In 2022, the State Audit Office of Latvia concluded 40 financial audits, combined audits, performance audits and compliance audits and commenced 35 new audits. In its turn, in connection with the audits on the use of crisis funding for the elimination of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2 investigations and 1 interim report were published this year as part of financial audits, after a series of interim reports and investigations published in 2020 and 2021.
Audits published during the year
In FEBRUARY, an audit was published, which assessed how the State Administration Reform Plan approved by the government in 2017 was implemented with the aim of creating an efficient, responsible, and flexible state administration. Unfortunately, one has concluded after the audit that actions have been taken, but the state administration has not been “reformed”. In its turn, after the audit on the land reform, which started more than 30 years ago, we concluded that it would not be possible to conclude it in the near future with the current legal framework and the actions of the responsible institutions, and recommendations were made for the sooner completion of the reform.
In MARCH, the audit (interim report) on the availability of vaccination against COVID-19 in Latvia: irregularities were found in the vaccination process implemented by the Ministry of Health, which, together with long-standing problems in primary healthcare, influenced the fact that the set goal of vaccination coverage was not achieved. In order to achieve the goal, coordinated and timely cooperation at all levels of crisis management would have been necessary.
In the audit published in APRIL, it was assessed whether the Ministry of Transport managed state-owned enterprises in accordance with laws and regulations and best practice. In general, it was concluded that the management of state-owned enterprises managed by the Ministry of Transport complied partially with the principle of best practice because the Ministry should be a more informed and active holder of state capital shares.
IN MAY, an investigation report on the challenges related to the Latvia’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) plan was published by summarising the facts about the drafting process of Latvia’s RRP, its content, funding for the implementation of the measures included in the plan, incl. impact on the state budget, etc. Every year in May, financial audits on annual reports of the previous year - 2021 - in ministries and central institutions are published, which the State Audit Office is required to conduct by law. During those audits, we assess whether the reports provide a clear and true picture of the financial situation, changes and operational results in all relevant aspects and whether they are drafted following the laws and regulations.
In an audit published in JUNE, it was concluded that an ill-conceived and expensive biowaste management system was being created in Latvia with delays currently. Namely, the currently created system does not correspond to the situation of our country, for example, judging by the number of inhabitants and population density, and the implementation of the system has been significantly delayed. There are a number of risks when implementing the system only formally such as population will not be motivated and will not sort biowaste in the amount required by the capacity of the planned infrastructure, residents will overpay for biowaste management, potential sanctions including losses to the Republic of Latvia if the environmental goals set by the EU are not achieved within the deadline. Therefore, the State Audit Office calls for a complete review of the chosen approach to the implementation and development of the system. An audit was also made public in June, which assessed how the Alūksne Regional Government operated.
In JULY, the financial audit of the Central Election Commission was published.
The audit published in AUGUST assessed the availability of e-services in Latvia. The main conclusions were as follows: by eliminating gaps in the availability of e-services, financial resources and human resources could be used more efficiently, and a single data exchange mechanism on the availability of e-services would allow to identify the "weak points" quickly and improve them preventively both technically and in terms of security. In August, we also published an investigation report by gathering data on the support granted to businesses and employees to overcome the COVID-19 crisis together so that to help decision-makers evaluate the support so far and learn from the experience in the future. Also, an audit on the governance of small ports in Latvia was published in August; inconsistencies were found in almost every aspect of management and operation (strategic management and development planning, financial management and handling of financial resources and property, development and monitoring of an internal control system. In several cases, it was found out that port authorities did not comply with the requirements of laws and regulations binding to them), therefore the State Audit Office has called for greater interest in the development of small ports from the state, local and regional governments.
IN SEPTEMBER, an audit of the human resources policy of the National Armed Forces of Latvia was published. Taking into account the negative demographic trends and the international security situation, the State Audit Office has called for proactive action to attract and retain young specialists for the performance of national defence tasks.
In OCTOBER, opinion on the annual consolidated financial statement (ACFSS) of the Republic of Latvia for 2021 was published as traditionally. Although it is still a qualified opinion, a lot has been done to organize the national accounts. It is worth noting the fact that, with the introduction of the accrual principle, the annual tax report of the State Revenue Service (the so-called “tax balance”) has been included in ACFSS 2021 for the first time. The results of ACFSS are also significant from the point of view of international credit ratings. In October, an audit was made public on the civil protection and disaster management system in Latvia, which, according to the audit conclusions, could be assessed as a neglected area, and the audit provided comprehensive recommendations for improving the area. In general, the civil protection system has not created the prerequisites for effective disaster management and crisis management, and improvements are necessary and possible throughout the system to prepare for crises better, prevent them as much as possible and effectively overcome them by reducing negative impact of disasters on both human health and life, and the economy generally. Another audit was made public in October, which assessed whether a child with behavioural disorders or the risk of developing them and his or her family had an opportunity to receive necessary support. Unfortunately, the conclusions are harsh: although responsible institutions and also the society are aware in recent years that it is necessary to notice changes in a child’s behaviour early and get involved in solving them, there is no clear system in Latvia to help children with behavioural disorders or the risk of developing them, especially teenagers, because there is no necessary support services available.
