Auditing public administration: the Court of Auditors within the Geneva system

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The question of control of public administration is important and the Geneva case is particularly interesting. How is the work of the public administration controlled in Geneva? We are trying to ensure that the various political powers of the public administration are on hold with the rules set out in the laws. The Court of Auditors is part of a supervisory system in Geneva.

In the Declaration of Human Rights, the principle of the need to control state activity was already mentioned in the 18th century:

« Tous les Citoyens ont le droit de constater, par eux-mêmes ou par leurs Représentants, la nécessité de la contribution publique, de la consentir librement, d’en suivre l’emploi, et d’en déterminer la quotité, l’assiette, le recouvrement et la durée. »

« La Société a le droit de demander compte à tout Agent public de son administration. »

— Articles XIV et XV de la Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen du 26 août 1789.

In France, the creation of the Court of Auditors dates back to Napoleon. Enacting the law of 16 September 1807. In Switzerland, there are only two Courts of Audit in Geneva and Vaud, since the Geneva Court of Auditors was only created in 2007. At the federal level, there is the federal audit of finances which is different from the French Court of Auditors.

There is international recognition of the need for oversight as an integral part of public management:

« Supreme audit institutions play an important role in making public administration more efficient, accountable, effective and transparent. »

— UN, Resolution 66/209 adopted by the General Assembly on 22 December 2011

These principles are considered necessary for the proper management of state activity and political administration in general. The objective is to make public administration more efficient, accountable, effective and transparent by strengthening the supreme audit institutions.

The Court of Auditors at a glance[edit | edit source]

The Court of Auditors is one of the four constitutional authorities as stipulated in Articles 128 to 131 and Article 222. Since the 2012 Constitution, the Court of Auditors has been mentioned there. The other three authorities are the Grand Council, the Council of State and the judiciary. This shows that the Court of Auditors is of equal constitutional standing with the other authorities and there is no hierarchy. They are autonomous and independent authorities. The Constitution is a kind of "framework contract" that sets out the principles for the functioning of the Canton, but there are also implementing laws to implement the main principles laid down in the Constitution. The Law on State Supervision in the Official Gazette D. 1.09. This law governs all cantonal supervisory bodies of which the Audit Office is a member.

The county court has a very broad scope of action, since it is possible to control not only the State departments, but also the communes and entities that can receive public funds. This even applies to all small associations that receive public funds. The spectrum of activity is very broad. Since the new constitution, the Court of Auditors has been able to carry out audits, but also evaluations. Audits are carried out from the point of view of legality and finances, looking at the accounting and management of a company to see if there are no irregularities or anomalies, but also from the angle of management to see if there is good management and propose management rules. Finally, there is the evaluation of public policies. With these two competences within the Court of Auditors, in each mission, we take advantage of the internal competences, but also of this approach.

At the Court of Auditors, there are six magistrates elected for a term of six years, out of these six magistrates, there are three regular magistrates whose sole occupation is professional, while the other three magistrates are substitutes to reinforce them, either when additional people are needed to take on new tasks or when there are problems of recusation. The staff of the Court is hierarchically attached and it is the magistrates who choose the employees hired under private law contracts. The current staff consists of a part-time General Secretary, an Executive Secretary and eleven audit staff. Judges and all staff of the Court shall be bound by official secrecy. The auditing profession is a highly standardised profession with rules and certifications. The strength of the Court of Auditors is that secrecy makes it possible to encourage people to approach the Court of Auditors spontaneously without risking losing their jobs. This concerns all citizens.

Public sphere' auditable by the Court of Auditors[edit | edit source]

App1 Sphère publique contrôlable par la Cour des comptes 1.png

La Cour des comptes fait partie d’un dispositif de surveillance qui couvre toute la sphère publique. La surveillance que pourrait exercer la Cour des comptes pourrait potentiellement couvrir un budget de plus de 13 milliards de francs et toucher plus de 40000 personnes employées dans des structures pouvant faire l’objet de contrôles. Il est possible d’intervenir auprès de l’État de Genève où il y a des départements, la Chancellerie, un département présidentiel et six autres départements. Cela peut aller de 200 à 2000 personnes.

Il est possible aussi de se soucier de l’administration du pouvoir judiciaire et du secrétariat du Grand conseil. L’intervention peut se faire dans plus de 40 communes genevoises et il y a toutes les institutions privées dans lesquelles l’État détient une participation ou une représentation majoritaire. Il y a aussi les institutions cantonales de droit public comme les grandes régies et tous les organismes privés subventionnés par l’État avec une préférence pour les organismes privés liés par un contrat de prestation avec l’État.

Role, mission, activities[edit | edit source]

Conduct of an audit/evaluation[edit | edit source]

Missions last from 3 months (legality) to 12 months (multi-entity management or cross-cutting processes) or even 18 months for evaluations.

