could be made to fully exploit this opportunity, it is noticeable that collaboration between the two institutions has improved since the Court’s presidency was offered to two prestigious former politicians. Improvements also resulted from the decision by former President Sarkozy to appoint the then chairman of the finance and budget committee of the National Assembly to the post, a position which for the first time had been reserved for the opposition party. Actually, the role of the court has dramatically changed, from a mere control of accounts to a full evaluation of public policies.
Lithuania
The National Audit Office is accountable to the parliament and the president. The auditor general is appointed by the parliament based on a nomination by the president. The parliament’s Committee on Audit considers financial-, compliance- and performance-audit reports submitted by the office, and prepares draft parliamentary decisions relating to the implementation of audit recommendations. The office also cooperates with other parliamentary committees. The leaders of the parliamentary Committee on Audit at one time used audit reports for political purposes, especially after an opposition-party member was appointed to head it. Over the last few years, the National Audit Office criticized the government’s draft budgets for their lack of compliance with fiscal-discipline provisions and poor allocation of government expenditure. However, these criticisms were largely ignored by members of parliament or ministerial officials. In its 2018 report to the parliament (Seimas), the National Audit Office reported that 60% of its recommendations have been implemented, 25% of its recommendations faced delays during implementation, and a remaining 15% of recommendations have not reached their implementation deadlines yet. The National Audit Office was ranked as the best state institution in 2016 by the Lithuanian journal Veidas due to its representation of state interests, competence and exceptional performance. Recently, the new head of the National Audit Office reinforced activities engaging the broader public and experts in debating the state budget, both to educate citizens and increase the political importance of the recommendations provided by the office.
Mexico
The federal Superior Audit Office (ASF) was set up in 2001 to help the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the National Congress, and it has technical and managerial autonomy. In practice, the audit office shows a high degree of independence, but little sanctioning power. The audit office is accountable to parliament exclusively. Over the last decade, the audit office has become stronger in technical terms, but remains incapable of fully covering all relevant topics. A central problem remains impunity.
Portugal
The Tribunal de Contas or Supreme Audit Office (SAO) is totally independent of the Assembly of the Republic and the executive. It is part of the judicial system, on an equal level with the rest of the judicial system.
Romania
The Court of Accounts is an independent institution in charge of conducting external audits on the propriety of money management by state institutions. Parliament adopts the budget proposed by the court’s plenum and appoints the court’s members, but cannot remove them. The court president is appointed by parliament for a nine-year term from among the counselors of account. Thus, while court presidents tend to be appointed on a partisan basis, they are not always representing the current parliamentary majority. The court submits to parliament annual and specific reports that are debated in the legislature after being published in the Official Gazette. The annual public report articulates the court’s observations and conclusions on the audited activities, identifies potential legal infringements and prescribes measures. The appointment of Mihai Busuioc, who has been close to PSD leader Dragnea, as new court president in mid-October 2017 has raised concerns about its independence. These concerns have been aggravated by parliamentary proposals to alter the Court’s remit and to render it more amenable to the will of the government. President Iohannis referred the legislation to the Constitutional Court in July 2018. The European Commission has threatened to freeze EU funds.
7
Italy
General auditing functions are conducted in Italy by the Court of Accounts (Corte dei Conti), which oversees all administrative activities. The court regularly reports its findings to the parliament, but cannot be said to be accountable to the parliament as it is an independent judicial body. The court can review ex ante the legitimacy of executive acts (although its decisions can be overruled by the government), and is responsible for the ex post review of the management of the state budget. The court oversees the financial management of publicly funded bodies. It is protected from political influence; its judges remain in office until they are 70 years old, and cannot be removed without cause. Judges are nominated through national competitive exams, and members of the court nominate the court president. The court has a highly skilled professional staff. Citizens may access court decisions via the internet, at no cost, shortly after decisions are rendered.

