The European Court of Auditors hosted the 4th EUROSAI WGEA members meeting which was held from 27 to 29 November 2006 in Luxembourg. The meeting was organized on the initiative and with a great support of the NIK (Poland) as the Group’s Co-ordinator.
Environmental Auditing Seminar
The aim of the seminar was the exchange of information and experiences in the selected environmental auditing areas.
The Seminar was divided into three plenary sessions.
The European Biodiversity (presentations by SAIs of Austria (1 and 2), Belgium, France (1 and 2), Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria, Croatia,Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and Switzerland). There was also questions prepared for discussion on NATURA 2000 and other biodiversity issues.
Flood Protection Auditing (presentations by SAIs of Belgium, European Court of Auditors, Poland (1 and 2), Russia, Ukraine and UK). There was also questions prepared for discussion.
Methodological lessons in environmental auditing (presentation by the European Court of Auditors and the SAI of Netherlands). There was also questions prepared for discussion. This session focused on evaluating effects of environmental measures. The reason for this focus on methodology is that INTOSAI performed a survey on Environmental Auditing in 2003. One of the results from this survey was that 49 percent of the SAIs from the EUROSAI-region said that they were expecting at least one barrier in performing environmental audits. Two main types of barriers were reported:
- lack of skills or expertise in the SAI,
- Insufficient government norms and standards, data on the state of the environment, and monitoring.
The results from the workshops were as following:
- Is it possible for SAIs to assess final results of government policies (outcome)?
In general, several SAIs have answered that they cannot audit policies in general, but the measures stemming from the policies.
Outcome of the measures is possible but often very difficult to audit. The solution is often to bring in external experts.
And that leads us to question 1:
a) Do the SAIs have the required capacity/knowledge to audit the outcome of government policies?
Very often no. Some SAIs has the resources to get help from external experts. For others, the budget does not allow for it.
An experience made is that in specific areas it can be possible to develop specific indicators, but the more general the topic, the more difficult it is to develop indicators by yourself.
b) Can external experts help SAIs audit the final results of government policies? Can the validity of the expert's data be relied on?
Yes, external experts can help, but as said before it is often a question of whether or not you have the resources to engage specialists.
Some SAIs pointed out that often it is not a matter of collecting brand new data, but using existing data. This makes it more affordable, although you might have to get help to interpret the data anyway.
Only one SAI commented on the validity of the data from experts: they had audited the agencies, and knew from that that the data can be relied upon.
Austria has made an experience with bringing in external expert into the audit team. This turned out to be costly, and not that useful as expected. Their advice is to make a set of questions, ask the experts opinion on them, and then go to the environment NGOs for feedback.
According to Malta there can also arise problems with the hability of the experts. Too strong dependence on experts` knowledge can make it hard to verify and validate their advice and/or work done.
UK has often got finished reports from the external experts, and has used them as an annex to the report, or as a data source.
In Norway we often get assistance from experts, for instance in compiling and interpreting data from different secondary sources.
Finally, Russia has used experts in elaborating criteria.
In general amongst those who have used external experts, the lesson is to bring in more than one expert. Both to make sure we have not chosen one specific "scientific school" and to have different experts on different subjects or issues.
c) Should SAIs rather confine them selves to audit intermediate results (output)?
In general no, but sometimes it’s the best we can do.
It is strongly dependent on the availability of data
- Can SAIs assess causality (policies leading to outcome)?
It varies with the area. Quite difficult, but sometimes the sum of different measures may say something about the overall effects of the policies on a said subject. In the Netherlands the audit on the ecological network showed that even the experts found it impossible to assess the causality between the instruments and the outcome (on biodiversity).
- Can the audit contribute to added value of government policies?
YES if we dare to make recommendations. Besides this, discussing preliminary findings can often add value even before the final report is published. The use of workshops and dinner party has proved useful for this. The aim of this session has been to shed some light on ways to evaluate effects of environmental measures. This has been done by sharing experiences and reaching a common understanding of the terms like output and outcome. This is a complex and quite new field for us all; therefore it is our hope that this discussion has been the start of a longer process that will make the SAIs more aware of the possibilities and shortcomings in auditing output and outcome of environmental measures. Maybe the process can be continued in the discussion on next years work plan?
Working Meeting on the “Parallel audit of the utilisation of international funds allocated for the elimination of the consequences of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl”
SAIs which had declared their interest in cooperation on this matter (Austria, ECA, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the Russian Federation , Slovakia, Switzerland, the UK and the Ukraine) took part the meeting.
Final decisions on initiating parallel audit of the utilization of international funds allocated for the elimination of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster were taken. The assembly formally established the Subgroup on the Audit of Natural and Man-Caused Disasters Consequences and Radioactive Wastes Elimination. The Subgroup will work within the EUROSAI WGEA structure and will be headed by the SAI of Ukraine. The main tasks and rules of functioning of the Subgroup (including the rules of Subgroup’s membership) are specified in Terms of Reference – the document approved in Luxembourg and being an integral part of the Resolution of the establishing the Subgroup the Resolution of the establishing the Subgroup.
See also the Ukrainian SAI's presentations on:
- Chernobyl disaster audit preparatory works,
- Further steps within the parallel audit of the utilization of international funds allocated for the elimination of the Chernobyl disaster consequences.
Basing on the introductory presentations delivered by the representatives of the Accounting Chamber of Ukraine on the Chernobyl Shelter Fund and on the activities taken so far to initiate the International Audit of it’s utilization, discussion on the possible involvement of individual SAIs was held. The participants of the meeting confirmed their interest in the suggested topic of the audit. They also raised the problem of having mandate to audit the utilization of Chernobyl Shelter Fund. by individual SAIs. Each interested SAI, as it was stated, will conduct the audit according to its mandate and individual programs. The audit will be conducted as a typical parallel ( not coordinated) audit.
At the end of the meeting the EUROSAI WGEA 2007 Workplan was approved.
At the end of the Luxembourg seminar joint report on MARPOL Convention Audit was presented and distributed. The reprt is a complitation of findings of seven national audits of marine pollution from ships. The audits were conducted between 2000 - 2003 by the supreme audits institutions of Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Toast on the finalysing works on joint audit report was offered in Luxembourg by the audit co-ordinator - the Netherlands.
Furthermore, the methodological approach to the audits of implementation of Kyoto Protocol commitments was selected as the main topic of the next year EUROSAI WGEA seminar in Bratislava (Slovakia).
In the closing speech of the EUROSAI WGEA Co-ordinator some ideas how to achieve still better work results of the Group’s, were put forward for consideration and further discussion. In the opinion of the Co-ordinator, the EUROSAI WGEA should:
- to a greater degree base its work on scientific research, and use research results to program future audit themes;
- make audit results and achievements better known to the public and improve cooperation with the media;
- win support from prestigious NGOs in order to exercise public pressure towards improving the effectiveness of audits;
- expand the cooperation with other regional Working Groups in particular the ASOSAI and ARABOSAI;
- simplify coordination of the Group’s work – the current model with six Sub – Coordinators seems to have lost its effectiveness. (It proved very
- useful at the beginning, but at present the Group should, in the opinion of the Co-ordinator, choose a simpler model for coordination);
- encourage its members to be more active in sharing information on audit plans and results by placing them on the EUROSAI WGEA webpage.
All members were asked to make comments and suggestions on the above topics and send them directly to the Secretariat of the Co-ordinator.