  • idea of mission: this can be by self-referral, i. e. the Court can choose for itself to deal with a subject, by a citizen's communication or a request from authorities;
  • opening of the mission: information retrieval and document collection. These are subjects that have nothing to do with each other;
  • Gathering of the necessary documents, taking into account the objectives of the audit and evaluation, conducting interviews, computer extractions, etc;
  • verification and analysis of information;
  • findings and recommendations;
  • writing the report;
  • validation of the report: all decisions are taken by three magistrates. It is a cumbersome process since all the work must be done by deliberating magistrates who must take ownership of the case, but which allows for fairly consensual work. ;
  • publication/dissemination of the report: compared to other monitoring bodies, the reports are published. Even if the Court has no binding power, the publication of reports can bring pressure to bear;
  • Follow-up of recommendations: as the Court has no binding power, the discussion phase is important and all the work done upstream is important. Follow-up of reports takes up to three years. The entity concerned is asked to assess the time required to implement a recommendation. After three years, if the recommendations made are not implemented, it is better to open a new mission than to pursue the implementation of these recommendations all the time.

Summary review[edit | edit source]

For each subject communicated by a third party, the Court of Auditors shall carry out a preliminary analysis in order to determine the relevance of opening a control procedure. If a control procedure is not opened (problems of formal competence of the Court of Auditors, materiality threshold, subject matter already dealt with, etc.), a summary examination is nevertheless carried out, the results of which are transmitted to the communicant. All summary examinations are briefly described in the Court of Auditors' annual report. The Court of Auditors shall publish anonymous summary examinations in the public interest.

Origin of the Court of Auditors' reports: 2009 - 2014[edit | edit source]

Half of the reports are self-reported. Citizen communications correpsodent to 19% of reports. The other reports originate from the executive and legislative authority.

App1 origine des rapports de la cour des comptes 1.png

2013 - 2014: the Court of Auditors' reports[edit | edit source]

Il y a une diversité des sujets traités allant de la ville de Genève, à des entités de droit public ou encore subventionné :

N° 66 - State of Geneva: legality and management audit of the Joint Purchasing Centre (JPC)

No. 67 - City of Carouge: legality and management audit relating to human resources management

No. 68 - City of Chêne-Bougeries: legality and management audit relating to human resources management

N° 69 - Municipality of Corsier: financial management audit

N° 70 - Municipality of Hermance: financial management audit

N° 71 - Geneva Futur Hockey Association: legality, financial and management audit

No. 72 - Geneva University Hospitals (HUG): audit of queue management

N° 73 - State of Geneva: management audit on the IT costs of voting and elections

N° 74 - Chancellery: audit of legality and management relating to the centralised counting of votes

N° 75 - Groupement Intercommunal pour l' Animation Parascolaire (GIAP) - Groupement Intercommunal pour l' Animation Parascolaire: audit of payment processes

N° 76 - Geneva Public Transport (GTP): legality audit on the application of the Staff Regulations to the leave days of members of the Management Board

N° 77 - City of Geneva: management audit on fleet management (COGEVE)

N° 78 - State of Geneva: Management audit on fleet management (MOVE)

N° 79 - GIS: management audit on the governance of the investment process

No. 80 - Financial and management audit relating to road maintenance, 1936 Convention and road accounts

Some statistics after 7 years of activity: 30 June 2014[edit | edit source]

At 30 June 2014, the Court of Auditors was in operation for seven years. The number of objects processed is 230,94 of which resulted in the publication of 80 separate reports and 136 summary reviews ("non-entry"). The origin of the 80 reports is 49% self-reported, 21% are citizen communications and 30% come from the authorities. The 80 reports contain 1248 recommendations with an acceptance rate of 99%. 70% of the recommendations are implemented within 2-1-2 years after the report is issued. The Court of Auditors' main objective is to propose savings. In seven years of activity, a total of 64 million savings have been proposed, of which 16 are unique and 48 recurrent. The potential value from 2007 to 2014 is $223 million. The proposed savings largely cover its operating costs. 317258 reports have been downloaded. In December 2002 a Peer Review (ISSAI 5600) produced a positive report on the Court of Auditors' work in December 2002, highlighting the independence of audits, the relevance of documentation and communications which are "above expectations".

Case Study: Evaluation of Public Policy on Prostitution[edit | edit source]

Definition[edit | edit source]

For Lemieux in The Study of Public Policy published in 1995, a public policy is made up of activities aimed at solving public problems in the environment by political actors whose relations are structured, all evolving over time. At some point in a society, problems arise and politicians are interested in the problem by putting it on the political agenda. Public policy decides to intervene. Public policy evaluation aims to measure and explain the results of public action and its effects on society. The assessment of effects is based on the objectives pursued by public policy and/or in terms of indirect or undesirable effects.

