Peer Review of The Netherlands Court of Audit

Positive peer review of the Netherlands Court of Audit, with recommendations

At the request of the Netherlands Court of Audit, the national audit offices of Sweden, the United Kingdom and Canada carried out a peer review of the Court’s audit selection and the quality of its audit methods and publications. In the international peers’ opinion, the Court of Audit has the required mandate, staff and culture for high quality public auditing to improve the performance and functioning of central government. The peer reviewers made recommendations for improvement.

The Court’s Board has decided to translate the recommendations into working arrangements as soon as practicable, taking compliance with the International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAIs) where possible as a basis. In response to the review report, the Board said: ‘We are pleased with the peer review report’s main conclusion that the Netherlands Court of Audit – benefitting from a broad mandate, highly skilled staff, a well-functioning operational framework, and a culture of exploring innovative audit techniques – has key elements in place for high quality public auditing. The report provides us with valuable observations and findings to help us improve our work.’

Practices and products under review

Between October 2019 and the autumn of 2020, the three supreme audit institutions reviewed the Court of Audit’s practices and products against international standards. The review focused on the quality of the Court’s audit selection and programming, the quality of its financial audits, and the quality of its performance audits.

In one of their recommendations, the international reviewers advised the Court of Audit to perform more financial audit work and risk assessments, with a view to safeguarding its independence and fulfilling its mandate to audit the ministers’ annual reports and the central government accounts. The Court’s audit opinions, presented in its annual Accountability Audit, are the basis for Parliament to discharge the individual ministers of their liabilities.

In response to this recommendation of the three national audit offices, the Court of Audit announced that it will discuss this issue with the legislature. The set-up of the Dutch system for auditing the central government’s financial reporting information differs from that in other countries.

Strengthening position addressed in new strategy

The reviewing audit offices’ report praises the high quality of the Court of Audit’s staff and their data analyses, as well as the impartial tone and the use of graphics in the Court’s reports. The Court is commended for exploring innovative audit methods.
Many of the reviewers’ recommendations are designed to further strengthen the Court of Audit’s audit practices and position. The Court has incorporated some of the recommendations directly into its new strategy for 2021-2015, entitled Trust in Accountability and published simultaneously with the peer review report.

What will be done with the recommendations?

In its response, the Court of Audit’s Board commented on the peers’ recommendations. The Court has taken them to heart, to the extent relevant also incorporating them into its new strategy for 2021-2025.

What methods were used?

The peers of the Swedish, UK and Canadian national audit offices examined internal documents, interviewed several dozen internal and external stakeholders, and reviewed a sample of nine audit reports.

Why was a review carried out?

The independence of supreme audit institutions is laid down by law. It is an internationally accepted practice for national audit offices to have their quality reviewed by peers. The Court of Audit uses the results of this peer review to further improve its work.

Current state of affairs

The Court of Audit published the peer review report – both the English-language original and a translation into Dutch – on its website on 25 January 2021. The report was also submitted to the House of Representatives with an accompanying letter, which was published on the website as well.