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Счетная палата Королевства Норвегии как орган парламентского контроля
Научные статьи
16.10.15 12:55

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Счетная палата Королевства Норвегии как орган парламентского контроля

ПРАВО ЗАРУБЕЖНЫХ ГОСУДАРСТВ
Бабаханова Мехрибан Эльдар гызы
8 87 2015
 
В статье раскрываются основы работы финансового контрольного органа Норвегии – Генерального аудитора. на основе Конституции Норвегии, закона о Генеральном аудиторе устанавливаются четкие границы проведения проверок и контроля за функционированием исполнительных органов власти со стороны Генерального аудитора Норвегии.

The OAG's duties are

• auditing the central government accounts and all accounts sub­mitted by central government agencies and other authorities that are obli­ged to submit accounts to the central government, including government corporations, public administrative bodies that have been granted special powers, government funds and other bodies or undertakings where this is stipulated in separate legislation (financial auditing);

• carrying out systematic analyses of the economy, producti­vity, goal attainment and effects on the basis of the Storting's deci­sions and intentions (performance auditing);

monitoring the management of the State's proprietary inte­rests in companies, etc. (corporate control);

• contributing through auditing to the prevention and detec­tion of irregularities and errors;

• advising the government administration in order to prevent future errors and omissions.

Through its audits, the OAG shall contribute to the prevention and detection of irregularities and errors. On special agreement the OAG can take on international auditing, monitoring or capacity building assignments. The Storting can instruct the OAG to initiate specific investigations.

 

The general framework conditions for the OAG are set out in the Act and Instructions relating to the activities of the Office of the Auditor General (Act No 21 of 7 May 2004 relating to the Auditor General and the Instructions concerning the activities of the Office of the Auditor General of 11 March 2004).

Article 10 of the Regulations for Financial Management in Government state that undertakings with executive responsibility for wholly-owned private limited companies, state-owned enterprises, special law companies or other independent legal entities wholly or part-owned by government shall produce written guidelines on the manner in which control and supervisory authority shall be exercised vis-a-vis each company or group of companies. A copy of the guidelines shall be filed with the Office of the Auditor General.

The State must, within applicable laws and rules, administrate its ownership interests in conformance with general principles of good corporate governance with special emphasis on ensuring:

a) that the corporate legal form, the company's articles of association, financing and composition of the board are appropriate for the company's objects and ownership;

b) that exercise of ownership guarantees the equal treatment of all shareholders and underpins a clear division of authority and responsibility between the owning parties and the board;

c) that goals set for the company are achieved;

d) that the board functions satisfactorily.

Management, monitoring and supervision and associated guidelines must be adjusted with the State's shareholding, the characteristics of the company, risk and significance.

One important principle in relation to limited companies, state-owned enterprises and special law companies is that the State's liability is limited to subscribed equity.

Formally, the Office of the Auditor General is an auxiliary organ of the Storting. It has not itself the competence to approve (by far) the Government's accounts, but shall submit these to the Storting with opinion. This is thought to follow from Grl. § 75 k, and is further defined in the State Audit Act, § 1, letter b. According to § 1, letter c the Office of the Auditor General has however expertise to decide over the so-called special accounts from subordinate state authorities. In the draft new law for the Office of the Auditor General it is suggested that this decision competence will be repealed, so that all public accounts for the future must be approved by the Storting.

The rationale is that it is only the Storting that can hold ministers accountable and the Office of Auditor General's "presumptions" are ancient in principle related to the ministers' constitutional responsibilities. The decisions forms are "pass", "can pass" and "for observation". The first two implies that the accounts can be approved, so the ministers constitutionally speaking are free from liability. In the form "can pass" is, however, a criticism, whose strength will be apparent from the premises, and which may lead to subsequent parliamentary accountability of the ministers. The form "for observation" means that the relationship is not ready for final decision, and this can also be a critique. In addition, the Office of the Auditor General reports on matters not initially intended to be the basis for minister responsibility (orientation issues).

The formal relationship between audit control and minis­ters' constitutional responsibility is a relic from pre-parliamenta- ry time. The Office of the Auditor General has in reality always, but especially after 1884 been an organ not only for the Storting's constitutional (legal) control, but also for the parliamentary (po­litical) control of the Government. And thereof is that the Office of the Auditor General actual function as control body is even more detached from the formal point. Although it is formally a support agency of the Storting's control of the ministers, it actu­ally has always functioned more as an independent body aimed primarily at the administration. This follows firstly because of the Storting until recently, in practice almost never used the audit reports as a basis for accountability of ministers. Secondly, it fol­lows from the Auditor General's procedures for investigating and reporting. Unlike the Storting the Office of the Auditor General shall not go to the ministers, but may require their information directly from the administration and from individual officials and civil servants. (See chapter 20.5.2 of the Office of the Auditor General's right of access, and chapter 21.6.5 about the right to demand explanations. The right of access has in recent years been a controversial topic.)

