Preceding Hungary's EU membership, since the nineties the Heads and officials of the State Audit Office of Hungary (SAO) and the European Court of Auditors (ECA) have been holding regular meetings. Discussions during these meetings provided the SAO staff with the opportunity to completely map and compile EU regulations related to external audit, as well as to learn about and understand the tasks of a national audit institution in respect of auditing Community funds. The cooperation of the SAO and the ECA can be considered successful providing for instance the fact that the Regular Report issued in 2003 - shortly before Hungary joined the EU - gave a favourable opinion on the Hungarian external audit function.
It is also a characteristic of the excellent relations established with the ECA that each year between 1999 and 2005 at least one SAO auditor participated in the 5-month trainee programme organised by the European Court of Auditors. The objective of this scheme was to make SAO auditors participating in the programme aware of the ECA's audit methodology and practice - in particular in the field of auditing EU funds - and upon their return to the home institution they were expected to make good use of the knowledge in practice.
As it is well known, Hungary has become full member of the European Union as of 1 May 2004. Since then it means that professional relations of the SAO with the ECA (and with other national Supreme Audit Institutions as well) are regulated by the Treaty establishing the European Community. In line with the provisions of the Treaty, the European Court of Auditors carries out its audits on the basis of records and - if necessary - on-site in other institutions of the Community, at the premises of bodies managing revenues and expenditures on behalf of the Community and in the Member States (including the premises of any natural or legal persons receiving payments from the budget). In the Member States such audits shall be carried out in liaison with national audit bodies or - if these do not have the necessary powers - with the competent national department. The European Court of Auditors and the national audit bodies of the Member States shall cooperate in a spirit of trust while maintaining their independence. National audit bodies notify the European Court of Auditors whether they wish to take part in the ECA audits.
On the basis of these principles, the SAO has already started to participate actively in audits performed by the ECA at Hungarian sites since 2003. During on-the-spot checks concerning Community revenues, the responsible SAO officials take part in the preparations, as well as in the field work with the aim to assist the work of the ECA and, on the other hand, to interpret appropriately the SAO's former experiences gained during audits carried out at the respective national body.
Following Hungary's EU membership, the State Audit Office of Hungary has been in the position to delegate staff members as national experts to the European Court of Auditors for a period of 6 months to 2 years. Our institution is making use of this opportunity. The objective of the seconded national expert (SNE) programme is similar that of the trainee programme referred above. However, within the framework of this scheme, it is of particular importance that the ECA can benefit from the professional knowledge and experiences of SAO colleagues.