The report presents the conclusions made on the basis of the audit findings as well as summaries of the audit findings that are of material importance to Parliament. The report also assesses whether positions adopted by Parliament on the basis of reports of the Audit Committee have resulted in any measures. Furthermore, the report presents a review of the National Audit Office’s activities and their effectiveness during the 2014 budget year.
The National Audit Office’s report on its activities to the 2015 parliamentary session has two main themes: the capacity of the public administration to implement structural policy measures and integration into society. Assessing the capacity of the public administration to use ICT for improving productivity is the focus area in the report. The capacity of the public administration to implement structural policy measures has been assessed on the basis of how thoroughly the decisions have been prepared, how well their implementation has been monitored and how well the objectives have been achieved. The main message of the National Audit Office is that the capacity of the public administration to implement decisions and to adopt reforms should be systematically strengthened. This requires the setting of priorities and development of management practices.
Capacity of the public administration to implement structural policy reforms
As economic resources are becoming increasingly scarce, Parliament is expected to set out more clearly what measures should be given priority and what impact they will have. The number of measures that the Government is planning to introduce is too large, which is negatively affecting the capacity of the public administration to implement them. In order to improve the capacity of the public administration to implement measures, the Government should also define how it intends to achieve its objectives and to ensure that progress is monitored and assessed.
Organising performance accounting is a prerequisite to management and especially to presenting information on operational performance in the final accounts. Clear and uniform budget produces help to make financial administration more productive.
The objectives and information concerning productivity and economic efficiency are key to successful performance guidance. Irrespective of the steering system, they also provide a basis for the overall assessment of the effectiveness, service capacity and operational efficiency.
Improving productivity through digitalisation was laid out as an objective several years ago. However, the results have been more modest than targeted and expected. In fact, in retrospect it has been impossible to even determine on what basis the objectives of the development measures and the expectations concerning costs, and cost and productivity benefits were laid out.
Development of electronic services and information systems in central government has often taken place in isolation from other activities and there has been too much emphasis on technology in the development work. Achieving productivity targets requires determined leadership and active steering at central government level. When electronic services and information systems are developed, processes, operating practices and, when necessary, the legislation should be adequately reformed so that the productivity targets can be achieved.
The number of people in danger of falling into poverty and becoming excluded has increased Finland. About 250,000 Finns rely on basic social security for their living. The risk of marginalisation is particularly high among immigrants and unemployed youngsters. Unemployment among immigrants is three times higher than among the population as a whole. Marginalisation and unemployment cost the Finnish economy billions of euros.
The risk of marginalisation can be reduced with effective employment and integration measures. When activities are developed and personal services are replaced with electronic services, it is particularly important to safeguard the services of those groups that face a heightened risk of marginalisation. Young people and immigrants in particular need personal services.
Impact of audit and assessing the implementation of parliamentary positions
In its previous reports to parliamentary sessions, the National Audit Office has drawn attention to the fact that the Government had not reported on the tax gap and the amount of unpaid taxes in the manner required by Parliament. The latest Government’s annual report only includes the estimates of a small number of different tax types. The work on tax gap estimates is not yet complete and the matter has not been reported in the Government’s annual report in the manner required by Parliament.
Parliament has called for measures to establish a unit examining legislative impact assessments. A proposal to establish a Government expert unit tasked with impact assessments has already been made. The effectiveness of the work carried out by the National Audit Office is, to a large extent, a result of the preventive and accountability impacts of the audits, monitoring and evaluation.
As part of its audit activities, the National Audit Office monitors the implementation of its opinions and its recommendations aimed at improving the functioning of the public administration. A number of important reforms have been initiated on the basis of the recommendations laid out in the reports to Parliament. The objective of the National Audit Office has been to contribute to the renewal and development of Finnish society. On this basis, its aim has been to carry out the task of promoting reforms and innovation laid out for supreme audit institutions in international audit guidelines.