International Journal of Government Auditing–July 2005
19th Commonwealth Auditors General Conference
From January 30-February 2, 2005, auditors general from Commonwealth countries met in Wellington, New Zealand, for their 19th conference. The delegates represented Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Cyprus, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Montserrat, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tonga, Uganda, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, and Zambia. Other conference participants included observers from the INTOSAI Secretariat (Austria) and this Journal.
Delegates received a traditional Maori welcome (called a powhiri) to the Parliament buildings (the conference venue). The powhiri began with a wero (challenge) and included a karanga (chant) of welcome and waiata (songs). The Right Honorable Jonathan Hunt, Speaker of the House of Representatives, then welcomed the delegates to Wellington and the Parliament.
The Controller and Auditor-General of New Zealand, Mr. Kevin Brady, officially opened the conference on Monday morning. In his address, he stated that he “hoped that this conference can help us each individually, and within our offices, to feel better equipped to meet the challenges we face. While some of those challenges are common, we each have our own unique issues. Nevertheless, learning about some of those issues during this conference may assist others of us with slightly different issues or when your issue becomes our issue tomorrow.”
Following the opening address, the Secretary-General of INTOSAI, Dr. Josef Moser, delivered a keynote statement in which he informed delegates of the implications of the recently adopted INTOSAI strategic plan for supreme audit institutions (SAI).
A message from the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Right Honorable Donald McKinnon, was then read to the delegates. Mr. McKinnon’s message noted that the Commonwealth Auditors-General Conference was taking place 1 year after Commonwealth leaders met in Abuja, Nigeria, and committed themselves to strengthening core democratic institutions, including the Office of Auditor-General.
The Deputy Controller and Auditor-General of New Zealand, Mr. Kevin Simpkins, then delivered an address introducing the theme of the conference—raising public sector auditing to the next level.
Discussion of Conference Subthemes
Discussions at the conference focused on three subthemes that addressed major areas of government audit and identified strategies and techniques to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of SAIs and deliver better service to the public.
Subtheme I: Delivering a Better Service
This subtheme focused on the expectations of parliamentarians, the public, and other entities. The Right Honorable Helen Clark, Prime Minister, and Gerry Brownlee, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, gave presentations on what governments and oppositions expect of auditors general in 2005. The presentations were intended to enable the participants to consider the nature of others’ expectations and how audit offices should respond so that they can provide an even better service to the public, parliaments, and other stakeholders.
A panel continued with a discussion on auditors general’s perspectives on changing parliamentary expectations. Sir John Bourn (Comptroller and Auditor General of the United Kingdom and Wales), Muhammad Yunis Khan (Auditor General of Pakistan), and Richard Smith (Assistant Auditor General of Canada) spoke from the perspectives of their respective countries and audit offices.
The Right Honorable Sir Geoffrey Palmer, former Prime Minister, and Garry Wilson, Chief Executive of the Accident Compensation Corporation, concluded the discussion of subtheme I with presentations on what the public and audited agencies expect of auditors general.
Subtheme II: Enhancing Our Skills
Roy Tiffin, President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand, led the presentation on sub-theme II with a talk on challenges facing auditors general in 2005. He concentrated on the business of auditing and explored challenges in auditing the public sector. Discussions explored new developments and challenges, including the SAI’s role in relation to sustainability reporting, new developments and issues in performance auditing, and the impact of new auditing standards in the years ahead. Participants concluded that SAIs need to continually enhance their skills to be able to respond to expectations and their environment.
Subtheme II concluded with concurrent workshops on (1) the role of auditors in sustainability reporting (the SAI of Australia), (2) the impact of new auditing standards on public sector auditors (the SAI of South Africa), and (3) current trends, developments, and challenges In performance auditing (the SAI of Malaysia).
Subtheme III: Excelling at Managing Ourselves
Subtheme III was introduced with papers on measuring and reporting the performance of SAIs. These were presented by Prabhat Acharya, Principal Director (international relations) of India, and Richard Smith, Assistant Auditor-General of Canada.
The papers were followed by concurrent workshops on the same issue. In the workshops, papers were presented by Asif Ali, Comptroller and Auditor-General of Bangladesh; Rajan Jugurnath, Director of Audit of Mauritius; and Kaveni Takalevu, Deputy Auditor-General of Fiji, and Radhika Reddy, Audit Manager of Fiji.
Following the workshops, delegates reconvened to hear a presentation by Martin Sinclair, Assistant Auditor-General, National Audit Office, United Kingdom, on knowledge management. Following the presentation, the delegates discussed their experiences of knowledge management in their respective SAIs and ways to ensure that the benefits of knowledge management are realized.
The Deputy Controller and Auditor General of New Zealand closed the conference by summarizing key issues related to the three sub-themes and highlighting remarks from each of the speakers. He emphasized that participants had heard throughout the conference from many different customers and from other SAIs with their own personal perspectives on expectations and needs. He suggested that all SAIs need to remember why they exist (their purpose); protect who they are (their position); and regularly adapt and shape their services (their products and services) to be relevant to their clients. He concluded, our “success or failure will be determined by what we do when we go back to our audit offices.”
Closing comments and words of thanks were delivered by the Controller and Auditor-General of New Zealand and the Comptroller and Auditor General of the United Kingdom and Wales.
For more information about the conference, contact: the Office of the Controller and Auditor General of New Zealand, Level 5, Hitachi Data Systems House, 48 Mulgrave Street, Thorndon, Wellington 1, New Zealand; tel: +64-4 917 1500, fax: +64-4 917 1549; e-mail: Info@oag.govt.nz; Web site: www.oag.govt.nz.