Swiss Federal Audit Office Adjusts Audit Activities, Approaches During COVID-19 Health Crisis

Audit Activities During the COVID-19 Health Crisis 

At the end of March 2020, due to the coronavirus spread in Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Audit Office (SFAO) suspended a large proportion of audits while maintaining high priority examinations.

This reorientation aims to use decentralized teams to monitor Federal Council measures in response to the pandemic, particularly those supporting businesses, compensation for loss of earnings, unemployment insurance, as well as cultural and sports communities.

Audit Approach Agility

The SFAO adjusted its audit approach—in accordance with its mandate while incorporating a critical perspective on legal bases associated with the crisis—to improve national response oversight and coordination.

The reorientation has already enhanced the quality of Federal Administration work and reassured Parliament that funds allocated (more than 72 billion Swiss francs by the end of May) are achieving intended goals.

The new approach enables rapid spot checks prior to expenditures, and the SFAO launched a special data analysis effort to detect potential frauds and communicate them to the proper authorities. These measures provide additional security and help limit subsequent corrections.

Preliminary Results

The SFAO published an interim report on national pandemic response efforts in March. The report, which indicates COVID-related measures entail extensive use of contracts, forms and agreements, also shows an increase in new procedures and unprecedented volumes of processes requiring rapid responses.

The SFAO observed cantonal differences in how response efforts are implemented. Inquiries continue to escalate without fully being  addressed—intensifying the potential for errors and unequal treatment, which, in turn, increases subsequent appeals and the likelihood of resource-intensive corrections.

To enhance federal pandemic response efficiency and effectiveness, the SFAO, when possible, exerts influence and provides immediate input, which has been positively received from federal offices. Providing clarity remains crucial, and the SFAO will continue communicating with appropriate authorities, noting errors found and making recommendations to address them.

A second report was published in June that discusses the ability to achieve rapid, unbureaucratic federal measures with minimal errors and abuses.

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