Before the reports are submitted to the Storting they go to the affected government agency, and it is the "department's" condi­tions that are commented, not the "ministers". Neither the minis­ter nor the civil service department are mentioned by name. The Office of Auditor General operates institutional criticism, not per­sonal criticism.

OAGN's independence

OAGN is independent from the central government admin­istration, and reports to the Storting;

• OAGN enjoys full independence, including appointments and budgets;

• OAGN should be competent and objective, i.e. politically neutral;

• The Storting appoints an external auditor to audit the OAGN;

• This independence from the executive is very important for the credibility of the audit function.

In recent years, the Auditor General, in practice, has begun to function more as a direct premise supplier for the Storting's control, so that the reports now more than ever form the basis for further par­liamentary review and critique. To some extent, the Office of the Auditor General that way has become more "parliamentary". This is a funda­mental and practical important development, which we will later come back to. But this re­gards only the most important and contentious individual cases. The more ordinary audit work still functions as a process between the Auditor and the administration, rather isolated from the Storting's own control activities.

Although the Office of the Auditor General is formally an auxiliary organ, it has always been a fundamental requirement for it to perform its work in an independent manner, without the Storting looking into the investigation and as­sessing the individual cases. This principle must constitutionally be inferred by the Constitution § 75 k, although it is unclear how wide it lasts.

The issue has only come up in recent years. Pre­viously, there was no tradition that the Storting would affect the work of the Office of the Auditor General. But in 1993, for the first time, a formal in­struction was adopted to examine an individual case, (chapter 13.6.3) and subsequently the Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs has increasingly started to send­ing informal signals in cases where they want investigation.

According to the Constitution § 75 k it is the Auditor General's role to "analyse the State's accountancy" but this has never been considered as a hindrance to that it also may be given other tasks. The traditional audit examination has always been the Office of the Auditor General's main task. But from the 1960's, it has also driven "corporate control" of the minister's management of state interests in companies, state enterprises etc. And from the beginning of the 1980s it has developed the critical "performance audit", defined as "the systematic examination of economy, productivity, and effec­tiveness on the basis of the decisions and assumptions of the Stort­ing." This is partly a control with the administration's efficiency, but also if the Government meets the "Storting's conditions". And this is an audit form that is of far greater parliamentary interest than the traditional financial audit.

The Office of the Auditor General reports to the Storting through an annual main document, Doc. nr. 1, which is extensive, and where individual cases have tended to get lost in the crowd. In 1994 Doc. nr. 3 series was introduced, with individual reports of particularly important cases. This was an important practical re­form that allows individual cases now being handled separately by the Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs, with its own setting and debate.

The last time the Storting of principle discussed the Office of the Auditor General's position was in 1977, during the processing of the Ingvaldsen Committee's report. This debate laid the foundation for the development of corporate control and management audit. On the other hand, it did not in the first place brought with it that the Storting began to focus more on the audit reports. This came first in the 1990s as a more gradual development, which has not yet been properly discussed by the Storting, despite the fact that it raises fundamental constitutional

and political issues. Such a debate is now in the offing. In 1997, the Of­fice of the Auditor General itself took the initiative of a review of the old State Audit Act (statsrevisjonsloven) of 1918, which today is hopelessly outdated. Originally this was intended as a forensic audit, but along the way the work has also led to principal issues coming up, and to some extent it is addressed in this the proposed new laws and regulations which were published in December 2000. At the same time the Storting has become more aware that there have been fundamental changes in the Auditor General's role as a parliamentary body, and during spring 2000, this was included as a central point of the mandate of the com­mittee which is now set up to examine the Storting's control function.

Scope of the OAG's auditing and monitoring

The figure illustrates the OAG's tasks (Auditor General Act, section 9): At the core is the main task of monitoring the central government accounts. The colour fades with the distance from the centre. This illustrates how within the core area the financial re­gulations of the central government are followed fully and to the letter. When moving away from the centre, the application of the government regulations diminishes. The three types of audits both supplement each other and overlap.

Summing up all above we can say about the Office of Auditor General of Norway that:

• The function of the OAGN is a crucial pillar in the public financial management system in Norway.

• The OAGN's independence from the executive is very im­portant for the credibility of the audit function.

• There are many shared interests between the OAGN and the Ministry of Finance.

• There is a constructive dialogue between the OAGN and the executive on audit findings and corresponding problems.


 



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