Public finances continue to face challenges. This emphasises the role of a cost-effective central government and transparent use of public funds. The NAOF's audits provide information for example for the planning of several measures set out in the Government Programme.
The National Audit Office of Finland (NAOF) has submitted its annual report to Parliament. The annual report is a summary of the audits and follow-ups carried out between September 2022 and August 2023. The Parliamentary Audit Committee will discuss it during the autumn and submit its report to the plenary session.
During the reporting period, audits were targeted, for example, at risk and continuity management, the development of the benefit and service systems, and the use of financial and foresight information in decision-making.
The financial audits conducted by the NAOF cover the entire public administration. The total number of financial audits completed in the spring was 65.
Risk management in the central government has been improved
A key task of the central government is to ensure that the functions for which the central government is responsible can continue without interruptions in all situations. The National Audit Office audited the risk management in the central government in 2018 and in the state’s strategic companies in 2022. Based on the follow-up conducted, the risk and continuity management have been developed in recent years in accordance with the recommendations.
According to the audit conducted by the NAOF, risks related to the strategic interest of the companies should be identified and assessed as a whole at government level. According to the NAOF, it would be good to restate in the new ownership policy resolution that the state’s strategic interests should not be jeopardised by the state owner’s actions or by decisions taken by the company’s bodies.
Social security benefits and service systems have been audited extensively
The National Audit Office has also issued recommendations for the preparation of the social security reform based on the audits conducted. In connection with the reform, it should be laid out, for example, to what extent the subsistence of people with low earned income should be supported with general housing allowance and to what extent with other benefits.
Audits targeted at different benefit and service systems show that improvements have been achieved in public service systems and permit processes but there is still work to do. More attention should still be paid in the development of public services to customer needs and regional special features. The shortcomings identified will not be solved if the digitalisation of services is service provider driven.
The audits of social benefits and service systems have focused, for example, on the general housing allowance, work-based immigration, the functioning of the public business service system, the funding of the digitalisation of healthcare and social welfare and the development of the Suomi.fi services.
Centralised high-quality information provides the basis for decision-making
Medium-term projections and fiscal statistics provide a reliable basis for fiscal and economic policy decision-making. However, consistent and comprehensive statistics on local government finances and the finances of wellbeing services counties are needed to support decision-making, and they should be produced on a centralised basis. Correctly timed foresight reports and centralised coordination of information would increase the use of foresight information in decision-making and put the Government’s foresight activities on a more structured basis.