INTOSAI Community Portal Article From the desk of Head of SAI - Janar Holm

Janar Holm, Auditor General, National Audit Office of Estonia

Teksti suurus:[-A][+A]




Auditor General Janar Holm

EestiFoto Stuudio/ Marilin Leenurm

Janar Holm is the Auditor General of Estonia since April 2018. Since 2020, he is also the Chair of the IT Working Group (ITWG) of EUROSAI.

Mr Holm got his Master’s degree from Tartu University.

He has a wide experience in the field of education having worked in the area of government of the Ministry of Education and Research for 18 years as a Legal Adviser, Director of the National Examinations and Qualifications Centre,  ministry’s Deputy Secretary-General for General and Vocational Education, Deputy Secretary-General for Administration and ministry’s Secretary-General. In 2017-2018, Holm worked at the Ministry of Social Affairs as a Deputy Secretary-General for Employment.

Janar Holm has been a member of a variety of supervisory boards, including the Estonia National Opera, the Estonian Qualifications Authority, the Innove Foundation, the Tiger’s Leap Foundation and AHHAA Science Centre. He has also been a member of the Council of Ethics of Officials and the chairman of the supervisory boards of the Information Technology Foundation for Education and the National Archive. 

I wish to commend the KSC for maintaining and developing the INTOSAI Community Portal to encourage global knowledge sharing between the Supreme Audit Institutions. The National Audit Office of Estonia has gained immensely from cooperation with SAI-peers throughout the years and has been able to also give back to the international community by chairing the INTOSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing (2007-2013), EUROSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing (2014-2020), and most recently, the EUROSAI IT Working Group (ITWG). Both areas, but especially the opportunities and challenges information technology developments offer for the SAIs, will remain in my office’s focus in the coming years. In the article below, I offer a perspective on the potential role of an SAI in the digitally transforming world.

Smart and systematically driven digital transformation in the public sector can lead to a more effectively functioning and a more efficient state – with active civic participation, improved policy-making and public services as well as thoughtful use of public money. Digitalization has opened up completely new horizons but at the same time also new risks in public governance which demand the attention of SAIs at both strategic as well as practical levels. Cybersecurity, digital applications, big data, blockchain, interconnectivity, e-services, automation, and artificial intelligence - 10 years ago, perhaps even less, these keywords did not feature prominently on SAIs’ agendas. Today, however, they get top priority in discussions. Digitalization and new technologies are no longer “emerging issues”, but issues which have already emerged, and which are becoming, in the world of auditing, as common as fighting fraud or inefficiencies in the public administration.

Over the past 25 years, the Estonian e-governance has developed dynamically with the widespread creation of databases, a safe environment for data exchange and digital authentication and promotion of e-services in the public sector. For the National Audit Office of Estonia (NAOE), this has certainly changed the audit environment as well as the ways in which we perform audits. Digital transformation has posed a challenge to the NAOE to cope with the new situation in a dual role as an independent observer of events but at the same time as subject to the same changes. The vision of the NAOE has been that our office should be at the forefront of change and benefit from it. Everything that happens in the public sector must be, and has been, on the horizon of the NAOE.

Digitalization and new technologies enable the SAIs to make their work more efficient and effective. A case in point is the opportunity for the NAOE to obtain information about almost all policy areas in real time – from public accounts’ related information to data across various fields – thanks to the digitalization of information exchange in the public sector. With actual field work only very rarely needed for financial auditors in this situation, a significant reduction in their numbers has taken place. New challenges for the NAOE lie in designing and implementing more automated controls and analyses of data in the audit process, and also in increasing the pace of our work processes vis-à-vis the rapid availability of information on the dynamic Estonian e-state. This means that inventing new skills, tools, products, communication and possibly even a new approach to auditing is needed.

Auditors should be able to understand new technologies adopted by the auditees and carry out corresponding audits to an extent, aided by technical experts in case of particularly complex fields (e.g., cryptography experts in case of blockchain). It seems fair to say that digital transformation in the public sector has led to a situation where every auditor also needs to be something of an IT auditor and data analyst.

With digital transformation and the introduction of new technologies becoming horizontally relevant across different sectors, the NAOE now looks at IT aspects in nearly every audit by, in case of each audit idea, testing the risks related to IT which could have a negative impact on the provision of public services, governance or accounting. Inasmuch important is the component of data availability and processing which need attention in most of our audits. At the same time, it must also be stressed that traditional auditor’s skills of “asking the right questions” and “picking the right topics” are still very much alive and are even more relevant when the pace of the audit process increases.

This background of digitally transforming auditing environment and increasing expectation of all auditors to possess at least a minimum level of awareness about IT-risks and IT-governance as well as data analytics is topical for SAIs around the world. In the EUROSAI IT Working Group, a Research and Training Hub project has been initiated to develop competence tools and training products supporting SAIs in their quest of ramping up their staff’s IT and data analytics skills. Beyond close and fruitful collaboration between EUROSAI ITWG members in this respect, I also hope to witness good synergies with global colleagues through the INTOSAI’s IT audit and technology oriented working bodies such as the INTOSAI Working Group on IT Audit, INTOSAI Working Group on the Impact of Science and Technology on Audit and the INTOSAI Working Group on Big Data.


  • Posted: 4/6/2021 5:39:12 PM
  • Last Update: 4/7/2021 9:57:43 AM
  • Last Review: 4/7/2021 9:57:43 AM