How can the activities of the National Audit Office be challenged?

Tiina Ojasalu | 11/4/2009 | 3:43 PM

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In certain instances procedural steps taken by the National Audit Office, e.g. requesting information, collection of explanations, and observations may affect persons’ rights. If the National Audit Office affects the rights of an individual or private entity more than reasonably in the opinion of the person, the person can address an administrative court to protect their rights.

Since the Supreme Court of Estonia has found that no judicial disputes are allowed between state authorities, any differences between the National Audit Office and the audited state authority in taking procedural steps are to be resolved by way of negotiations. The restriction of referring to a court does not apply to public officials and employees as individuals. If an official or employee of an audited institution finds that the National Audit Office has unfoundedly infringed their private sphere with their procedural steps, they can file a complaint with an administrative court.

In addition to procedural steps persons may also be affected by the observations, conclusions and proposals made in an audit report. The Supreme Court has ruled that local authorities cannot challenge the positions of the National Audit Office or their publication, because the positions of any state authority do not have any predefined weight. The Supreme Court has noted that approval of the legality and effectiveness of use of public funds in an audit report rather has positive impact on the reputation and activities of a city or rural municipality. The impact of recommendations made for elimination of deficiencies and avoiding them in the future can be favourable and take into account public interests.

If disapproving evaluations and recommendations are wrong or unfounded in the opinion of a local authority, the local authority can react by submitting an objection in its written opinion that is published along with the report of the National Audit Office. The same position is applicable to other public sector units.

However, based on an analogy arising from the case law of the General Court (formerly, the Court of First Instance) it can be claimed that the positions of the National Audit Office and the publication thereof can be challenged in court by third parties other than the audited, provided that they have been specified or can be recognised in an audit report.

Therefore the National Audit Office, like other supreme audit institutions, refrains from naming or mentioning private persons and individuals in a critical context in its audit reports. If a private person or entrepreneur finds that their naming in the report may harm their reputation and/or business, it is possible to address a court to protect their interests and in such an event the court checks whether the claims made by the National Audit Office are true.

Extra-judicially the audited can in the case of problems also address the audit direct exercising supervision over the audit and, if their complaint concerns an audit director, also address the Auditor General.
 

  • Posted: 11/4/2009 3:43 PM
  • Last Update: 12/16/2010 3:33 PM
  • Last Review: 12/16/2010 3:33 PM