Cover Story

International Journal of Government Auditing – April 2013

Background is map of the world with no markings.  The title superimposed on the background is 'XXI INCOSAI: Building Consensus to Overcome Challenges
by Liu Jiayi, Auditor General of China and First Vice-Chairman of the INTOSAI Governing Board

The XXI INCOSAI—to be held in Beijing, China, October 22–27, 2013—will be a significant moment in INTOSAI’s history. Leaders and representatives of SAIs from around the world will gather to celebrate INTOSAI’s 60th anniversary. Since its founding in 1953, INTOSAI has stood the test of time. It has grown and, through our joint efforts, produced splendid results. At the XXI INCOSAI, we will review INTOSAI's accomplishments and experiences and plan its mission, goals, and vision for the future.

INTOSAI faces both opportunities and challenges as it sets out on this new phase of its journey. While adhering to its motto—Mutual Experience Benefits All—it will reaffirm its core values of independence, integrity, professionalism, credibility, inclusiveness, cooperation, and innovation. It will unite all members in working toward consensus on innovations in and development of national auditing and open up bright prospects for mutually beneficial relationships among INTOSAI, its members, and its stakeholders. This will be the common aspiration of public sector auditors from across the globe at the XXI INCOSAI.

Looking to the Past

INTOSAI’s growth coincides with the shared endeavor of auditors from member SAIs to promote sustained economic, social, and environmental development and contribute to good governance. Looking at the evolution of INTOSAI, we see a magnificent history featuring the common development of SAIs based on effective sharing of knowledge and experience and fruitful cooperation and exchanges.

INTOSAI has seen its membership grow from 34 in 1953 to the current 191, becoming an international organization second in size only to the United Nations (UN). Through equal participation and the concerted efforts of former and current Governing Board chairs, the General Secretariat, and member SAIs, INTOSAI achievements have included the following:

  • adopting a series of key documents to elaborate fundamental principles and concepts of national auditing, including the Lima Declaration of Guidelines on Auditing Precepts and the Mexico Declaration on SAI Independence;
  • developing and endorsing the International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI) and INTOSAI Guidance for Good Governance (INTOSAI Gov);
  • signing a memorandum of understanding with international donors and development assistance institutions to promote SAI capacity building; and
  • establishing committees, subcommittees, working groups, and task forces under INTOSAI’s four strategic goals to carry out research, cooperation, and exchanges on topics of common concern.

As a renowned model international organization, INTOSAI has brought SAIs into a large family, surmounting differences of belief, race, and region and eclipsing the impact of turbulence, conflict, and war with equality, cooperation, sharing, and mutual benefit as its eternal themes.

The XXI INCOSAI will be a grand festival for all SAIs to review our history, plan for the future, and enjoy our unity. To mark this special event and celebrate INTOSAI's 60th anniversary, the congress will organize a series of activities, including a festive ceremony, the issuance of two commemorative stamps, and a special publication commemorating INTOSAI’s 60th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the INTOSAI General Secretariat at the Austrian Court of Audit.

Working toward Consensus

Over the past 60 years, SAIs have experienced ongoing development under INTOSAI’s umbrella by enhancing exchanges, deepening understanding, and forging consensus. These areas of emphasis—reflected or affirmed in a series of INTOSAI strategic plans, standards, and declarations—have been widely recognized as important milestones in INTOSAI’s history and have become the driving force for ongoing innovations and development in national auditing in the world arena.

SAIs are devoted to promoting good governance by enhancing accountability and transparency in public finance and administration, facilitating the establishment and continuous improvement of oversight and regulatory mechanisms, and making a difference in the lives of citizens. In INTOSAI, we firmly believe that national audit has a role to play in achieving national and international development goals and priorities, including the UN Millennium Development Goals. INTOSAI has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to ensuring the independence of SAIs, implementing the ISSAI framework, strengthening SAI capacity building, demonstrating the value and benefits of SAIs, furthering the fight against corruption, and enhancing INTOSAI communications. We are proud to note that the main principles of the Lima and Mexico declarations have been recognized by a resolution of the UN General Assembly and that stakeholders are increasingly acknowledging the important role of SAIs in promoting efficiency, accountability, effectiveness, and transparency in public administration.

As INTOSAI celebrates its 60th anniversary in China, the world in which we live is undergoing profound changes. Along with the spread of the global financial crisis, the subprime mortgage crisis, and the euro-zone sovereign debt crisis, the mechanisms of global economic governance are going through transformative changes. Thus, it is necessary for an international economic system and a global economic governance system to take shape in a manner more conducive to both fairness and efficiency. The external environment for national audit has new challenges and opportunities and the scope and definition of national auditing has been increasingly enriched and expanded. Consequently, INTOSAI needs to address new topics, such as

  • identifying the nature and core targets of auditing in the current situation,
  • understanding the requirements for development in the context of globalization, and
  • ensuring efficient and effective institutional development and operations and attaining relevant objectives.

