22nd Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe
Round Table on Regional Governance: efficiency, transparency and control
"Regional audit offices: a vital tool for the prevention of corruption"
Strasbourg, 21.03.2012 - Now that regions depend increasingly on limited financial resources, proper management and transparency of costs are more vital than ever. The regional audit offices, over and above their prime role of budgetary supervision, help regions to optimise their expenditure and, of course, to combat corruption, as shown by a Round Table session on 21 March organised by the Chamber of Regions.
Stephen Taylor, Chairman of the Management Committee of the European Organisation of Regional External Public Finance Institutions (EURORAI), pointed to the major work done by regional audit offices, which, although organised differently in most European countries, all abide by the same main principles: independence from the authorities of those who do the monitoring and of the checks carried out, without the risk of sanctions, promotion of the transparency of regional policies and governments and communication to the public of the audits and checks conducted. While these courts must be free to decide what to check and able to work without fear, they also have a duty to publish documents which are accessible and understandable to the general public, for, as Stephen Taylor said, the greatest challenge, over and above the accuracy of accounts, is to arouse public interest in public accounts.
The president of the regional court of auditors of Alsace (France), Christophe Rosenau, pointed to his court's duties in relation to compliance with the principles of financial balance and budgetary transparency. He also described the procedures both for monitoring and for following up the observations made, which help subsequently to improve public management as a whole. Reinhard Krismer, head of the Tyrol regional court of auditors (Austria), gave a description of his institution, which, in various forms, dates back to the early 16th century, and used to check the finances of Emperor Maximilian I. Today, it helps to keep regional finances and policies transparent, as well as helping Tyrol to make significant savings: it actually enables 2% of the regional budget to be saved or recovered every year, i.e. 60 million euros. Not only is it efficient in itself, but it also helps, through its existence and its vigilance, to deter both corruption and misappropriation of funds.
As the President of the Chamber of Regions, Herwig van Staa, pointed out on concluding the Round Table session, "we could not combat corruption effectively without our audit offices". In his view, regional audit offices help to promote democracy and balance at government and regional parliament level.