Audit in a pandemic
Audit during the COVID-19 crisis, a new strategy and changes in the Board, 2020 was an exceptional year for the Netherlands Court of Audit. The corona pandemic ushered in sweeping restrictions. Despite the difficulties, the Court of Audit nevertheless successfully managed to audit the economic, efficient and effective use of public money.
The Court reflects on its work during the year in its annual report. Since March 2020, all its staff have been working from home. This was obviously challenging for the auditors and their contact with the ministries and for our cooperation with foreign supreme audit institutions. Nevertheless, the Court issued more publications in 2020 than in 2019 and 2018.
Audit of the corona crisis
The Court of Audit carried out several audits of the government’s use of public funds and the measures taken to limit the consequences and impact of the corona pandemic. The audits examined the risks of government support for large companies, the potential misuse and improper use of the NOW job retention scheme and the consequences of guarantees and loans for public finances. The Court also examined the testing policy in the first months of the corona crisis and the security risks of working from home digitally. Just before the summer of 2020, moreover, it published an interactive dashboard monitoring the use of public funds to combat the pandemic. This Corona Account will be regularly updated this year, too.
The Court of Audit also adopted a new strategy, entitled Trust in Accountability, for the period 2021-2025. In its role as the auditor of central government revenue and expenditure, the Court will carry out its work more emphatically from the perspective of citizens and businesses. More so than in the past, it will express independent and fair opinions on the efficiency and effectiveness of government policy. It will also give more prominence to IT and data management, also in its annual accountability audit of central government. The goal of the new strategy is to make an even more relevant contribution to improving government policy.
The new strategy also embraces the conclusions and recommendations of the peer review of the Court of Audit carried out between October 2019 and autumn 2020. At the Court’s invitation, the supreme audit institutions of Sweden, the United Kingdom and Canada reviewed the Court’s selection of audit topics and the quality of its audit methods and publications. The peer review team made some valuable observations and recommendations for the Court to meet the highest quality standards. Implementing the peers’ recommendation to strengthen the Court’s independence in financial audit requires a change in the law and regulations. The peer review report was published in January 2021.
Change in the composition of the Board
The composition of the Board changed in 2020. After precisely five years, F.C. (Francine) Giskes retired from the Court of Audit on reaching pension age in October 2020. She was succeeded on 1 January 2021 by H.M.B. (Barbara) Joziasse. There was also a change in the Board’s extraordinary members. In January 2020 J.M.A. (Hanny) Kemna was sworn in as an extraordinary member. Professor M.J.W. (Mark) van Twist stood down from the Court of Audit on 1 May 2020.