In April 2014, the parliament created the Parliament Budgetary Office (Ufficio parlamentare di bilancio), which is tasked with assessing the government’s macroeconomic and fiscal forecasts and monitoring compliance with national and European fiscal rules. This new body plays a particularly important role during the budgetary session, and enables the parliament to have its own independent source of information in evaluating government proposals. In 2016 and again in 2018, this office demonstrated its increased independence by openly contesting some of the government’s economic forecasts.
Poland
Poland’s Supreme Audit Office (Naczelna Izba Kontroli, NIK) is an efficient and effective institution whose independence is respected. It is accountable exclusively to the Sejm. The NIK chairperson is elected by the Sejm for six years, ensuring that his or her term does not coincide with the term of the Sejm. The Senate has to approve the Sejm’s decision. The Supreme Audit Office has wide-ranging competencies and is entitled to audit all state institutions, government bodies and local-government administrative units, as well as corporate bodies and non-governmental organizations that pursue public contracts or receive government grants or guarantees. The NIK can initiate monitoring proceedings itself or do so at the request of the Sejm, its bodies or its representatives (e.g., the speaker of the Sejm, the national president or the prime minister). The office is also responsible for auditing the state budget. For the first time ever, in September 2016, the Sejm did not approve the annual report of the Supreme Audit Office (NIK) – 226 members of parliament voted to reject the report, while 193 voted in favor of it and 10 abstained. This was a clear signal that the PiS government wants to get rid of NIK governor Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, who had been appointed under the previous government, and whose term runs until August 2019. Between November 2016 and April 2017, 13 members of the NIK council saw their terms in office expire. However, the Sejm speaker was very slow to appoint the proposed new members, which has hindered the NIK’s ability to review the state budget. This delay has been widely perceived as an attempt to obstruct the NIK’s functioning. The fact that the NIK actually works professionally was shown by its top showing in a competition for the rights to supervise the OECD’s financial management.
Netherlands
The Netherlands’ General Audit Chamber is the independent organ that audits the legality, effectiveness and efficiency of the national government’s spending. The court reports to the States General and government, and its members are recommended by the States General and appointed by the Council of Ministers. Parliament frequently consults with this institution and in many cases this leads to investigations. Investigations may also be initiated by ministers or deputy ministers. However, such requests are not formal due to the independent status of the General Audit Chamber. Requests by citizens are also taken into account. Every year, the chamber checks the financial evaluations of the ministries. Chamber reports are publicly accessible and can be found online and as parliamentary publications (Kamerstuk). Through unfortunate timing in view of (more) important political developments, in recent years such evaluations played only a minor role in parliamentary debates and government accountability problems. By selecting key issues in each departmental domain, the General Audit Chamber hopes to improve its efficacy as instrumental advice. In addition, there is an evident trend within the chamber to shift the focus of audits and policy evaluations from “oversight” to “insight.” In other words, the chamber is shifting from ex post accountability to ongoing policy-oriented learning. Unfortunately, this has been accompanied by a substantial reduction in resources for the Audit Chamber, resulting in a loss of 40 full-time employees and the need to outsource research frequently.
Citations:
http://www.rekenkamer.nl/Over_de_Algemene_Rekenkamer

P. Koning, Van toezicht naar inzicht, Beleidsonderzoek Online, July 2015

Algemene Rekenkamer, Een toekomstbestendige Algemene Rekenkamer, 13 October 2016 (rekenkamer.nl, consulted 10 November 2016)

Algemene Rekenkamer, Ambtelijke baas Algemene Rekenkamer naar Authorities Financiële Mededinging, Nieuwbericht 28 August 2017
6
Greece
The audit office is an institution formally independent of the government and the parliament. It is both a court that intervenes to resolve disputes related to the implementation of administrative law (e.g., civil service pensions) and a high-ranking administrative institution supervising expenses incurred by ministries and public entities.

