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Annual reports

Which risk cover is right for you?

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