Environmental auditing aims to promote more effective environmental policies

Between 2020 and 2025, the National Audit Office of Finland (NAOF) chairs the global INTOSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing (WGEA), which supports and develops environmental auditing. The WGEA aims to promote the societal impacts of environmental policy as well as more efficient use of public funds.

As the chair of the WGEA, the National Audit Office of Finland has developed the working group’s activities by, for example, increasing stakeholder cooperation, introducing new publication and webinar concepts, and drawing up a longer-term strategy for the WGEA. The number of WGEA members has increased, and the members now include 82 Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs).

Global cooperation is particularly well suited to environmental issues, as the concerns related to them are transboundary in nature. Many challenges are therefore addressed through international agreements. The latest UN-level agreement process concerns plastic pollution.

The WGEA has recently published five new reports, which provide inspiration and practical support for audit work.

Plastic waste management has become a common audit topic

Global awareness of the plastic waste problem has increased only recently. Concerns are raised particularly by single-use plastics and the impacts of microplastics on the environment and human health.

A report coordinated by the SAI of India presents the problem with plastics and different ways to audit plastic waste management. The audits conducted around the world deal with, for example, plastic mulch films in agricultural use, recycling, and global trade in plastic waste.

The effectiveness of climate finance is hard to measure

Under the Paris Agreement, industrialised countries have undertaken to finance climate measures in developing countries annually by USD 100 billion. According to a report on climate finance, prepared under the leadership of the SAI of the United States, it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of climate finance. This is because, for example, there are no unambiguously defined criteria for calculating the finance and many countries lack clear objectives for climate finance. On the other hand, the amount of climate finance alone does not tell much about the effectiveness of the finance.

The report also deals with audit criteria that enable SAIs to assess climate finance. The NAOF’s performance audit on climate finance is included in the report.

The concept of sustainable transport could mainstream environmental perspectives

Transport has many environmental impacts. A report compiled by the SAIs of Indonesia, China and Thailand deals with sustainable transport. The report aims to open up the concept to auditors and presents an audit model for familiarising auditors with the concerns, identifying and prioritising audit topics, and developing audit objectives, questions and methods.

The publication also aims to find readers from among transport sector auditors and thereby to mainstream the environmental and climate perspectives.

Efforts taken by the NAOF and Finland as examples of sustainable development

The report on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), policy coherence, and multi-stakeholder engagement aims to increase auditors’ understanding of the environmentally-oriented SDGs. The report presents tools and methods by which auditors can assess policy coherence and engagement.

The work was led by Canada and the WGEA Secretariat. The report presents, for example, the efforts the NAOF has taken in relation to phenomenon-based budgeting and the stakeholder activities carried out in Finland for sustainable development. The publication also contains examples of SAI Canada’s climate-related audits and examples of the ways in which both of the countries integrate the 2030 Agenda into auditing.

A summary report highlights the SDGs as a whole

In addition, the WGEA published a summary report, compiled by the SAI of Canada, on all Work Packages from the perspective of the SDGs. The summary report examines the SDG aspects in the above-mentioned four reports and analyses the links between the reports as well as the challenges for their implementation.

The summary report encourages SAIs, for example, to pay attention to the links between the different SDGs and to the new challenges arising from outside the SDGs. In addition to policy coherence, the report encourages SAIs to pay attention to not only the implementation of individual SDGs but also all SDGs as a whole.