Netherlands Court of Audit issues Integrated Report 2021
In its Integrated Report 2021, the Netherlands Court of Audit gives more than just an account of its income and expenditure, its people and its organisation. We also present the link between our strategy, current affairs and the audits we carried out. We paint a picture of the choices we made as the auditor of the government’s finances, and through short interviews explain how we carried out our audits and how auditees experienced them.
The year 2021 was the first year in which we implemented our new strategy and its 5 core themes: citizens and businesses are the starting and end point for our work, continuous attention to the use and usability of IT and data management, more consideration of efficiency in our audits, more opinions in our performance audits. These strategic ambitions were reflected in several of the audits we published in 2021, such as those on algorithms, labour exploitation and palliative care. We also decided in 2021 to launch a multiyear audit programme on digitalisation. All our 2021 publications can be found in an open data file on the Court of Audit’s website.
As in 2020, we spent a great deal of 2021 working from home. It continues to present us with challenges, in our contacts with the ministries and with stakeholders at home and abroad. Nevertheless the number of publications we issued in 2021 (68) was about the same as in 2020 (67). Some examples are given below.
Audit on central government’s use of algorithms
We note in our audit on algorithms that the government is becoming too dependent on external service providers. We also found that the government paid too little attention to the ethical aspects of algorithms. We therefore recommended that the government should adopt a simple, common language and concrete quality criteria for algorithms. The audit attracted a lot of national and international interest. We also received many requests from public organisations –municipalities, local audit offices and ministries – to present our findings.
Effectiveness of the AIVD and MIVD intelligence services
At the request of the House of Representatives we investigated the consequences of introducing the new Intelligence and Security Services Act. We found that drafting of the act paid too little attention to how implementation would affect the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) and the Defence Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD). A feasibility test had not been carried out. We also observed that the budget for the act’s implementation was too small. The political ambitions on the one hand and the available time, people and resources on the other were out of balance. Regrettably we see this more often in political decision-making on the performance of public tasks. Our audit resulted in the provision of a higher budget for the services and a feasibility test of the amendments currently being prepared for the act.
Corona crisis expenditure by the Ministry of VWS
In our annual Accountability Audit, we concluded that there were serious shortcomings in accountability for the corona crisis expenditure incurred by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS). The minister could not demonstrate the regularity of a substantial proportion of the expenditure. Many of the items purchased (such as mouth coverings and respirators) had been delivered directly to care institutions or a central warehouse without receipts or other documents being entered in the accounts. The Ministry of VWS could prepare its financial statements for 2020 only with the support of the Central Government Audit Service and the Ministry of Finance.
External review of our publications
We asked several independent academics to review 4 of our publications in 2021. Drawing on earlier reports we had issued, the publications offered lessons for the further development of particular theme. The academics looked at the strategic quality (are we doing the right things?) and the technical quality (are we doing the right things right?) of the 4 publications. The improvements suggested by the reviewers have been shared and discussed internally so that we can apply the lessons learned in future publications.