Supreme Audit Institutions meet to assess solutions to environmental problems

The National Audit Office of Finland is currently chairing the Working Group on Environmental Auditing of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI WGEA). The working group aims to increase the effectiveness of environmental policies and to improve the efficiency of the use of public funds. In January, Finland hosts a global Assembly meeting of the working group with the main theme of circular economy.

Circular economy solutions are important for both environmental sustainability and good management of central government finances. Finland is internationally renowned for its high level of circular economy expertise, which will be strongly present at the INTOSAI WGEA General Assembly in January.

The keynote speakers of the General Assembly hosted by the National Audit Office are central circular economy developers Sitra (President Jyrki Katainen), Ellen MacArthur Foundation (Jocelyn Blériot) and the UN Environment Programme (Elisa Tonda).

The event will present some practical examples of the impacts of audit work on the development of environmental policies. The assembly will also work on topics focusing on international climate financing, plastic waste and sustainable transport. These themes are presented by the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) of the US, India, Indonesia, China and Thailand.

Administrative silos restrict climate policy

Finland and Canada lead the assessment of policy coherence in the environmental group. For example, if measures related to climate policy are processed in silos in different administrative branches, there is a risk of conflict or overlap. A common example of this is the conflict between fossil fuel subsidies and climate action.

”Auditing the United Nations’ SDG targets can provide an overall view on policy coherence,” notes Principal Kimberley Leach from the Supreme Audit Office of Canada. In addition to policy coherence, the National Audit Office of Finland considers it important to include the intergenerational aspect and global impacts in auditing.

The National Audit Office of Finland has found that policy coherence can be promoted through phenomenon-based budgeting. Many societal challenges – such as climate change or the coronavirus pandemic – are so complex that they cannot be solved by a single administrative branch.

“It is important that the financial packages to lessen the economic impact of the corona pandemic take sufficient account of the coherence of the various objectives and preparedness for future risks, such as the climate crisis,” emphasises Tytti Yli-Viikari, Auditor General of the National Audit Office.

Best practices for shared use

The National Audit Office of Finland is currently the acting chair of INTOSAI’s (International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions) Working Group on Environmental Auditing (WGEA). The members of the working group represent 78 countries. The WGEA develops methods for the world’s SAIs and prepares audit guidelines and training packages. The work provides an opportunity to bring the best practices and learning to Finland and, on the other hand, to share Finnish expertise with other countries.

“If our work makes it possible for the audit offices of the countries with the largest population in the world to improve the environmental performance of their governments, it will also have an indirect impact on Finland. Environmental problems do not respect national borders,” says Vivi Niemenmaa, Secretary General of the working group.

The WGEA General Assembly will take place on 19-21 January. The first day of the meeting is open to everyone interested. Registrations and enquiries:

More information about the General Assembly: