ACA president informs about future priorities

10.04.2020 - ACA President Margit Kraker: "Whatever the costs, all measures conducive to recovering from the crisis are appropriate. That is what the state is there for."

From next week on, the Austrian Court of Audit (ACA) will publish reports again. It hereby also informs about future priorities. 

In the next week, the ACA will publish reports on its audits again. It will do so to an extent that is appropriate to the respective situation. 

In the spirit of transparency, the working methods and priorities of the ACA in the weeks to come are as follows:

•          The ACA will complete the vast majority of the commenced audits and publish reports thereon. This concerns in particular areas that are not (directly) affected by the coronavirus crisis (such as audits on construction).

•          Due to the current situation, some ongoing audits will have to be revised. The reasons behind that are, for example, newly emerged, relevant questions that, against the backdrop of the coronavirus crisis, have to be answered. Or because different priorities have to be set.

•          In all its activities, the ACA will, as has been done already in the past weeks, make increased use of videoconferences and will, for example, also request documents by electronic means.

•          The ACA will, however, discontinue some of its almost completed audits and therefore not publish them either. This is due to the fact that the coronavirus crisis has prompted such fundamental changes of the framework conditions that the criticism and the recommendations issued are no longer relevant. This concerns for example audits in the area of tourism. A corresponding overview will be published in the ACA’s Annual Report 2020 at the end of the year.

•          At the same time, the ACA is working on a re-evaluation of its approaches it has been taking in some of its audit areas. This concerns new standards, for example in the area of health care. For some time now, the ACA has not been focusing on savings potentials (for example the reduction of hospital beds) but, in accordance with its audit priority “benefits for citizens and quality of service provision”, on the question of how services can be provided to citizens in the best possible manner. The ACA, for example, revealed shortcomings regarding the prevention and combating of diabetes in its much-noticed respective audit report. Or it pointed to the services to be improved in the area of dentistry. Already in the last year the ACA unveiled bottlenecks in the availability of medicines, which were partly caused by dependencies on other countries. Austria as a whole will have to draw its lessons from the coronavirus crisis. The ACA is no exception to that. The state will have to set priorities with regard to the supply of the population, which may differ from the priorities taken before this global crisis. The ACA, too, will find new approaches.

"In these times we experience the importance of the state’s ability to act. The fragmentation of decisions, however, is often a drawback in crisis situations."

The coronavirus crisis and its repercussions will of course also have an impact on the priorities that the ACA will set for its work. 

On the one hand, the ACA will make its contribution to assessing and processing what has worked well or less well in the weeks and months of the coronavirus crisis. “We will use the independence and the impartiality of our activities for that purpose. We know how difficult it is to do everything right in times of a crisis. That is not possible and that is not what we are concerned with. We look at the fundamentals in order to draw the right lessons,” says the ACA president.  

Ms Kraker furthermore provides an example: “The advantages of federalism are that the state can act close to the citizens. Municipalities, in particular, have been shaped by the culture of mutual help, which is very helpful in this crisis. I have been and will always be in favour of federalism. However, we have to honestly admit that federalism also has its drawbacks in exceptional situations such as the coronavirus crisis. The fragmentation of decision-making procedures is not helpful in times of a crisis. In such cases, the federal structure provides the local decision makers with sometimes too extensive a responsibility, which can impede uniform, quick action. A uniform approach, however, is indispensable in times of a crisis.” 

Another issue: “The lacking overview and the lack of consistency in figures has repeatedly proven to be a problem in the past weeks. We need reliable data for decision making. I believe that we must assess what we can improve in this regard,” states Ms Kraker. 

"There must be no indecent profiteers from this crisis. The money must reach those who really need it."

On the other hand, the ACA will ensure that the many billions that are now being allocated to tackle the crisis serve their purpose. ACA President Kraker: “Whatever the costs are, all such measures are appropriate. We must do everything to ensure that the repercussions of the current crisis are managed as well as possible. As regards the period thereafter, we must return to a – changed – normality as successfully as possible. The budget cannot be kept in crisis mode infinitely. One of the lessons will possibly be that, in some areas, we will want new state structures. The government and Parliament will have to set priorities in this regard. But one thing is clear to me: in order to have a strong and functional state, we will also need to have a strong budget again.”

The ACA president also adds: “The time to overcome the crisis has come now. I consider it important that there be no indecent profiteers from the coronavirus crisis. The money has to reach those who really need it. That is what the state is there for."