The staff of the audit office is composed of judges who enjoy the same tenure and follow a comparable career path comparable to other judges. The audit office submits to the parliament an annual financial statement and the state’s balance sheet. Submissions of some of these financial statements have been delayed. For example, as of late 2018, the most recent financial statements available were those concerning 2014.

As in the case of selecting high-ranking judges, the government selects and appoints the audit office’s president and vice-presidents. Nonetheless, the audit office has detached itself from government control. For example, in June 2017 the audit office declared the freezing of civil servants’ pensions unconstitutional, a measure which had been part of the incumbent government’s plan to consolidate the state’s finances.

In early 2017, precautionary control of state finances was abolished and the office can now conduct “focused” audits into certain agencies or categories of expenses. It remains to be seen if this change will help upgrade transparency in Greece’s public sector.
Citations:
Information on the Greek audit office in English is available at www.elsyn.gr
Hungary
The Hungarian State Audit Office (ÁSZ) is accountable only to the parliament. The Orbán government has used its parliamentary majority to take control of this body by appointing a former Fidesz parliamentarian to head the institution, and also by replacing other top officials. Nevertheless, the ÁSZ has monitored part of the government’s activities rather professionally. In its campaign for the 2018 elections, the government instrumentalized the ÁSZ by bringing it to investigate the finances of some opposition parties, so as to complicate their campaigning.
Japan
The Board of Audit of Japan is considered to be independent of the executive, legislative and judiciary. Its yearly reports to the cabinet are forwarded to the Diet along with the cabinet’s own financial statements. The board is free to direct its own activities but parliament can request audits on special topics. The Board is also able to present opinions, reports and recommendations in between its annual audit reports. In these reports, the board frequently criticizes improper expenditures or inefficiencies, fulfilling its independent watchdog function.

In the case of the Moritomo Gakuen scandal, a deal involving the transfer of state-owned land in which the prime minister himself and his wife have been implicated, the board submitted an interim report to the Diet in June 2018. This contained very serious allegations of misconduct in the Ministry of Finance.
Citations:
Colin Jones, Japan’s Board of Audit: unlikely guardians of the Constitution?, The Japan Times, 4 December 2016, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/12/04/issues/japans-board-audit-unlikely-guardians-constitution/

A school of hard knocks. A persistent scandal ensnares Japan’s prime minister, The Economist, 15 March 2018, https://www.economist.com/asia/2018/03/15/a-persistent-scandal-ensnares-japans-prime-minister-again

Atsushi Takahashi and Kosuke Tauchi, Board of Audit blasts ministry over ‘illegal’ falsified files, The Asahi Shimbun, 20 June 2018, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201806200043.html
Slovakia
The Supreme Audit Office of the Slovak Republic (NKÚ) is an independent authority accountable exclusively to the National Council. The chairman and the two vice-chairmen are elected by the National Council for seven years each, and the office reports regularly and whenever requested by the council. There is an informal agreement that the chairman should be proposed by the opposition. After NKÚ Chairman Ján Jasovský’s term expired in 2012, Fico’s Smer-SD successfully prevented the election of a new chairman four times. In May 2015, the National Council eventually elected a new chairman, Karol Mitrík. While Mitrík was suggested by one of the opposition parties, he did not muster the support of the majority of the opposition. While the NKÚ has been active, its findings have often been conspicuously inconclusive. In a number of sensitive cases, such as overpriced cultural events and dubious commissions during Slovakia’s EU presidency in the second half of 2016 or the suspicious allocation of EU funds for farmers in the Nitra Region, the NKÚ has found no crimes, but only “flaws.” This recurrent pattern has raised some doubts about its independence from the government.
Citations:
Nemec, J. (2018): Slovakia, in: N. Thijs, G. Hammerschmid (eds.), Public Administration Characteristics and Performance in EU28. Luxemburg: European Union, 899-900 (https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/a7c9b4c2-960 f-11e8-8bc1-01aa75ed71a1/language-en).
Spain
The Audit Office (Tribunal de Cuentas) is accountable primarily to parliament, but is not an integral part of it. The Audit Office exercises the function of auditing the state’s accounts and the financial management of the entire public sector. However, even if this organ is envisaged by the constitution as a powerful one, parliament cannot fully rely on its auditing capacities. Public accounts are submitted annually to the Audit Office, which sends an annual statement of its auditing activities to the parliament, identifying where applicable any infringements that in its opinion may have been committed, or any liabilities that may have been incurred. Most state public-sector organizations deliver their accounts to the Audit Office for inspection, although many of them do so with delays. As a consequence, the annual audit statements are also published very late. The office’s members are appointed by a qualified majority agreement between the parties, and thus may not be sufficiently independent – particularly when auditing the political parties’ accounts. The Audit Office has in the past been slow to investigate the big financial scandals engulfing the political parties (see “Party Financing”), and has faced accusations not only of inefficiency but also of nepotism when hiring its own staff. In addition, most autonomous regions have also established courts of audit for their devolved competences.
Citations:
Tribunal de Cuentas (2018), Annual audit programme - https://www.tcu.es/tribunal-de-cuentas/en/fiscalizacion/Plan_Programa/programa-anual/
 
