The Planning and Methods of the State Audit
The State Audit Annual Work Plan is drawn up after taking into account a broad range of considerations in accordance with the lines of action and policy decided upon by the State Comptroller. The main criteria for choosing whether a subject is to be included in the audit is its degree of importance; the public interest which it involves, for example, because it concerns the protection of human life, individual rights or national security; its financial significance; the nature of the audited bodies internal and external control systems; the complaints received against it; information published through media channels or brought to the attention of the State Comptroller's Office by any other source; and the frequency with which each subject and body ought to be checked. All of these are weighed up in the light of budgetary and manpower constraints and the need to determine orders of priority. Before undertaking the audit in detail, a preliminary survey in conducted which provides initial, helpful information for determining the directions which the audit should take. Implementation of the work plan is approved by the State Comptroller.
The detailed audit plan includes work targets, timetables and guidelines for examining subtopics. The audit is carried out by its directors, coordinators and those in charge of supervising the audit departments and divisions. In order to ensure its proper direction and quality, during the course of the audit, interim discussions are held within the staff units and the office management team.
Upon the conclusion of each audit, a draft report is sent to the audited body together with a request for its response to the facts presented therein, the way they were interpreted and the conclusions which were drawn from them. The purpose of forwarding of a written summary of the audit results to the audited body is to allow it and its employees to exercise their right to be heard. Similarly, the dialogue with the audited body and the receipt of its response helps to improve the audit report and often influences its contents.
Employees of every grade participate in preparing the audit report, from the audit directors, coordinators, departmental and divisional supervisors, professional staff units and the director-general to the State Comptroller himself, who decides upon the final version of the report, the status of the audit and the emphases to be given to the various issues which it covers. This method is designed to produce the optimum analysis of those issues and to reach well-founded conclusions, to guarantee the fairness and professional standard of the reports and, in so far as possible, the accuracy of the facts recorded therein, which is the foundation upon which the reliability of the State Comptroller's reports is based.
While generally speaking, the State Audit constitutes a retroactive analysis pertaining to past events, matters of public interest should be dealt with as soon as possible after they occur, i.e. "real time auditing". In exceptional circumstances, should it become clear during an audit that the results of certain action taken by an audited body may cause irreparable or particularly serious harm, the State Comptroller will say his piece as events unfold, in order to prevent its occurrence.
In appropriate cases, after careful consideration and precise enquiry, the State Comptroller will include the names of those being audited in his reports and even impose personal responsibility on senior officials within the audited bodies. At the same time, in appropriate cases the State Comptroller will indicate that an improvement has been made in the activities of the audited bodies or mention actions which he considers to be particularly meritorious.
The Results of the Audit: the State Comptroller Report
Section 12(B) of the Basic Law: The State Comptroller provides that "Within the framework of his duties the State Comptroller shall submit to the Knesset reports and opinions and shall release them to the public, subject to any restrictions which shall be specified by law." Accordingly, the State Comptroller presents various reports to the Knesset and issues them to the general public. Each audit report contains a summary of the action taken during the scrutiny of the audited bodies and an appraisal of what follow-up action had been taken by the audited bodies to correct shortcomings raised by the audit in previous years. In his reports the State Comptroller highlights any non-compliance or infringement of the law or the principles of integrity, economy and efficiency which in his opinion ought to be mentioned therein and makes recommendations for correcting the shortcomings and preventing their reoccurrence.
A report by the State Comptroller relating the operation of government ministries and state institutions must by law be submitted to the Knesset and contains a summary of the audit that was undertaken, the balance of the State's rights and obligations and the enterprises pursued by the State and its institutions. The State Comptroller submits the report to the Prime Minister and the Chairman of the State Audit Committee, before approximately ten weeks later being presented to the Knesset, together with the Prime Minister's comments on it, and released to the general public. The State Comptroller's reports are currently divided into three sections, which are published on different dates. In addition to this, the State Comptroller publishes a comprehensive annual report on the activities of local government and other audited bodies in the State of Israel.
In addition to the four main reports, the State Comptroller publishes separate reports on special topics, due to their connection to the main problem, in order to maintain integrity, or for another reason such as the special importance of the subject in question, the need for urgent correction of the shortcomings raised by the report or because the report addresses an important issue on the public agenda. Similarly, at the request of the Knesset, the Knesset State Audit Committee or the Government, the State Comptroller issues opinions prepared by him under section 21 of the State Comptroller Law.
An annual audit report is submitted to the Speaker of the Knesset under the Political Parties Financing Law relating the income, expenses and account management of the Knesset factions. In an election year he is also given a report regarding the income, expenses and account management of the parties during the period of the Knesset elections. The Knesset Speaker likewise receives a report from the State Comptroller detailing the results of his audit relating to the accounts of the factions and lists participating in local authority elections and the accounts of the candidates who ran in those elections. Audit reports prepared under the Political Parties Law regarding the accounts of candidates running in party primaries are published in accordance with the dates of the internal elections.
Correcting Deficiencies and Implementation of the Audit Recommendations
The audited body is statutorily required to review its activities in the light of a State Comptroller report, to take measures to correct the deficiencies which were found and to implement the recommendations which were made in the report. The State Comptroller Law provides an obligatory framework for carrying out staff work in the audited body following the submission of the report or opinion to the Knesset and its to the public. Section 21A(b) of the Law obliges the head of every audited body to appoint a team led by the director-general or his equivalent to be responsible for correcting the shortcomings. Where defects were discovered in the running of the audited body, then the team shall discuss ways to eradicate them within 60 days of the report or opinion being presented to the Knesset. The team must make decisions regarding how the shortcomings are to be corrected and update the head of the audited body on its deliberations and those decisions within 15 days of taking them.
Once the team's work has been completed, the head of the audited body must report its decisions to the State Comptroller within 30 days of receiving them. The report must include, inter alia, an explanation of the measures which are to be taken in order to correct the deficiencies, the date by which they are to be corrected, the action for correcting certain shortcomings which it was decided to postpone and the reasons for doing so. The State Comptroller may request additional reports at any time.
Release of the Audit Report to the Public
Publication in the media of the State Comptroller's audits and reports are vitally important in terms of realizing the function of the State Audit within the democratic regime of the State of Israel, and publication of the findings is a statutory obligation under section 12(B) of the Basic Law: The State Comptroller. Publication of the audit reports is consistent with the right of citizens to receive information regarding the activities of government authorities, a right which is based on several principles that are essential to the proper existence of a free and democratic society. Firstly, transparency of information on the activities of government authorities guarantees the existence of a democratic regime which acts for the benefit of members of society in accordance with the rules of good governance. The fact that the authorities are aware of their exposure to public scrutiny is likely to result in greater law and order and to deter them from taking action which deviates from what is permissible and appropriate. Secondly, information in the possession of a government authority is information which belongs to the public and is held by that authority by virtue of its fiduciary obligation to the public, and the State Comptroller assists in distributing that information to the general public. Thirdly, reliable information regarding the activities of government authorities is an essential condition for realizing freedom of speech, since without reliable information the fruitful public debate required in order for the right to freedom of speech to be effectively realized cannot exist. Fourthly, publication encourages the audited bodies to correct the shortcomings described in the audit reports