Austria, Germany Report on SDG Audit Efforts
Photo by Lynn Wagner
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The Austrian Court of Audit has carried out an SDG audit on the Austrian Federal Chancellery, and the Federal Ministry of Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, in their capacity as coordinating entities for SDG national implementation.

The audit recommends to: establish an interministerial working group for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda; and report to the HLPF as early as possible and then at least once per legislative period.

The governing board of the German SAI (Bundesrechnungshof) made a strategic decision in July 2017 to prioritize the SDGs in its future audits, and has developed guidelines for auditing.

April 2019: Austria’s Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) audited implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the country and reported on a series of shortcomings, including on SDG planning, institutional arrangements, transparency and inclusiveness, and reporting. Among other European countries, Germany has noted its intent to prioritize the SDGs in its auditing work.

According to the executive summary of the ‘Report of the Austrian Court of Audit: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Austria,’ an SDG audit was carried out from 2016 to 2017 by the Austrian Court of Audit (ACA). The audit covered the work of the Austrian Federal Chancellery and the Federal Ministry of Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, in their capacity as coordinating entities for SDG national implementation. Sectoral SDG audits were also performed in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, and in the Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology.

On planning for SDG implementation, the executive summary indicates that the government programme for 2017 to 2022 mentions the 2030 Agenda but has failed to “set a context” for concrete implementation measures. It notes the absence of a nation-wide SDG implementation strategy or plan that takes into account interactions between the Goals, clearly defines the responsibilities at the federal, provincial and municipal levels, and provides a timetable for implementation.

At the sectoral level, the audit summary notes that programmes, strategies and measures of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management and the Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology took account of the 2030 Agenda, but failed “to establish direct references to the SDGs.” It also reports the absence of an SDG gap analysis in both ministries.

On institutional arrangements, the summary says that while the federal government established an interministerial working group tasked with implementing the 2030 Agenda, the group was mandated only to coordinate the reporting on implementation, but not the implementation itself. The government had conferred the responsibility of SDG implementation to individual federal ministries, but no organizational entity or institution was charged with coordinating implementation or with providing advice to the Federal government on implementation-related matters. This resulted, the report says, in fragmentation of the implementation process.

On transparency and inclusiveness, the summary notes a lack of structures for the systematic involvement of civil society, and a lack of communication with regard to the 2030 Agenda. It adds that the Federal Chancellery and the Federal Ministry of Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs did not make results of their efforts on SDG implementation publicly accessible nor reported to Parliament.

On reporting, the summary indicates that the Federal Chancellery published a first national progress report on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in March 2017 to serve as preparatory work for a future Voluntary National Review (VNR) of progress at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). It remarks however that the report did not contain implementation measures at the levels of provinces, municipalities, nor contributions by civil society or experts. The audit notes that the Federal government has planned to present a first “national progress report” in the framework of the HLPF in 2020, and then only one further report until 2030. Austria has not yet presented its VNR at the HLPF.

Based on these conclusions, the audit recommends:

  • Establishing an interministerial working group for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda to “manage a coherent, nationwide implementation;”
  • Preparing a sustainability strategy containing a structured and coherent nationwide mechanism and taking into account the provinces, municipalities and the civil society;
  • Reporting to the HLPF as early as possible and then at least once per legislative period;
  • Including provinces and the civil society in this reporting; and
  • Embedding SDGs in the “outcome targets” of the federal government.

Other Western European countries have initiated efforts to audit their SDGs. Among them, this update on Germany’s SAI, available on the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) website, notes that the SAI governing board in Germany (Bundesrechnungshof) made a strategic decision in July 2017 to prioritize the SDGs in its future audit work, and noted that the SDGs should be considered as a cross-cutting audit theme to be taken into account by all German SAI audit units when planning future audit activities. Per the document, the German SAI has developed guidelines to support a uniform approach to auditing SDGs, and intends to assess the performance of some major government programmes contributing to SDG achievement.

Also on oversight, Germany has mandated an international group of experts to review its national sustainable development strategy, that serves as the main framework for implementing the 2030 Agenda. As reported in this SDG Knowledge Hub guest article, the international peer review report kicked off deliberations on an update to the strategy, and was embedded in the national cycle of designing, implementing, monitoring and reviewing of the strategy. Germany presented its Voluntary National Review (VNR) of SDG progress at the 2016 UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). [Publication: Report of the Austrian Court of Audit: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Austria – Executive Summary] [Auditing the SDGs: New Developments at the German SAI] [All SDG Knowledge Hub coverage of SDG Audits]

This news story reviews one of the audit reports and activities produced by individual SAIs on the SDGs, as identified by INTOSAI as of April 2019. For more information about SAIs, click here.

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