Most countries have a national audit office, which is designed to support the constitutional segregation of duties between government and parliament. National audit offices are placed either under the judicial, the executive, or the legislative leg of the constitutional order. In countries with democracy, however, the independence of the national audit office is guaranteed law based. The audit of public accounts is an important helps secure democratic control and promote effective and reliable administration.
Denmark's first constitution from 1849 was in many ways inspired by the Belgian constitution from 1831, which was reflected in the provision concerning the financial budget, according to which the authority to appropriate funds was placed with the parliament. The constitutional commission therefore considered setting up a public audit authority as a special administrative court along the lines of the Belgian court of audit. However, it was decided that the two parliamentary chambers, the Landsting and the Folketing should instead set up a public accounts committee (PAC) with four members. As in Norway, the PAC was to review the government accounts before they were presented to the two chambers with the committee members' comments.
When the Danish parliament, in 1855, passed the common constitution for Denmark and the two German duchies, Schleswig and Holstein, it was stipulated that a court of audit was to be established by law. However, when the law text was to be formulated, the legislators were concerned about the prospects of handing over the responsibility for the administrative audit to an independent audit authority. Consensus on a bill was never reached and the provision concerning the establishment of a court of audit was rejected by the parliament in 1866, when the constitution was revised. Instead, it was decided to abide by the resolution concerning a public accounts committee. In 1901, the Danish parliament brought up the issue once more, but again without reaching any conclusion.
The PAC and the national audit offices
The members of the PAC were only allowed to reconcile appropriation and account figures and in practice it was almost impossible for them to carry out an actual audit that would indicate whether the accounts submitted by the ministries were correct. In 1917, the parliament therefore adopted the first public accounts bill, according to which the members of the PAC could base their work on the audit reports issued by the administrative auditors in the ministries. With this change, the current division of labour between the PAC and the auditor general was established.
The ministries' accounting and audit procedures were, however, not very well organised. The members of the PAC expressed their concern over this and in 1926, the parliament adopted the first public accounts act, which prescribed that all government accounts should be subject to financial, compliance and performance audit. Similar provisions can be found in the current Auditor General Act, sections 2 and 3. The Ministry of Finance set up four national audit offices that shared the responsibility for auditing all government agencies and bodies in the country. In conformity with the provisions currently applying to Rigsrevisionen, the PAC could request the national audit offices to conduct examinations. However, the national audit offices, which in 1958 changed name and became audit departments, were at the same time an integral part of the internal audit system and their services were available to the individual ministries.
Rigsrevisionen was established on 1 January 1976 through a merger of the two audit departments that were left after the adoption of the Auditor General Act of 1975. A ministerial committee had considered the possibility of placing Rigsrevisionen under the parliament. In the opinion of the committee, however, such a change would require an amendment of the constitution. Therefore, the committee recommended that Rigsrevisionen became independent of both government and parliament. However, it soon turned out that there was reluctance to make Rigsrevisionen independent of the government and instead the institution was established as an independent body under the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The Sovereign would then, upon recommendation from the Minister for Economic Affairs and after consultation with the PAC, be responsible for appointing the auditor general. With the new organisation, Rigsrevisionen could perform cross-disciplinary examinations and recruit staff with the necessary competencies to perform performance audit and tackle the challenges associated the introduction of electronic data processing.
In 1991, Rigsrevisionen was transferred from the Ministry of Economic Affairs to the parliament. The bill on the amendment of the Auditor General Act was drafted by the PAC, presented by the Presidency of Parliament and adopted unanimously by parliament.
Today, Rigsrevisionen is an independent institution under the authority of parliament. The Auditor General is appointed by the President of the Folketing upon recommendation from the PAC, cf. The Auditor General Act, section 1.
For further information, please contact Niels Gyldenvang Steffensen (+45 33 92 83 46).
Last updated on 13 June 2016