EUROSAI. Magazine N26 - 2021

Magazine No. 26 - 2021 85 Studies and other articles COVID-19 has been affecting almost all activities in society for as long as a year and a half. From the perspective of auditing, the question is at least twofold. How should audits approach an issue that is ongoing? Is it justified to audit the activities of government authorities when everyone is acting in haste and distress? On the other hand, can audit afford to lose the opportunity offered by such a major, almost unique situation that actually puts society’s ability to function to the test? Different countries adopted different approaches to the question. One extreme was suspending auditing completely in order to facilitate the operation of the authorities, whereas the opposite extreme was continuing auditing as before. However, regardless of the choice made, all SAIs were offered the same important opportunity: producing and analysing information on the pandemic and its impacts. Finland was locked down in March 2020. The same week, the National Audit Office of Finland (NAOF) decided to start monitoring the pandemic systematically. Using the word “systematically” may be exaggerated because, in practice, we started off without a plan or preparation. Thus, the pandemic also took the NAOF by surprise. Systematic work was achieved quickly The monitoring of the pandemic was thus not structured when the work began. However, we quickly found a natural way of analysing the matters to be monitored. In Finland, the work of the National Audit Office must be related to central government finances, and therefore we focused on monitoring them. The impacts of the pandemic on central government finances proved to be massive. The other areas that we decided to monitor were the administrative decision-making and the response of public administration to the situation, the economic development of the private sector, and also the actual epidemiological situation. During the spring, the monitoring group provided the NAOF’s management with several reports of a few pages on the subject. In addition to the monitored issues, the reports included proposals on what the NAOF could or should do in the circumstances. Two audit topics emerged already in the early stages of the pandemic. In response to the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic, the Government topped up the business subsidies granted considerably. Additional support was incorporated in the old schemes, but new subsidies were also established rapidly. The NAOF strived to act quickly. Immediately in spring 2020, the NAOF ensured that public administration would include all old and new subsidies in one and the same scheme so that it would at least not be possible to receive multiple subsidies for the same activities. The NAOF also published a press release, which was also sent to all agencies. We wanted to point out that, despite the exceptional circumstances, the requirements for the use of funds had not been changed. The decision-making and processes were to be of the same quality as in normal circumstances. In addition, an audit of business SMALL STREAMS OF DATA ADDED UP TO A LARGE FLOW – A POSITIVE CONSEQUENCE OF COVID-19 Visa Paajanen Performance Audit Counsellor National Audit Office of Finland All SAIs were offered the same important opportunity: producing and analysing information on the pandemic and its impacts We quickly found a natural way of analysing the matters to be monitored