Cover Story

International Journal of Government Auditing – October 2010

Juan M. Portal - Three Years of Productive Work for the INTOSAI Community

Juan M. Portal
Chairman of the INTOSAI Governing Board and Auditor General of Mexico

We are approaching the end of the Superior Audit Office (SAO) of Mexico’s term as chair of the INTOSAI Governing Board. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly reflect on matters relevant to INTOSAI and its members.

Before addressing this matter, however, I would like to recognize the great honor that INTOSAI has bestowed on the SAO by entrusting it with the responsibility of conducting the work of INTOSAI’s executive body. I would also like to acknowledge our debt to the collaboration provided by INTOSAI’s 189 members and 4 associates during this time.

Together with the broad and outstanding participation of committees, subcommittees, working groups and task forces, we aimed to comply with the 2005–2010 strategic plan INTOSAI adopted in Budapest in 2004. Since we focused on the plan’s four strategic goals and their specific objectives, I consider it relevant to elaborate on them.

Thanks to the Professional Standards Committee, chaired by the supreme audit institution (SAI) of Denmark, INTOSAI now has a broad-based structure of professional standards. Such documents should become an invaluable reference for developing the audit work of all INTOSAI members.

Audit standards set a framework to develop high-quality audits based on the principles of competence, integrity, objectivity, and independence. I firmly believe that auditors should set an example in areas related to transparency, institutional performance, accountability, and quality.

International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI) and INTOSAI Guidelines for Good Governance (INTOSAI GOV) will allow SAIs to establish better practices and methodologies to carry out their work.

INTOSAI’s work in defining international standards to conduct audits constitutes a natural point of reference for SAIs given that they, as supreme audit institutions, lack peers in their national contexts from whom they can gain new perspectives to carry out their responsibilities.

In most cases, an SAI’s national relations are focused on the congress or the executive branch, depending on the entity to which they report. Consequently, their interaction takes place with political actors who, for the most part, are not familiar with the issues of supreme or governmental auditing. Furthermore, they are often guided by particular political interests that clash with the impartial, autonomous, and independent position of SAIs.

Many SAIs also keep contact with their countries’ academic members, who often provide valuable elements for the development of their activities. However, only a peer institution can deal with the practical issues involving the full development of an audit or the review of public administration.

The effort to establish ISSAIs and INTOSAI GOVs must be complemented by a project to implement them throughout INTOSAI’s membership. This is one of the unsettled issues at the end of Mexico’s chairmanship of the INTOSAI Governing Board.

I am gratified to leave this implementation in the capable hands of the Capacity Building Committee (CBC), chaired by the SAI of Morocco and assisted by the professional work of the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI). The full INTOSAI community should acknowledge the valuable contributions both these entities have made during the time that we have chaired the Governing Board.

I would suggest that in addition to the work of the SAI of Morocco and IDI, incentives be generated among member SAIs so that the knowledge contained in the ISSAIs and INTOSAI GOVs becomes a fundamental element in the professional development of individual SAIs. One such measure could be a voluntary certification on INTOSAI’s standards for auditors from within the INTOSAI community.

This certification would contribute to the dissemination of SAI audit standards; at the same time, it could help generate confidence about the quality and professionalism of the work of auditors—especially in developing countries where institutions are still being consolidated—among the congresses or parliaments, the media, and the citizenship, which funds public budgets with its taxes.

We should bear in mind that IDI already certifies trainers from our SAIs. Similarly, why not certify auditors on the standards set by our organization?

Our gratitude goes to the entire INTOSAI membership for offering the SAO of Mexico the chance to chair the INTOSAI Governing Board. We reassert our commitment to maintaining an active participation in support of new INTOSAI goals for superior audit practices, accountability, and government transparency.