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Annual reports

DokumentWe summarized the results of our work in our annual reports. Here you find these annual reports since 1997.

In 2008, federal employees were not legally required to report the felonies they encountered to the courts. The experts of GRECO, a Council of Europe anti-corruption body, pointed out this shortcoming at that time in their evaluation report on Switzerland.

To remedy this shortcoming, the Federal Office of Justice, in close cooperation with the Federal Office of Personnel and the Swiss Federal Audit Office (SFAO), introduced on 1 January 2011 the new Article 22a of the Federal Personnel Act and the obligation to report felonies and misdemeanours prosecuted ex officio. This is when whistleblowing was launched at the federal administrative level. This article actually introduced the reporting right for other irregularities observed by a federal employee. Two important features: whistleblowers acting in good faith are legally protected against any professional disadvantage and the report must be made to the SFAO.

Unfortunately, the disadvantage of enshrining this provision in the Federal Personnel Act is that it does not apply to persons employed under the Swiss Code of Obligations, e.g. those at RUAG, Swiss Post or some SBB staff. The SFAO welcomes reports and treats them confidentially in all these cases, but it cannot ensure that whistleblowers acting in good faith are legally protected against unfair dismissal.

We have seen a steady increase in the number of reports since 2011, especially since the introduction of our IT platform www.whistleblowing.admin.ch. It is now the IT system that ensures the anonymous processing of reports. These reports come from federal employees, but also from third parties who have witnessed irregularities.

For the SFAO, processing this information is not simple. It is necessary to sift through the information and critically verify onsite whether it is plausible. Some reports may actually be intended to harm someone. It is then necessary to identify the appropriate time to initiate possible criminal proceedings and avoid obstructing them by alerting the perpetrators of an offence. In any case, nothing that could put the whistleblower in danger should be done. Finally, information that may later prove to be important should not be neglected.

Far from constituting the establishment of a "police state" as feared by some, this system allows the population to participate actively in the supervision of its administration. It also provides the opportunity to verify and perhaps refute certain accusations.

Some specific examples? Following several reports, the SFAO examined the financial management of the SBB transport police. The good news for them is that we did not have another PostAuto affair. The accounting errors were not of the same magnitude and the cost transfer was in favour of the subsidised sectors of the SBB rather than against them. Another example concerns RUAG’s margins. Following a whistleblower’s accusations reported in the press, RUAG asked the SFAO to audit its accounts. The aim of the audit was to clarify definitively this issue of the profitability of RUAG’s sales to the Confederation.

In the SFAO’s opinion, this development has not yet been completed. In 2013, the audit offices of various countries adopted a new standard that deals with their relations with the public. It has been found that establishing dialogue between the audit institution and the public has a positive impact on trust in public administrations.

In typical Swiss fashion, we want to develop this dialogue by giving the public the opportunity to make a contribution or participate in our work. We believe that we are here to ensure that all taxpayers’ money is spent efficiently and to avoid waste. The area we have to supervise is massive. If you have any questions that you feel are important, or if you have any doubts about the management of a subsidy or project, please contact us (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). We will incorporate this information into our considerations and assess the appropriateness of conducting an audit in that area.

We would like to thank everyone who supports us in our work.

Press release

Annual report 2018

Information:

Michel Huissoud, Director of the SFAO, tel. 058 463 11 11

The Swiss Federal Audit Office (SFAO) has a significant audit portfolio. Few people know it, but the portfolio extends far beyond the confines of the Federal Administration. It includes the beneficiaries who receive CHF 40 billion in subsidies each year and also comprises the companies with the Confederation being the majority shareholder and other organisations which carry out public functions.

These all form an area, a field, for the SFAO to audit; a field which shares the same profile as that of the Parliament’s supervisory committees. Legally, Parliament’s legislation is based explicitly on the Federal Audit Office Act. This is coherent as the SFAO assists the Federal Parliament in its supreme supervisory functions.

Our field may be marked out but where are we to work? Today, nearly half of our resources are committed to compulsory mandates. These include unavoidable tasks such as auditing various annual accounts, key IT projects and fiscal equalisation in the cantons. Our remaining resources are allocated according to the SFAO’s annual risk analysis. The risks vary greatly (fraud, reputation, waste, poor use of subsidies, IT risks, etc.). Of course these risks are present in Switzerland but humanitarian aid, subsidies to eastern countries, the activities of foreign subsidies of RUAG and Swisscom mean they also exist abroad.

We are faced with the essential question: is the SFAO big enough to cover these risks?

If we consider what the history of the SFAO has taught us, the answer is no. Since its creation 140 years ago, our institution has seen its size shrink relative to the size of the central Federal Administration. The growth in the Confederation’s personnel and financial volume would require a workforce of around 160 people, excluding the supervision of the companies which are majority-owned by the Confederation. Today, the SFAO “only” employs 110 people.

The situation can also be compared internationally. Again, the SFAO is clearly not one of the national audit offices with an excess of personnel. In European countries of a comparable size, our counterparts in Denmark employ 254 people, in Austria 323 and in Belgium 550 which, like Switzerland, has the distinctive task of auditing a multilingual administration.

However, the real question is: which risk cover is acceptable for the two institutions we work for: the Federal Council and Parliament?

We can only provide an outline response to this question. Parliament has supported the management of the SFAO since 2014. In their opinion, their resources do not allow them to ensure acceptable risk cover. Less than half of the greatest risks could be audited. Since then, the results of our audits and current affairs have revealed one thing: fraud and IT risk cover still remains too simplistic. The insufficient cross-departmental supervisory powers also contribute to increased risks, in particular in the area of procurement and IT.

In 2015 and 2016, the 11 additional staff positions approved for the SFAO allowed key IT projects to be audited. During the same period, the list of these projects was extended from 13 to 19. Initial audits in the federal companies also took place. On reading these reports, it can be seen that these choices were justified. However, they were unfortunately made at the expense of subsidy audits.

In the coming years, the SFAO will recommend that its grows at a moderate rate in order to better cover the risks. It should be remembered that the SFAO audits have been providing the Confederation with receipts for ten years; almost half a billion Swiss francs, enough to easily cover the costs of our institution.

We thank everyone who supports us in our work!

Press release

Annual report 2017

Information:

Michel Huissoud, Director of the SFAO, tel. 058 463 11 11