EUROSAI. Magazine N26 - 2021

Magazine No. 26 - 2021 81 Studies and other articles Roel Burov Auditor Alvar Nõuakas Data Analytics Project Manager, Head of the EUROSAI IT Working Group Secretariat National Audit Office of Estonia LEVERAGING THE OPPORTUNITY OF A CRISIS – ESTONIAN NATIONAL AUDIT OFFICE’S REVIEW OF LARGE-SCALE CRISIS MEASURES For most supreme audit institutions (SAIs), 2020 will go down in history as the year in which a significant step forward was taken within the digital realm. Many institutions were faced with the need to organize their operations remotely as well as embark on fasttrack projects, surpassing customary procedures. For the National Audit Office of Estonia (NAOE), data analytics was one field in which we were able to innovate and gain valuable experiences, realizing our long-discussed intent to exploit large public sector datasets and apply interactive visualization tools. Data analytics was one field in which we were able to innovate and gain valuable experiences As happened in other countries, extensive restrictions and measures were introduced by the Estonian government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including several economic support schemes aimed at alleviating the effects of the health crisis. With the latter implemented under great pressure, decision-makers were understandably short on time when evaluating the economic state of potential beneficiaries, a basis for support measures and novel regulative mechanisms. The NAOE, therefore, considered the risk of government support missing or only partially targeting the companies and sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, and monitored the area with heightened attention. The NAOE conducted several COVID-19 related audits and reviews during 20201, one of which was a review launched in May that focused on the economic support of companies during the crisis – schemes such as wage compensation, aid for rent payments, aid to the tourism sector and small businesses, as well as extraordinary loans and loan sureties. We examined whether state support measures had reached entrepreneurs most affected by the crisis by comparing the sales, labour turnover and number of employees in companies receiving support with the same indicators of those operating without compensation. The review was a large-scale data analysis, since monthly data on sales turnover, labour taxes and employee statistics across all Estonian companies were enquired from the Tax and Customs Board. At the outset of the review, we started working with the datasets of the first months of 2019 and 2020 and received the rest on a running basis during the remainder of the project. For performing a cross-analysis, data on the beneficiaries of various state crisis support measures was requested from agencies implementing the schemes. 1