There exists an independent audit office, but its role is considerably limited.
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Cyprus
The auditor general is a constitutionally independent officer appointed by and reporting to the president, the highest authority in the republic. The office is equivalent to that of a Supreme Court justice. The auditor general presents an annual report to the president, who “shall cause it to be laid” before the parliament. This informs the parliament about the audit’s findings. The auditor general is regularly invited to parliamentary committee hearings. The constitution provides that the audit office reviews “all disbursements and receipts, and audit and inspect all accounts of moneys and other assets administered, and of liabilities incurred, by or under the authority of the republic.” This gives it oversight authority over all three estates, local governments and the broader public sector. The current auditor general’s involvement in recent incidents indicate disrespect for impartiality and have damaged the authority of the institution.
Citations:
1. Our View: Auditor general’s put downs for personal glory only, opinion Cyprus Mail, 6 December 2017, https://cyprus-mail.com/2017/12/06/view-auditor-generals-put-downs-personal-glory
Estonia
The National Audit Office (NAO) is an independent institution defined by the national constitution. According to the constitution, the NAO is not a part of any branch of power, rather it must remain independent. Although the reports of the NAO are aimed at the national parliament, the government and the public, the parliament remains the first client. The Auditor General annually reports to the parliament on the use of public funds and on government budgetary discipline and spending.
Latvia
The State Audit Office is Latvia’s independent and collegial supreme audit institution. The office is constitutionally independent of parliament and the executive. It reports to parliament, which has full access to all audit findings. However, the State Audit Office does not audit the parliament itself. The parliament’s Public Expenditure and Audit Committee has this responsibility. Additionally, the parliament has commissioned an external financial audit every year since 2012. In 2012, NGOs and citizens called for the parliament to subject itself to an external audit, performed either by the State Audit Office or an independent auditor, which in addition to addressing financial issues would focus on the effectiveness, efficiency and economy of the body’s operations and processes. The speaker of parliament publicly rejected these proposals. A citizens’ petition was circulated in 2012 aiming to place the issue on the parliamentary agenda but failed to achieve the 10,000 signatures needed.