Public policy on prostitution in Geneva[edit | edit source]

The various instruments of public policy to frame this "societal problem" are:

  • At a registration of the TOS with the BMOE, every person who wants to prostitute himself or herself must register with the authorities in order to collect information about the persons;
  • an accountability of the owners of establishments dedicated to prostitution with a registration with the BMOE, the insurance of guarantees of solvency and good repute and the maintenance of a register as well as the provision of receipts tracing transactions between the owner and the ToS.
  • possibilities for restrictions on exercise in sensitive areas, particularly to protect the population;
  • Subsidizing private associations providing support to TdS (health promotion and prevention messages, distribution of prevention materials, support for retraining)

Evaluation Questions[edit | edit source]

Analytical questions were asked on three evaluation questions:

  1. Are the objectives set by the LProst in line with the problems linked to prostitution in Geneva? This question is relevant to whether the objectives set at the time of the creation of the Act are the right ones.
  2. Does public policy on prostitution ensure good working conditions for the ToTs? This question as well as the following are more general on the effectiveness of public policy.
  3. Does public policy on prostitution strengthen prevention, health promotion and occupational reorientation of TdS? This question protects the effectiveness of campaigns.

In any judgment, there is a subjective aspect. One of the questions to be asked is how to ensure a certain scientificity in relation to the observation and recommendation. Using the same methodology, officers must achieve the same result. There are four criteria that will be used in evaluating public policies?

Relevance of public policy[edit | edit source]

The criterion of relevance - an analysis of the link between public policy objectives and the nature of the societal problem to be solved.

The methodological approach takes place in two stages:

  1. Understand the nature of the problem:
    1. Literature tour on the subject;
    2. Interview different experts; these are, for example, university professors;
    3. Interviewing actors in the field such as, for example, associations for the defence of the ToTs, the BMOE, etc;
    4. Question the TOS.
  2. Relate the nature of the problem to public policy objectives.

Public Policy Effectiveness[edit | edit source]

The criterion of effectiveness is to verify that public policy instruments are properly implemented by administrative authorities.

The methodological approach aims to identify and measure administrative achievements, i. e. to go on the ground to see if and in what form public policy materializes:

  • interview the different actors responsible for implementing the instruments;
  • make participating observations;
  • identify indicators/statistical data that attest to the implementation of public policy such as, for example, the number of fines imposed by the BMOE as evidence that the BMOE carries out checks and sanctions for offenders.

Effectiveness of public policy[edit | edit source]

The effectiveness test is intended to measure the influence of public policy on the problem being addressed.

The methodological approach aims to measure the evolution of the societal problem following the implementation of public policy. This will be done by asking people who suffer the negative consequences of the problem to find out if there is an improvement or deterioration in their situation, for example, by drawing up qualitative or quantitative analyses or identifying indicators to measure the impact that public policy has on the criterion of effectiveness and verifying that public policy instruments are problematic, such as changes in the number of STIs among the ToS or changes in the level of understanding of the risks associated with prostitution and ways of protecting oneself from them.

Efficiency of public policy[edit | edit source]

The criterion of efficiency is the relationship between outputs and resources consumed in the context of managerial rationality.

The methodological approach takes place in two stages:

  1. Analyze production procedures/processes to identify resources used such as budget, number of people mobilized, timesheet, etc;
  2. review production procedures/processes to make them less resource-intensive AND/OR promote the use of the most efficient instruments.

Publication of the report and follow-up to recommendations[edit | edit source]

The main results are that, as part of the evaluation of public policy on prostitution, the Court makes recommendations aimed at strengthening controls over working conditions and the actual independence of the ToS. It is also recommended that TdS and their customers be quickly made aware of this issue.

There will be a validation of the results within the Court. Judges guarantee the quality of the report and validate the findings and recommendations. An assessment of the assessed entities will take place. The entities evaluated may express an opinion on the recommendations addressed to them. The follow-up of the recommendations is not subject to coercion, the Court monitors (during 3 years) the effectiveness of the implementation of the recommendations accepted by the entities evaluated.

Specific contributions from the Court of Auditors[edit | edit source]

The Court of Auditors is characterised by the independence of the directors (election), organisational independence (management autonomy, budget), legal and factual independence (constitutional basis, self-referral, etc.) and thus the independence of activities and reports. It replaces most external audit mandates entrusted to trustees or consulting firms at low cost and with high quality standards.

The Court of Auditors has direct access for the citizen or the authorities. Public reports that allow citizens to be aware of the use of public funds, parliamentarians to inform their parties as part of their political priorities, teachers and students to obtain material for their academic activities, and so on. It also offers a global vision of the public sphere at cantonal, communal, subsidised private sector and so on.

References[edit | edit source]