Cover Story

International Journal of Government Auditing – April 2012

Background is map of the world with no markings.  The title superimposed on the background is 'Reflections from OLACEFS.' The title is to the right of a photo of Carlos Pólit Faggioni.
Carlos Pólit Faggioni
Comptroller General of Ecuador and President of the Latin American and Caribbean Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (OLACEFS)

It is a privilege to have the opportunity to share reflections from OLACEFS, the Latin American and Caribbean region of INTOSAI, with other colleagues from around the world through this Journal. I am confident that our thoughts will mirror those of other INTOSAI regions.

I would first like to congratulate the technical and professional efforts of this Journal to promote dialogue on current issues and the modernization of all organizations closely linked with auditing the public sector. The risks that SAIs are exposed to compel us to continually rethink and reshape the role of government audit—whether viewed as that of a simple agent of control or that of a transcendent support to government.

As auditors, we must be prepared to understand human behavior linked to conditions generated by political, economic, technological, and social factors and anticipate future issues if we are to prevent errors or address voluntary actions that can adversely affect the management of the organizations we audit.

But to be able to do this, we must always be ready to learn the lessons that are generated day by day. We must understand that auditing is not an exact and quantifiable science. Rather, auditing has genuinely social dimensions and must begin with the understanding of human beings as the principal actors in society and organizations. (Please see the article “Auditors and Effective Communication Skills” in this issue for an additional discussion on this topic.)

In this regard, we have found the INTOSAI Journal to be a most suitable vehicle for learning about the experiences and points of view of colleagues in SAIs from around the world and also sharing our own experiences with them.

Within the INTOSAI framework, we can address issues of universal concern within the scope of government auditing. These include risk management and evaluation, corporate government, approaches to bank supervision, prevention of money laundering, the application of technology to audit activities, and the redesign of COSO in response to the recent financial crisis.[1]

INTOSAI’s committees, working groups, and task forces generate techniques and knowledge that help SAIs attain higher levels of governmental auditing in many areas. These include audits of disaster-related aid to monitor the flow of external funds that are channeled to countries in the wake of natural or manmade disasters, information technology audits, environmental audits of natural resources, and the implementation of International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI).

I believe that INTOSAI’s true contribution ultimately relates to sustaining the institutions of its members’ countries, supporting democracy, and combating poverty and social inequality. By strengthening governmental control, INTOSAI contributes to strengthening the framework of the state.

The joint efforts of INTOSAI’s official bodies and members have demonstrated that collaborative work generates collective benefits or, in the words of INTOSAI’s motto, “Mutual Experience Benefits All.”

A great example of this has been the integrated work headed up by INTOSAI’s General Secretariat that resulted in passage of the United Nations (UN) resolution supporting the autonomy and independence of SAIs and officially recognizing the Lima and Mexico declarations. In the years to come, this historic milestone will have a major impact and be a point of reference for governments around the world. (See the discussion of the UN resolution in the Inside INTOSAI section of this issue.)

OLACEFS also has undertaken a number of initiatives that demonstrate the value of INTOSAI’s integrated work. OLACEFS is in the midst of an ambitious modernization process that aims to achieve four strategic objectives defined in its 2011–2015 strategic plan: become a model organization, develop institutional capacity, promote knowledge management, and enhance its position within the international audit community. These objectives closely track with INTOSAI-wide efforts to raise the knowledge of INTOSAI members to a uniform level, support INTOSAI members and promote convergence between them and the organization’s regional working groups, convey government audit concerns to decision makers and opinion leaders, strengthen the standing and reputations of SAIs and INTOSAI, and disseminate the benefits of SAIs and INTOSAI among partner organizations.

OLACEFS’s efforts in this regard include the following:

  • OLACEFS is improving its communication system by redesigning its website and adding interactive services. It is also publishing semiannual bulletins edited by the President’s office as well as the OLACEFS magazine.
  • OLACEFS collaborated with the INTOSAI Development Initiative to complete a needs assessment, a regional capacity-building program, and a train-the-trainer program. Currently, OLACEFS is working with IDI on a strategic planning program in which eight of the region’s SAIs are participating.
  • OLACEFS members have carried out technical visits to INTOSAI, EUROSAI, EURORAI,[2] and the International Federation of Accountants to strengthen cooperative ties and learn how these entities have gained the public’s confidence and interest in the activities they promote and the products and services they provide. These visits have enabled OLACEFS to gain systematic information to make the changes needed to improve its own operations and become a more successful, modern, and innovative organization.
  • OLACEFS is collaborating in the development of a network of institutions (nongovernmental organizations, universities, and specialized institutes) to strengthen external audit. The network will support knowledge transfer and provide opportunities for collaboration. It will also open channels of communication with citizens and help to make known the mission, goals, and benefits of OLACEFS’ member SAIs.
  • In the field of capacity development, OLACEFS is working with GIZ, a German international development organization, to create a new knowledge system that includes technical visits, training, technical assistance, and other modalities to promote mutual development.
  • Two other new projects in the region are the international certification of auditors, supported by the Inter-American Development Bank, and an e-learning structure for countries in the Andean region, supported by the World Bank.
  • In 2012, a joint OLACEFS-EUROSAI conference will be held in the Republic of Georgia to facilitate high-level exchanges of information and experiences on technical themes. The conference will also help to establish links between SAIs in both regions and stimulate joint initiatives.

Dear friends and colleagues, I send best wishes on behalf of OLACEFS and want to reaffirm my deep conviction that only our integrated, collaborative efforts will keep us on track in the collective development of our SAIs, which will lead to lasting improvements in our respective countries.

[1]The Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) is a joint initiative of five private sector organizations that develops frameworks and guidance on enterprise risk management, internal control, and fraud deterrence.

[2]EURORAI is the European Organisation of Regional External Public Finance Audit Institutions.