In order to promote the responsibility of officials and company managers for their decisions, the State Audit Office has frequently called for amendments to the law, which would enable the State Audit Office to impose financial penalties on officials who have wasted state funds. The law has been under discussion in the parliament since 2015, with repeated calls from the State Audit Office to solve the issue.
Citations:
1. OECD (2009), Review on Budgeting in Latvia, p. 204 and 223, Available at: http://www.oecd.org/countries/latvia/46051679.pdf, Last assessed: 05.01.2019

2. Valts Kalniņšš (2011), Assessment of National Integrity System, p.116, Published by DELNA, Available at: http://www.transparency.org/whatwedo/pub/national_integrity_system_assessment_latvia, Last assessed: 05.01.2019
South Korea
The Board of Audit and Inspection is a national-level organization tasked with auditing and inspecting the accounts of state and administrative bodies. It is a constitutional agency that is accountable to the president. It regularly reports to the parliament. The National Assembly regularly investigates the affairs of the audit office, as it does with other ministries. Demands to place the audit office under the leadership of the National Assembly, thus strengthening the institution’s autonomy, have gained parliamentary support. However, tired of repeated political gridlocks and political confrontations, civil-society organizations have instead proposed making the audit office independent. In its revised constitutional-reform bill, the Moon government too has proposed making the audit office independent.
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Turkey
According to Article 160 of the constitution, the Turkish Court of Accounts (TCA) is charged on behalf of the Grand National Assembly with auditing all accounts related to revenues, expenditures and properties of government departments that are financed by the general or subsidiary budgets. The court’s auditing capacity was limited by the Law 6085 in 2010, but the Constitutional Court annulled Article 79 regulating how the TCA would audit the accounts of public institutions. In December 2012, the Constitutional Court also annulled the provision limiting performance auditing. Currently, the TCA has three functions: auditing, financial trials and reporting. It conducts regulatory audits and performance audits. Contrary to the Constitutional Court’s decision, the current law prohibits the TCA to conduct a propriety audit.


The court’s audit reports for 2017 also revealed several improper financial transactions, corrupt procedures and processes across various public institutions, including government ministries, the Directorate of Religious Affairs, TÜBİTAK, universities, and municipalities governed by AKP and CHP. It is claimed that financial irregularities in Istanbul metropolitan municipality and its annex institutions reached up to €125.5 million (TRY 753 million).

The TCA reports to parliament, but is not accountable to parliament. The president and the members of the TCA are elected by the parliament among the graduates of universities or higher education institutions of law, political science, economics and administrative sciences who have served at least 16 years in public service. The auditors are selected from among the university graduates of the same fields to the service by multilevel written and oral examinations. If a criminal act is found during the audits and investigations, the relevant auditor notifies the president of the TCA immediately. If a public criminal case is required, the chief prosecutor of the TCA sends the documents either to the relevant public authority or to the chief public prosecutor of the republic (highest prosecutors of the country).
The Turkey Wealth Fund is subject to independent audit and will be audited for the first time by the parliamentary Plan and Budget Commission in November 2018. The fund is under the scope of the court’s audit.

According to the TI Defense A-C Index, the Turkish parliament has limited-to-no formal powers to oversee defense spending. The parliament cannot formally oversee the defense budget, monitor procurement or scrutinize the military’s commercial activities.

The European Commission has recommended that Turkey develop an effective monitoring system in the TCA to follow up implementation of auditors’ recommendations.
Citations:
European Commission Turkey Report 2018, https://ec.europa.eu/…/sites/…/20180417-turkey-report.pdf, (accessed 27 October 2018)
TC Sayıştay Başkanlığı 2017 Yılı Faaliyet Raporu, https://www.sayistay.gov.tr/tr/Upload/76662805/files/SAYI%C5%9ETAY%202017%20YILI%20FAAL%C4%B0YET%20RAPORU(1).pdf (accessed 27 October 2018).
“Sayıştay haberleri,” https://odatv.com/tag/Say%C4%B1%C5%9Ftay (accessed 20 November 2018)
Fikret Şimşek, “Sayıştay nasıl etkisizleştirildi?” https://www.birgun.net/haber-detay/sayistay-nasil-etkisizlestirildi-235978.html (accessed 20 November 2018)

Transparency International Government Defense Anti Corruption Index, Turkey 2015Country Summary, http://government.defenceindex.org/downloads/docs/turkey.pdf (accessed 27 October 2015).
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There does not exist an independent and effective audit office.
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