In the audit published in NOVEMBER, which evaluated the system of investigative institutions in Latvia from various legal and efficiency aspects, it was concluded that changes could and should be made in order to investigate criminal offences more effectively. Also, the audit results confirm that changes need to be made, which the responsible institutions have known about for years. Due to potential or very potential conflict of interest, it is not permissible for colleagues to investigate criminal offences committed by colleagues.
IN DECEMBER, an audit on challenges in the human resources (HR) policy of local and regional governments after the administrative and territorial reform was published. Unfortunately, the deficiencies found in the audit in both former and newly created local and regional governments show that the understanding of the importance of HR policy for the successful performance of municipal functions must be significantly improved because human resources are the most valuable resource of an institution, and the knowledge and skills of employees are an essential prerequisite for both high-quality performance of functions and economic handling of tangible resources.
In JANUARY (2023), an audit (concluded in December this year) will be published, which assesses the implementation of the reform of the institution of forensic science.
The State Audit Office of Latvia meets with the Public Expenditure and Audit Committee of the Saeima (PEAC) regularly to discuss audit findings, including recommendations made to audited entities, their implementation status, and progress.
In 2022, the State Audit Office participated in 40 PEAC meetings, in which 17 questions about audit results, 21 questions about recommendations and 14 other important questions were considered on the agenda.
How are audit topics determined?
Conducting financial audits is determined by law, while the topics of performance audits and compliance audits are selected by the State Audit Office based on the risk assessment of corresponding areas. Area risk assessment categories are related to policy implementation, financing, impact of reforms, management and monitoring, as well as public interest and received complaints are taken into account. In general, the State Audit Office of Latvia carries out risk assessment in approximately 160 areas by choosing an audit topic mainly in high-risk areas and balancing it with the resources at its disposal.
Training provided in Latvia and around the world
There was training provided in practical aspects of auditing (methodology, quality control, monitoring the implementation of audit recommendations, etc.) for colleagues from the supreme audit institutions of Ukraine, The Gambia, and Moldova, as well as for the Department of the Ministry of Justice of Uzbekistan.
The State Audit Office participated in an experience exchange event of the European Supreme Audit Institutions.
Continued cooperation with the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga regarding certification process of state auditors. 13 colleagues obtained certificates for financial audits and 20 colleagues also obtained certificates for performance audits.
Constantly supplemented and updated Manual of Local and Regional Governments, including a new section on real estate management. It is intended for heads of local and regional governments, councillors, MPs, auditors, accountants and managers of state-owned and municipal enterprises.
The State Audit Office has provided training for approximately 210 participants at the Municipal Training Centre and in cooperation with the State Chancellery this year.
Cooperation with law enforcement and other competent authorities for the application of liability.
The State Audit Office of Latvia has the authority to audit how public funds are spent and to make recommendations for improving their management. The State Audit Office does not have the right to punish, but violations found in audits must be reported to responsible authorities and the progress of their examination must be monitored in accordance with the law.
- Three criminal proceedings have been initiated regarding potential fraud, abuse of office and other potential criminal offences; two departmental inspections and 33 criminal proceedings (including 13 at the trial stage), which were initiated after audits in previous years, continue;
- One conviction entered into force, by which an official was sentenced to a fine of 6,020 euros for exceeding his official authority;
- Inspections have been initiated and are continuing for 48 potential administrative violations, fines were imposed for three administrative violations, officials were reprimanded in 15 cases of violations;
- 19 processes have been initiated for the compensation of damages caused as a result of illegal actions detected during an audit, 66,280 euros have been recovered for the state budget as a result of three processes, in addition, in 14 cases, losses caused as a result of illegal actions detected during an audit have been compensated in the budgets of the state or local or regional government in the amount of more than 16,500 euros, without initiating compensation for damages process.
The peer review of the State Audit Office of Latvia has been completed, with foreign experts concluding that the work of the institution meets the internationally recognized standards and good practices of supreme audit institutions, and approving the initiatives started by the State Audit Office in the development of the institution’s activities.
On 1 January 2022, the Auditor General assumed an office of an external expert of the Audit Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The State Audit Office organized the First Baltic Forum of Supreme Audit Institutions.
The State Audit Office of Latvia organised the Forum of the EU Eastern Partnership Supreme audit institutions, in which the heads and other representatives of the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) of Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan, etc. took part. This year, representatives from the SAI Azerbaijan and the Parliament of Azerbaijan also joined the forum for the first time.
At the EUROSAI Governing Board meeting, the State Audit Office of Latvia presented a plan for cooperation with non-SAIs and discussed EUROSAI’s new Strategy for 2024-2030. As part of EUROSAI’s portfolio on cooperation with non-SAIs, the Auditor General of Latvia participated in the panel discussion of the European Public Sector Forum: New Challenges for Internal and External Auditors in the Public Sector hosted by the European Confederation of Internal Audit Institutes, as well as in the international conference on investments in the field of renewable energy resources in Georgia.
Mrs Signe Znotiņa-Znota
Head of PR and Internal Communication Division
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