International Journal of Government Auditing – July 2004

XVIII INCOSAI: Budapest, October 2004 - Dr. Árpád Kovács, President, State Audit Office of Hungary

The 18th INCOSAI (International Congress of Supreme Audit Institutions) will take place October 10-16, 2004, in Budapest. While all INTOSAI events are significant, the triennial congresses stand out among them. Important issues are addressed—for example, setting up committees, approving the budget, changing the INTOSAI statutes, and electing new members of the Governing Board—and delegates from many nations attend. However, the most important and decisive congressional activity is the discussion and acceptance of reports based on professional recommendations. According to the INTOSAI statutes, the task of the Congress is to “discuss and pass recommendations on subjects of common professional and technical interest, with a view to promoting the exchange of ideas and experiences” (para. 5/a, article 4). These recommendations will play a decisive role in the professional development of auditing.

The two themes of the 18th INCOSAI—The Possibilities for Bilateral and Multilateral Cooperation among Supreme Audit Institutions and Coordination of Audit Efforts among National, Regional, Local and Self-governing Bodies—are being elaborated by the National Audit Office of the United Kingdom and the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, respectively. Both themes raise issues that will significantly influence the interpretation and the future development of auditing.

Nearly 50 countries have submitted country papers for the development of the two themes, a clear indication of the level of interest the themes have generated. In addition, the committees and working groups of INTOSAI will present reports to the 18th INCOSAI that will significantly contribute to and define the future development of the audit profession. For example, the Internal Control Standards Committee has prepared and modernized internal control standard guidelines for the requirements of the 21st century. Professional documents of similar importance include Sustainable Development: The Role of Supreme Audit Institutions and Environmental Auditing and Regulatory Auditing, prepared by the Working Group on Environmental Auditing.

The debates and the subsequent recording of the results will add to the decisive and far-reaching influence of the 18th INCOSAI. The principles elaborated will help to initiate and develop processes of transformation that will enable INTOSAI to adjust to the requirements and expectations of the 21st century.

To date, INTOSAI has successfully handled the challenges it has faced. Following the 51st Governing Board meeting in Budapest in October 2003, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of INTOSAI’s founding. The celebrations offered an opportunity for experts, SAI heads, university professors, and politicians to evaluate INTOSAI’s efforts and highlight significant results over the past 50 years.

One result has been the creation of such important documents as the Lima Declaration, the Magna Carta of contemporary financial audit, which clearly and convincingly summarizes the most important principles of contemporary auditing and provides the definitive explanation of SAI independence. Another result has been the establishment of the INTOSAI Development Initiative audit training system, which disseminates the latest and most efficient audit methods to the remotest corners of the ever-shrinking globe. Furthermore, the activities of INTOSAI’s standing committees and working groups have virtually revolutionized state audit. Similarly, INTOSAI’s regional organizations have helped to address different local and regional needs and interests related to the realization and development of auditing. While this list of results is not exhaustive, it demonstrates that INTOSAI has fulfilled its tasks at a professional level and has become a highly efficient international organization.

After half a century, INTOSAI is facing a new period in its history with new problems and challenges and, more than likely, new tasks to be completed. Interestingly, the next 50 years of INTOSAI’s history coincide with the beginning of the 21st century, which has already brought some surprises and unexpected problems that will affect the development of state audit. It is also clear that the international auditing community will have to address these challenges with the assistance of INTOSAI.

To handle these new global audit tasks, the basis of INTOSAI operations must be changed by modernizing the organization. The 18th INCOSAI will play a decisive role in this process. Its agenda will include debates on proposals of the Governing Board’s Strategic Planning Task Force that are directed toward this modernization. The planned debate at the 18th INCOSAI will elaborate the basic principles and framework upon which INTOSAI will address the challenges of the 21st century. We firmly believe that the proposed strategic plan, which was unanimously endorsed by the Governing Board at its extraordinary meeting in June 2004, will contribute to even more successful INTOSAI activities in the future. As a result, the 18th INCOSAI will be a milestone in INTOSAI’s development.

The 18th INCOSAI will be the first hosted by an Eastern European country. Several European countries hosted earlier INCOSAIs—the 2nd in Brussels (1956), the 4th in Vienna (1962), and the 8th in Madrid (1974). But, it has been 15 years since the last European INCOSAI—the 13th—took place in Berlin in 1989. Since that time, decisive, deep, and historic political, social, and economic reforms have taken place in Europe. New countries and new parliamentary democracies have emerged in Eastern Europe, where the transformation to a market economy and parliamentary democracy has resulted in the creation of independent SAIs in accordance with the criteria of the Lima Declaration. The rapid developments of the 1990s finally made it possible for Budapest, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, to be the venue of the 18th INCOSAI.

We should also mention that the 18th INCOSAI will take place when another major change is transforming the life of 10 Central and Eastern European member countries of INTOSAI. In the spring of 2004, each joined the European Union (EU), bringing the EU’s membership to 25.

This historic step will have many consequences. For auditing, it will promote and realize the success of INTOSAI standards. The new INTOSAI member states of the EU will be adapting those developed audit methods being used in the European Union that rely and are based upon INTOSAI auditing standards. As members of the European Union, we also hope that the issue of the European Court of Audit’s INTOSAI membership will be finally and satisfactorily settled during the 18th INCOSAI. We trust that we will be able to find a solution that will serve as an example of promoting cooperation between large international organizations and INTOSAI.

We look forward with great expectations to the recommendations and statements of the 18th INCOSAI. The management of the Hungarian State Audit Office (SAO) and the SAO staff responsible for organizing this event will do their best to ensure optimal arrangements and working conditions for the Congress.

Delegates will be accommodated in the best Budapest hotels. The venue for the Congress itself will be the Budapest Convention Center, a comfortable complex that is fitted with all the modern equipment required and is located in one of the most attractive parts of the city. In 1997 and 2000, INTOSAI’s Internal Control Standards Committee hosted the I and II International Internal Control Conferences at the convention center.

The leaders of the Republic of Hungary attribute great importance to welcoming the 18th INCOSAI to Budapest. The opening ceremony of the Congress will be in the Hungarian Parliament building, one of the most beautiful and monumental public buildings in Budapest. The Speaker of the House will attend the opening ceremony, and the President of the Republic will receive the heads of delegations. We will offer delegates a glimpse of Hungarian culture with a concert featuring the works of outstanding Hungarian composers at the Opera House and an excursion to the ruins of Visegrád Palace.

Through all these efforts, our aim is to ensure the success of the 18th INCOSAI and contribute to establishing a solid foundation for the continued success and modernization of INTOSAI’s work.