International Journal of Government Auditing – Winter 2016
Institutional Strengthening Project in Samoa
When the International Journal of Government Auditing invited me to contribute an editorial for the Winter issue I thought long about what it is that will convey a story or message. I determined that it would have to be a story or message that describes the SAI Samoa’s progress. Our inspiration has come from the Lima and Mexico City Declarations, various UN Resolutions, and INTOSAI’s Principles of Independence. I’d like to share the story of recent developments at the SAI Samoa as a testament to the progress that can be made over a relatively short timeframe through insti- tution strengthening, capacity building, and knowledge sharing. This is a story of the SAI Samoa’s achievements in partnership with the broader INTOSAI Community and donors. It is a testament to the INTOSAI motto – Mutual Experience Benefits All.
I joined SAI Samoa in 1996 at a time when there were only nine professional staff Th average backlog in audits and accounts at that time was between 5 and 10 years while reports to parliament had a 4 year backlog.
Ten years later, in 2006, I was appointed the Deputy Controller and Chief Auditor and given the responsibility of coordinating our Institutional Strengthening Project (ISP) which ran from 2006 until 2011. Th project was designed to review and modify project management and major technical components of SAI Samoa. Th included targets related to:
For each of these technical components, SAI Samoa identified and carried-out tasks to achieve the objective. Examples of tasks included developing new procedure manuals for office operations, developing and building new IT systems, updating our audit manual for financial audits, developing communication plans for our stakeholders, and creating processes for our new IT and performance audit functions.
Within the performance audit area, we had to work from the ground up to set up the capability. We developed a new audit manual based on global best practices to cover stages of a performance audit for our office. Figure 1 illustrates the stages we identified in our new performance audit manual. Aside from the performance audit manual, we standardized work papers and templates for all stages of our audits, developed a methodology for selection of topics to cover in our performance audits, created new positions within our office and developed appropriate job descriptions for those positions, and trained current staff in the new audit manual and methodologies.
We also developed two additional manuals that encompass work done in performance audits. These included the Performance Measures Audit Manual and the Fraud Investigation Manual. With the Performance Measures Audit Manual, we documented the processes we would use when carrying out audits of performance measures. It includes criteria for assessing good performance measures and auditing those measurements. The Fraud Investigation Manual established our methodology for carrying out fraud investigation audits. The manual covers all aspects of an investigation.
SAI Samoa’s Vision: “To be a leader in delivering independent public sector audit services and promoting improvement in public sector administration.”
As a result of the ISP, SAI Samoa added many new skills. Our office now conducts a range of performance, environmental and information technology audits. We also enhanced tools and existing skills and knowledge in the traditional disciplines of compliance and financial auditing.
Perhaps the most significant achievement of the ISP was review and improvements to the legislative and policy framework for SAI Samoa. These were passed and enacted in January 2014 as the Constitutional Amendment No. 2 Act 2014 and the Audit Act 2013. This new framework provided additional mandates and core functions of the Audit Office.
The ISP also brought significant changes to our human resource management. The Public Service Commission approved the revised organisational structure of SAI Samoa in February 2011 and the Ministry of Finance provided additional resources over the next three years. Now we have 50 professional staff and we have reduced our backlog in audits and accounts. SAI Samoa has also now set up the platform for quarterly reporting to Parliament commencing with the first quarter of the Financial Year 2013/2014.
The major reforms and accomplishments continue. SAI Samoa now operates under 10 Year Strategic Plan that is aligned with the 10 Year Strategy of PASAI. Our strategic plan covers the 10 year period from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2024. Our plan will be regularly reviewed and updated, as necessary, to ensure we account for changes in circumstances.
This follows and observes the Samoan age old concept that principles and foundations will remain but practices do change in accordance with the circumstances of the day.
SAI Samoa’s vision remains the same in the 10 year strategic plan for July 2014 to June 2024 as in the 2009-2012 Strategic Plan –
“To be a leader in delivering independent public sector audit services and promoting improvement in public sector administration”.