The Austrian Court of Audit was hosting the Fourth Seminar of the EUROSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing. The thematic scope of this seminar covered waste, air pollution and renewable energy.
In general there was lively discussion in the workshops as well in plenary sessions. All through the topics of the seminar a need for more mutual information for creating international benchmarks even in national reports was stated.
Also the integration of external experts in audits on technical high level was discussed. There were many different approaches to that theme, ranging from regular cooperation with external experts to SAIs preferring their own expertise to avoid conflicts in evaluation and schedule when integrating externals into an audit team.
Another discussion covered the need to audit especially at the topics waste and air pollution entities at municipal and/or communal level. Some SAIs will have to deal with problems due to their mandate.
All the three topics of the seminar are good possibilities to cooperate, because waste as well as air pollution and renewable energy are topics with cross border issues, especially in a partly small structured continent like Europe is. Especially the audit of transboundary movements of waste is a challenge for SAIs, as national audits have been carried out already but there is a need on coordination of findings and recommendations at this topic as well as for coordinated audits. For EU member states coordinated audits may offer the possibility to compare not only the formal implementation of EU directives but give a chance to look at different interpretations of the same regulations by different governments and administrations. This question may be interesting for not EU members as well, especially when dealing with the technical level of the topics of the seminar in performance audits.
Another discussion covered the reliability of data and the questions, which standards should be applied. In this field cooperation between SAIs could also be helpful. Especially in the field of auditing waste management the participants agreed, that the standards and techniques get more and more similar on international level. This is a chance for SAIs to apply on common standards and to work on general cost models and their control systems in waste management.
Especially air pollution offers a huge variety to approach the topic. The possibilities are ranging from auditing strategic goals and concepts, implementation of concrete measures to auditing the efforts on diminishing the various emissions and their mutual influence. This includes value for money audits as well as financial and legality audits.
Participation in two projects of cooperation in audits was offered. SAI France will lead an audit covering the European system Natura 2000. Interested SAIs discussed the possibilities of cooperation and possible output as well as problems in scheduling the audits due to already approved audit plans for 2006. The project could be interesting for not EU members as well, because it will address general questions in implementation and organisation of programmes and measures at the topics nature protection and biodiversity, which are one of the main strategic issues of the valid working plan. This issue shall be topic at the next seminar.
SAI Austria will conduct audits on environmental costs in infrastructural projects like highway or railways. Partners were invited to carry out coordinated audits at the topic and/or to give support in exchange of reports and information at these topics. Several SAIs showed their interest in concrete audits as well as in mutual exchange of information at all levels.
In sum the seminar was very successful. It clearly showed not only the efforts in approaching new challenges in environmental auditing but also the positive development of this kind of audit in the last years. Many of the steps forward made by the participating SAIs have been influenced, motivated and supported by the Working Group.
The next seminar and meeting of the EUROSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing shall take place in Luxembourg in October 2006 and will be hosted by the European Court of Auditors.