National Audit Office founded 100 years ago today

Toomas Mattson | 12/27/2018 | 2:01 PM

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TALLINN, 27 December 2018 – Today the National Audit Office celebrates its 100th anniversary: on 27 December 1918, thirty days into the War of Independence, the supreme authority in Estonia, called the Provisional Council, decided to establish the National Audit Office, its first task being to ensure that an orderly system was devised for the economic arrangements of the young country at war and to protect existing assets from being looted in the chaos of the early days.

The Provisional Council convened in the White Hall of Toompea Castle at 16:00 to discuss the frontline situation, the call to organise military units in Finland to render support to Estonia, the postponement of the Constituent Assembly elections and so on. The meeting was presided over by Ado Birk, Chairman of the Provisional Council, with 33 members participating.

The fourth item on the meeting agenda was “the question of creating the National Audit Office”. Only at 20:30 did the participants reach this item. The minutes of the meeting contain this brief description: “Chairman A.[do] Birk speaks of the need to establish a National Audit Office and proposes that an Auditor General be appointed by the same body that appointed the Prime Minister. Prime Minister K.[onstantin] Päts demonstrates the great need for such auditing. Every ministry must be audited. He recommends the introduction of unconditional auditing. This proposal is approved unanimously.”

On 6 January 1919 the elders of the Provisional Council appointed Aleksander Oinas, a social democrat and an economist, as the first Auditor General of the Republic of Estonia. At the end of January the first department of the National Audit Office began to operate and was responsible for military auditing, which was top priority. In February the departments for financial institutions, roads and economy became active.

Addressing the employees of Estonia’s supreme auditing body on its 100th anniversary, Auditor General Janar Holm recalled the ten principles of work of the National Audit Office formulated by Auditor General Aleksander Oinas and still eminently applicable today. “I would like to emphasise two of those principles, adherence to which helps us cope professionally in our increasingly complicated and rapidly changing world. The first principle: “Do not consider yourself infallible and omniscient. Do not decide on issues that you are not thoroughly familiar with.” And the second principle: “When exchanging opinions, neither fluctuate nor stagnate, but use your own and your opponent’s ideas only to seek the truth,” quoted Janar Holm.

He also pointed out that there are many other National Audit Office documents dating back one hundred years that are still pertinent now. The first activity report of the National Audit Office filed in the spring of 1919 includes these lines: “All auditing activities always have two aspects: form and content. While in Russia the general auditing legislation and activities emphasised form over content and in many spheres of military auditing (for example: technology) it was forbidden to examine the essence of the matter, we have also had to deal with misunderstandings and explanations in our initial contacts with some military institutions that still rely on that Russian legislation and view our interest in their affairs as excessive and undesired.

But we have also encountered misunderstandings of the opposite kind. There are some institutions and their heads who believe that now, when the democratic state foots the bill, it is pointless to fulfil any form requirements at all. [---] We must all understand and make sure that others understand as well how some form requirements are indeed a needless imperial remnant while some other form requirements remain vital, necessary for success.”

Auditor General Janar Holm asserted that “the need to ascertain the balance between form and content in everything is still important today. We must recognise what is vital and what is not. And comprehend the content too.”

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the National Audit Office, Janar Holm thanked all those employees who have for decades toiled for the sake of ensuring that the Estonian state is managed well and taxpayers’ money is spent wisely. “Let us now also commemorate those who are no longer with us, those who were killed at home or abroad. Because they were loyal to the Republic of Estonia.”

The Soviet occupation interrupted the activities of the National Audit Office in 1940. The institution resumed its activities in 1990. The Auditors General of the Republic of Estonia before the Second World War – Aleksander Oinas, Karl August Einbund (from 1935: Kaarel Eenpalu) and Johannes Friedrich Zimmermann – perished in Soviet prison camps, and Karl Johannes Soonberg (from 1939: Soonpää) was mortally wounded in 1944 in the vicinity of Elva by Soviet paratroopers.

In his address Auditor General Janar Holm expressed the wish that all current employees of the supreme auditing body stay worthy of the expectations of the members of the Provisional Council who on 27 December 1918, exactly one hundred years ago, had decided that the Estonian state needed an institution like the National Audit Office. “I am honoured to serve the Republic of Estonia with you all,” Auditor General Janar Holm concluded in his address to colleagues.

Attached is an excerpt from the minutes of the meeting of the Provisional Council No. 70, dated 27.12.1918, concerning the establishment of the National Audit Office.


Toomas Mattson
Communication Manager of the National Audit Office
+372 640 0777
+372 513 4900
[email protected]
[email protected]

  • Posted: 12/27/2018 2:01 PM
  • Last Update: 12/29/2018 9:27 AM
  • Last Review: 12/29/2018 9:27 AM

Attached is an excerpt from the minutes of the meeting of the Provisional Council No. 70, dated 27.12.1918, concerning the establishment of the National Audit Office.


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