Auditor General Janar Holm in the annual report: e-state doesn’t only mean new developments, as the old needs to be kept going too

Priit Simson | 11/11/2019 | 10:42 AM

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TALLINN, 11 November 2019 – Today, Auditor General Janar Holm presented to the President of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas the annual report of the National Audit Office of Estonia, which this year focuses on the development opportunities and risks of the Estonian e-state.

The National Audit Office concluded in its report that although the international reputation of Estonia as an e-state is good, we are in the middle of the pack when it comes to several indicators affecting its further development.

“We have to realise that while in many ways, e-state helps us towards a more efficient and cheaper administration, it also needs to be maintained, which means ever-increasing costs that go overlooked or are not wanted to be made,” commented the Auditor General Janar Holm.

IT executives of public authorities who were consulted in the course of preparing the report stated that it is easier to find funding for new developments than for updating or keeping the existing system operational. “The National Audit Office proceeds from the principle that Estonia must be self-sufficient. If the funds of the European Union Structural Funds can be used for developing but not maintaining the IT systems, then that’s where the difficulties start,” said the Auditor General who reminded that the share of foreign funding would decrease in the coming years. In the opinion of the IT experts of institutions, the annual maintenance expenditure should constitute up to one-fifth of the cost of the development.

The Auditor General warned that outdated and underfunded IT systems may start to impede the implementation of political decisions, because the systems are simply not capable of coping with the planned changes. IT development that has been poorly thought-out and carelessly implemented by the contracting entity can also make administration much slower.

“e-State with all its services has long been a source of national pride in Estonia, but in the course of preparing the report we found that it’s rather difficult to get an idea of what this pride will cost us,” Holm continued. “Regular IT maintenance costs are counted towards general economic expenses in the accounting.” Holm expressed hope that in the coming years it is possible to get an exact overview of the IT expenses of public authorities, and the same also goes for defence expenditure.  

According to the calculations of the National Audit Office, the administrative and personnel costs of the IT sector of the central government have gone up by approximately 30 percent in 2016–2018, which is a considerable increase, but it has to be taken into account that the rest of the world is developing extremely fast and the costs of keeping the current systems operational are still beginning to emerge.

In its annual report, the National Audit Office has also focused on the Estonian e-health system, which has so far been considered to be state-of-the-art but is in fact still far from functioning as was originally intended. Two-thirds of the hospitals consider the health information system to be inconvenient, and nearly half say that it doesn’t contain the necessary health information. “Doctors spend too much of their time looking up data in the e-health system during their appointment with the patient,” said Holm.

The report also points out that in the field of social welfare, data that is not actually required for activities or that could be found elsewhere is collected from people in need. “e-State should make life easier. Once submitted to the state, people should not be required to submit the data again and again to receive public services,” said Holm who pointed out that at the moment, at least one-fifth of data is currently collected in excess. “The social information system STAR was supposed to facilitate access to data, but the issues have not eased in ten years.”

According to the report, the main risk to the Estonian e-state is the lack of skilled human resources and an up-to-date infrastructure.


Priit Simson
Head of Communications of the National Audit Office of Estonia
+372 640 0777
+372 5615 0280
[email protected]
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  • Posted: 11/11/2019 10:42 AM
  • Last Update: 11/19/2019 11:39 AM
  • Last Review: 11/19/2019 11:39 AM

Poorly thought-out and carelessly implemented IT development by the contracting entity can make administration much slower.

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