Within this context, the important mission of the XXI INCOSAI is to address these challenges and work towards consensus. The two technical themes of the congress are highly relevant and urgent in the current international situation and across national boundaries: national audit and national governance (theme I) and the role of supreme audit institutions in safeguarding the long-term sustainability of finance policies (theme II). Both themes resonate among SAIs. To date, 60 SAIs have submitted country papers for theme I and 48 SAIs have submitted papers for theme II, laying a solid foundation for discussions to reach common understanding at the congress.

During the XXI INCOSAI, we will ensure equal participation of all SAIs, work toward consensus through consultation, pursue development by cooperation, and promote the convergence of the interests of all countries. Following the principles of talking and consulting, seeking common ground while reserving differences, and being inclusive and open, we aim to (1) disseminate and share more broadly our experiences of concepts of national audit and governance and (2) promote benchmarks, best practice, and guidance for national audit among SAIs. A series of newly issued or amended standards and guidelines will be adopted at the congress, and various INTOSAI committees and working groups will be able to demonstrate their products and experience through the exhibits and other facilities provided by the host.

A proposed Beijing Declaration is to be the single final congress document produced at the XXI INCOSAI. Like the products of earlier congresses, it will aim to be openminded and inclusive and embrace significant thoughts, views, and practices conducive to the development of INTOSAI and its member SAIs in order to build a new consensus among INTOSAI members. Centering on the role of auditing in promoting good governance, the Beijing Declaration will summarize the historic achievements and fundamental experience of the past 60 years as well as the results of the two technical themes. It will also communicate the work results, missions, core values, and vision of SAIs and explore the ways in which INTOSAI is seeking to become a model international organization promoting global governance. Furthermore, it will reaffirm the significance of adopting and implementing strategic planning to confirm INTOSAI’s vision and core values in this new era of historic development; highlight the importance of the sharing of experience, capacity building, and the donor cooperation initiative; and present the product of INTOSAI’s Working Group on the Value and Benefits of SAIs, along with other results.

Planning for the Future

Throughout its 60-year history, INTOSAI has learned the importance of enhancing international cooperation, promoting common development and pursuing mutual benefits and results. SAIs around the world also increasingly applying this lesson as a key to achieving common progress and prosperity.

However, we must recognize that the levels of development in SAIs are uneven and there is a keen demand for capacity building. SAIs face the arduous task of contributing to national governance and the better allocation of resources, enhancing capacity building, and living up to stakeholders’ expectations. Moreover, INTOSAI as an organization is also facing the heavy task of promoting global governance, coping with emerging issues, and increasing the credibility of national audit. We believe that the Beijing Declaration, along with other documents approved by the previous congresses (such as the Lima and Mexico declarations) will provide guidance for the future development of INTOSAI and its member SAIs.

We also believe that SAIs will continue to serve society and the public by promoting sustainable development and improvements in national governance, fostering democracy, improving the rule of law, combating corruption and building a clean government, safeguarding national security, stimulating reform, and maintaining people’s livelihood. SAIs should adopt more creative auditing means and methodologies, take effective measures to enhance their capabilities, and overcome challenges. SAIs should also promote exchanges and cooperation, sharing with each other their good practices and experience to help develop national audit worldwide and become independent, model, competent, efficient, and sustainable institutions.

We believe that INTOSAI will maintain its foresight function and the relevance of the issues it focuses on and will continuously update and improve its strategic planning. Based upon a comprehensive understanding of emerging issues and current developments, INTOSAI will conduct research and promote exchanges to disseminate its achievements, making INTOSAI a leader in public sector auditing. INTOSAI will participate in the international rule-making process and play a role in global governance. INTOSAI will advocate for a role in international and global issues such as strengthening financial discipline, discovering and revealing economic risks in a timely manner, fighting corruption, and helping maintain stability in the world economy. INTOSAI will also act on the principles of development, cooperation, communication, coordination, and efficiency in its institutional operations; improve the efficiency of vertical and horizontal communication; and ensure the equal participation of SAIs within the existing organizational framework. INTOSAI should prioritize its support of capacity building for developing countries and become a model international organization featuring good corporate governance, high efficiency, and equal participation.

In the golden season of October 2013, my colleagues and I will welcome you to Beijing. We will strive to present to the congress participants a wonderful experience in China, a country known for its 5,000-year history of civilization, charming natural landscapes, rich traditional culture, and splendid economic achievements. Meanwhile, we will also highlight the development of auditing in China, which dates back many years but has been rejuvenated in the past 30 years. Carrying on the essence of traditional Chinese culture and complying with the spirit of innovation and development, China developed the position of “Zaifu,” a rudimentary form of auditing, almost 3,000 years ago, as well as the earliest “Shangji” system that was adopted to conduct audit and oversight over economic activities. National audit in China also developed the concept of audit as an immune system, which holds that “preventing a problem from happening is more important than handling the problem.” It is the desire and commitment of more than 80,000 external government auditors in China to present a congress that

  • highlights the principles of humanism, care for the environment, development, communication, and cooperation;
  • reflects the spirit of inclusiveness, harmony, innovation, efficiency, and transformation; and
  • complies with the criteria of economy, efficiency, results, and effectiveness.

As an SAI that has just celebrated its 30th anniversary, the National Audit Office of China will be dedicated to making our contribution to INTOSAI as well as to the global development of national audit.