International Journal of Government Auditing – October 2011
From May 30 to June 2, 2011, the VIII EUROSAI Congress was held in Lisbon. The congress was organized by the Tribunal de Contas of Portugal, which is serving as the President of EUROSAI for 2011–2014.
The congress focused on two main themes.
The following SAIs served as chairs and reporters for each theme and subtheme:
Working groups for each theme and subtheme prepared principal papers and discussion papers for the congress. EUROSAI members contributed country papers that served as a significant basis for the exchange of experiences, discussions, and deliberations.
The presentations of congress speakers also contributed to fruitful debates, which were, in turn, enriched by participant interactions. The participants included representatives of 47 EUROSAI member SAIs and 20 observers from the public audit community (including other representatives of INTOSAI and its regional organizations). All had the opportunity to discuss issues of common interest and major importance that were raised in the context of the congress themes.
New realities in society have had a significant impact on public management and accountability. In a fast-changing world, govrnments must respond more quickly to meet the needs and expectations of their citizens.
Congress participants noted a challenging tension in government between (1) careful democratic processes of legislation and control and (2) flexibility to deal with rapid developments. However, they believe that there is no contradiction between flexibility and an open system model, on the one hand, and accountability, on the other hand.
SAIs have an important role to play in promoting a culture of accountability and facilitating an effectively operating accountability process by auditing, reporting, issuing recommendations, highlighting good practices, and—in some cases—exercising their jurisdictional and sanctioning powers.
Therefore, the congress adopted recommendations on the need for SAIs to adapt to the innovations and changes in society and promote different dimensions of accountability.
Within the framework of the EUROSAI strategic plan adopted by this congress (see below), the congress recommended that EUROSAI build upon this theme through a structured dialogue and other joint efforts to meet the challenges of change, and that the results be shared with the wider INTOSAI community, in accordance with INTOSAI’s motto, Mutual Experience Benefits All.
EUROSAI members recognized that independent regulators are an important, and growing, feature of the public sector landscape in many European countries. They have developed as the result of a variety of factors, and there is no common definition of regulation; in fact, there are many different regulatory roles and functions, and they differ from country to country. However, three primary groups of regulators can be found across EUROSAI members: infrastructure regulators, competition and consumer regulators, and financial services regulators.
The financial crisis has led to enhanced roles for financial regulators across the EUROSAI countries. This can complicate SAIs’ audits of regulation in this area because not all SAIs have audit responsibility for central banks.
Regulators and SAIs have much in common. They have different mandates to contribute to good governance and public sector management, but both aim to protect the interests of citizens.
The congress recommended that given the independent discretion available to regulators and their varied mandates, SAIs and others external bodies need to rigorously scrutinize regulators’ use of financial resources and effectiveness.
The main conclusions and recommendations for each theme can be found at www.eurosai2011.tcontas.pt/Pages/Welcome.aspx.
Other fundamental milestones of the congress were the adoption of the EUROSAI Strategic Plan 2011–2017, which can be found on the EUROSAI Web site (www.eurosai.org), and the decision to hold the next congress in the Netherlands in 2014.
The congress also approved a statement, Reinforcing the independence of SAIs, which can be found at "www.eurosai2011.tcontas.pt/Pages/statement-of-independence.aspx. In this document, EUROSAI members recognize with appreciation and support internal and external INTOSAI initiatives promoting greater transparency, accountability, and the effective and efficient receipt and use of public resources for the benefit of citizens.