International Journal of Auditing – October 2006
On July 1, 2004, I was appointed President of the Austrian Court of Audit and Secretary General of INTOSAI. Since just over 2 years of my 12-year term have elapsed, this is a good moment to think back on what has been accomplished during this time and to take stock of the new INTOSAI, which is going from strength to strength.
As a newcomer to the INTOSAI family, I was immediately taken by the warm welcome I received, INTOSAI’s record of accomplishments during its first 50 years, and its immense potential and resources.
I assumed office just as INTOSAI entered a time of renewal, reorganization, and new vision for the future. At the beginning of the new millennium, INTOSAI recognized the need to add tools and instruments to its existing repertoire and pair them with innovative forms of interaction, communication, and leadership to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world of accelerating globalization, dynamic global transformations, and growing demands for accountability and transparency. One of the goals I set for myself as I began my term was to reconcile past achievements with bolder visions for the future. To deliver on my promise of reaching out to the INTOSAI family and enhancing INTOSAI’s presence, I have traveled extensively to events and meetings, where I have gotten to know colleagues and forged ties with counterparts around the globe. Today, I am proud to say, INTOSAI has managed to adjust to its new environment while building carefully on past achievements and has achieved a stronger profile and greater influence in the global arena.
Progress on All Fronts
My appointment to office also coincided with the adoption of INTOSAI’s strategic plan for 2005 to 2010 by the 18th INCOSAI in Budapest. This milestone document, a historic endeavor, is being implemented throughout INTOSAI. The strategic plan, which is designed to guide INTOSAI’s operations in the years ahead, proposes three primary mission-related goals.
Goal 1 promotes strong, independent, and multidisciplinary SAIs and the development and adoption of effective professional standards. The SAI of Denmark—which chairs this goal and the Professional Standards Committee (PSC) that was established under the goal—set the ambitious objective of merging existing and new INTOSAI standards and guidelines into a common framework. This will give INTOSAI members and other interested parties an overview and common understanding of INTOSAI’s auditing standards and guidelines, eliminate existing duplication, focus greater attention on professional standards, and raise the profile and status of INTOSAI’s standard-setting process within the broader accountability community.
Goal 2 focuses on building the professional capabilities and capacities of SAIs through training, technical assistance, and other development activities. Under the leadership of the SAI of Morocco, the Capacity Building Committee (CBC) officially presented its terms of reference and instituted three subcommittees at its inaugural conference in London in March 2006. These subcommittees will promote capacity-building activities among SAIs, develop advisory and consultant services, and promote best practices and quality assurance through voluntary peer reviews. This broad-based effort—which involves many SAIs, INTOSAI’s regional organizations, and the INTOSAI Development Initiative—will help INTOSAI brace itself for the challenges of the new millennium.
Goal 3 promotes cooperation and collaboration between SAIs and their continuous improvement through knowledge sharing, including benchmarking, best practice studies, and research. In cooperation with the SAI of India, an INTOSAI communications policy and online collaboration tool is being elaborated to further INTOSAI’s modernization.
Goal 4 calls for INTOSAI to become a model international organization. Through ongoing interaction and consultation, the Finance and Administration Committee, chaired by the SAI of Saudi Arabia, spearheaded a reform of INTOSAI’s finances. With a view to long-term sustainability of INTOSAI’s finances, the General Secretariat followed up on and immediately implemented a number of valuable recommendations the committee made on areas such as debt management, the conversion of its accounting system to the euro, and the streamlining of its accounting procedures. As befits a model international organization, INTOSAI can take pride in the sound management of its own business matters. To respond to its need for modern communications, INTOSAI is giving a thorough facelift to its Web site, which will be relaunched shortly.
The Human Factor
A director of strategic planning was appointed to implement INTOSAI’s strategic plan. Mr. Klaus Henning Busse, from the SAI of Germany, started to work at the General Secretariat in Vienna in January 2006. Our working relations have been excellent on both the professional and personal levels and have been carried out in a spirit of constructive cooperation. His mandate is to translate the strategic plan’s ambitious goals into reality while trying to adopt a streamlined and target-driven approach to INTOSAI’s divergent systems, multilayered structures, and varied settings. Mr. Busse reports directly to me and consults with me on a regular basis. He has been interacting closely with the committees, working groups, task forces, and regional working groups on an ongoing basis. Recently, he sent to the regional working groups a questionnaire on their progress in implementing the strategic plan in the different INTOSAI regions and on measures and programs they have already adopted.
Recent Highlights and a Vision for the Future
The INTOSAI Tsunami Initiative is a shining example of INTOSAI’s new spirit. In the wake of the tsunami disaster in December 2004, the General Secretariat and the SAI of the Netherlands undertook this initiative, which was favorably received by the SAIs of major donor and recipient countries and international stakeholders. The initiative led to the establishment of the INTOSAI Task Force on Accountability and Audit of Disaster-Related Aid and to the organization of the International Symposium on Strengthening Global Government Audit: The Contribution of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions, as illustrated by the Audit of Tsunami Relief Funds. The symposium promoted government audit and, in particular, the global activity of INTOSAI, using the audit of tsunami relief funds as an example. This 1-day event, hosted in the prestigious Austrian Parliament building, drew a large and high-ranking international audience to Vienna. The symposium participants adopted the Vienna Declaration, which contains recommendations to ensure that public funds the state manages in trust for its citizens are used for designated aid projects in a transparent, efficient, and effective manner. The symposium was a groundbreaking event that enhanced the accountability for and audit of disaster-related aid. Major stakeholders—such as the European Commission, the United Nations, and the World Bank—pledged their continued support to the initiative and signaled a readiness to fund external INTOSAI projects. A brochure published after the symposium compiles national and international experiences in auditing disaster-related aid and reflects the excellent international cooperation between government audit institutions. The SAI of Austria and the General Secretariat took pride in hosting such an outstanding event, which set an example for future INTOSAI activities.
INTOSAI has also undertaken a visionary project focused on auditor training and continued education that relates to its goals of knowledge sharing and capacity building. In a joint venture with the Executive Academy of the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, the Austrian SAI has developed a postgraduate program in public auditing that started in March 2006. This master of business administration (MBA) program will provide a forum for a fruitful interchange on key issues of auditing, sound financial management, and government accountability. The curriculum will cover comparative analyses of auditing and accounting standards and guidelines from different international bodies, including the European Union, the International Federation of Accountants, the Institute of Internal Auditors, as well as INTOSAI. In this way, INTOSAI standards will enter the academic world. In a further step, the Vienna University of Economics is planning to follow up on my suggestion and extend the MBA program to a university-level International Centre of Excellence for public auditing based in Vienna.
Never before has the pace of activities between INTOSAI’s triennial congresses been more dynamic than it is at present, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to actively shape our organization’s development. INTOSAI is already gearing up for its next congress, to be hosted in late 2007 by the SAI of Mexico. Preparations for this event are in full swing, and the General Secretariat is actively coordinating with the incoming host. With the combination of relevant congress themes, excellent cooperation between the SAI of Mexico and the General Secretariat, and a highly committed team, the 19th INCOSAI promises to be a showcase event that will testify to the new strength of this organization. By combining our efforts and translating vision and values into concrete action, we can—in a spirit of renewal, inclusiveness, and sharing—make a real difference and realize INTOSAI’s motto: Experientia Mutua Omnibus Prodest.