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Booklet "The Bundesrechnunghof"

Preface

Präsident Kay Scheller
Dear Readers,
Many of you may have heard of the Bundesrechnungshof from the media. Media often focus on seas of criticism or worse, faced by public sector management. However, this distorted picture of our audit findings does not provide a balanced view of our activities. If you look at the Bundesrechnungshof, there is much more than meets the eye.

In accordance with our constitutional mandate, we review federal financial management and report thereon. This means: We look at the entire range of government activities at the federal government level and analyse whether government operations comply with statutory requirements and whether it is efficient and effective. It is our concern whether and how tax money provides best value for money. Furthermore, our audit work helps enhance the transparency of government actions. This again helps to strengthen the confidence citizens place in the government.

In the course of time, the Bundesrechnungshof has become well known by the citizens. However, there remain questions about what our precise functions are, how we work and what impact our work has.

This booklet outlines how the Bundesrechnungshof examines public expenditure and revenue at the federal government level. It shows that auditing represents only a portion of the manifold tasks to be performed by the external audit bodies.

The Bundesrechnungshof provides advice, on the basis of its audit experience, to Parliament and the Federal Government about major government spending programmes, structural governance matters and proposed legislation. Apart from auditing, the advisory function is an important tool for providing assurance that federal public funds are used efficiently and effectively. This is because modern government auditing is designed to prevent shortcomings or irregularities. Since the Bundesrechnungshof has no powers of enforcement, we need to rely on the persuasive power of our arguments in order to have our recommendations accepted by Parliament and the Government. The fact that Parliament usually endorses our proposals in more than 90 per cent of the cases brought to its attention is ample proof of the soundness of our recommendations.

A sole glance at the figures shows that external audit is worthwhile: The Bundesrechnungshof costs the taxpayer about €150 million, i.e. only about 0.05 per cent of total federal expenditure. In turn, the Bundesrechnungshof’s advice and recommendations result in savings and additional revenue of between €1 billion and €2 billion annually.

However, the figures alone do not tell the full story. Let us suppose that the Bundesrechnungshof did not exist. A major deterrent effect on the federal departments would be lost, i.e. tireless efforts to scrutinise their own actions in accordance with the criteria of efficiency and compliance.

I hope that this booklet will raise your interest in the external audit function at federal government level and help enhance the understanding of the work done by the Bundesrechnungshof.

Kay Scheller
President of the Bundesrechnungshof
Bonn, May 2017

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