Highlights

International Journal of Government Auditing – January 2015


Partnering across the Pacific
A regional cooperative audit of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction strategies in a number of Pacific Island states

What is cooperative auditing?

A cooperative audit is an audit conducted more or less simultaneously by two or more autonomous auditing bodies or supreme audit institutions (SAIs), but with a separate audit team from each body, usually reporting only to its own governing entity and only on matters within its own mandate. With this approach, the methodology and audit approach are shared. An additional feature of cooperative auditing is that an overview report can be compiled based on the key findings arising from the individual SAI reports (INTOSAI 2007)

The cooperative approach has proved to be a valuable environmental auditing tool enabling SAIs to assess individual jurisdictional responses to broader regional environmental impacts and to share lessons, through the regional report, that may be of benefit to other jurisdictions facing similar environmental challenges. This is the fourth cooperative audit undertaken by the Pacific Association of Supreme Audit Institutions (PASAI) members on environmental topics.

Why audit climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction strategies?

The countries of the Pacific are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels, cyclones, tsunamis, food security, and coastal erosion are real and daily threats. Settlements and societies that live in areas prone to climate change and that are dependent on scarce resources are particularly vulnerable to these impacts. Over the past few years, Pacific Island Forum Leaders have reaffirmed climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific. In acknowledging this, climate change is a standing item on the agenda of the Pacific Island Forum.

Partnering to address climate change was recognized at the Third UN Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) held in Samoa in September 2014. Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, said she had three major takeaway points from the conference: SIDS taking the lead in climate change issues despite their vulnerabilities; the SIDS leadership in partnership to address the issues; and that SIDS, as tiny as they are, are challenging the rest of the world to follow their lead (SPREP 2014).

The outcome statement of the SIDS conference was the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway (SIDS 2014). The UN is promoting that the SAMOA Pathway remain a ‘live’ document in the lead-up to the 2015 United Nations Convention on Climate changes to be held in Paris in December. The United Nations is continuing to build momentum towards the Paris Conference, when leaders are expected to reach a landmark treaty.

“Addressing climate change is essential for realizing sustainable development. If we fail to adequately address climate change, we will be unable to build a world that supports a life of dignity for all,” warned United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon when addressing Member States at a briefing in February 2015. Mr. Ban also emphasized that resilience must be strengthened, especially in the small island states and least developed countries.

Photo:  The bottom side of a grey turtle in bright 
turquoise to dark blue water.
The adverse effects of climate change present significant risks to the sustainable development goals of Pacific Island states and long-term effects may threaten the very existence of some of these states, especially lowlying coral atolls.

Pacific governments also face challenges in recovering from natural disasters. Pacific Island states have considerable experience in responding to natural disasters such as cyclones and other extreme weather events. Given the expectation (IPCC 2013) that the » frequency, intensity and/or duration of extreme weather events and corresponding natural disasters will increase in the region as a result of the impact of climate change, efforts to build on effective responses to natural disasters makes sense.

While historically, at the global level, there has been a two-track approach addressing the issues of climate change and disaster risk reduction separately, policy makers are increasingly promoting the need for an integrated approach. As experience with both climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction grows, there is increasing recognition that these two fields share a common focus: reducing the vulnerability of communities and contributing to sustainable development.

In light of this, many governments of Pacific Island states have started taking action to integrate climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction into their national policies, plans and activities. This approach recognizes that in the short- to medium-term, many impacts of climate change may manifest themselves through change in the frequency, intensity or duration of extreme weather events and corresponding natural disasters.

A recent IPCC report noted that for countries with a high sensitivity (meaning a small change in climate can have a large impact) or a low capacity to adapt to climate change, the net costs will be significantly larger than the global average.

Studies have shown that adequate adaptation is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, and is likely to be far less costly than inaction. As the United Nations Development Program noted, “Every dollar spent on preparing for disasters saves around seven dollars in economic losses” (UNDP 2012).

Valuable lessons can be learned from responses to disasters to inform the development of climate change adaptation measures. For these reasons, PASAI Auditors- General decided there was merit in examining administrative arrangements that underpin individual Pacific Island state responses to the challenges of climate change and disaster risk reduction.

The countries of the Pacific are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels, cyclones, tsunamis, food security, and coastal erosion are real and daily threats.

Valuable lessons can be learned from responses to disasters to inform the development of climate change adaptation measures. For these reasons, PASAI Auditors- General decided there was merit in examining administrative arrangements that underpin individual Pacific Island state responses to the challenges of climate change and disaster risk reduction.

Which SAIs took part in the regional cooperative audit?

Ten SAIs from eight Pacific Island states participated in the audit and were drawn from the sub-regions of Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia. Eight of these ten SAIs have reported publically on the findings of their individual audits: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the FSM State of Kosrae, the FSM State of Pohnpei, Fiji, Palau, Samoa and Tuvalu. The key findings of these eight audit reports form the basis of the regional overview report, which will shortly be available on the PASAI website.

Support for cooperative auditing

The audit was a combined effort involving the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and PASAI. Australia’s Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) also provided support to audit teams. The INTOSAI Regional Working Group on Environmental Auditing (RWGEA) was significantly involved in planning and clarifying the scope of the cooperative audit. The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) provided specialist technical expertise on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction measures in the Pacific. SPREP also advised the audit teams with technical climate change matters over the course of their audits.

Overall audit objective

The approach to the audit agreed by the PASAI Congress was slightly different to previous regional cooperative audits by PASAI. Because different regions of the Pacific have different vulnerabilities to climate change effects and severe weather events, the 2012 PASAI Congress approved an umbrella audit topic enabling individual SAIs to develop audit objectives and lines of enquiry relevant to their specific jurisdiction. The approved broad audit topic, to be filled in as appropriate to each participant, was:

“To assess the effectiveness of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction strategies, plans and financing in the ___ sector of ___ (country).”

This aproach resulted in audit topics grouping around three main themes:

  • preparedness for climate change effects (three SAIs)
  • planning for and managing climate change effects, such as coastal erosion (three SAIs)
  • managing climate change effects on food security (four SAIs)

Consolidated regional findings

Audit findings from the eight published audit reports clustered around the following key performance themes:

  • governance arrangements, including legal and policy frameworks, mainstreaming and coordinating responses across government agencies, vulnerability assessments and strategy development, and coordination between responsible agencies
  • project implementation, including project- level governance—that is coordination and project management, financing and human resource capacity constraints
  • monitoring and reporting

Overall regional conclusion

Overall, the regional audit concluded that the Pacific Island states audited as part of the regional coordinated audit are not well placed to respond effectively to the threats and challenges arising from climate change.

The audits identified technical and administrative skills that need to be developed to ensure an effective response to climate change risks. These include:

  • technical and research skills to carry out high-quality climate vulnerability and risk assessments and to develop relevant plans and policy responses
  • administrative capabilities such as submission writing to secure available adaptation funding
  • capacity to soundly project manage on-the-ground funded adaptation measures, monitor results and acquit grants
“Addressing climate change is essential for realizing sustainable development. If we fail to adequately address climate change, we will be unable to build a world that supports a life of dignity for all.
—United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

A further complicating factor in the Pacific is the number of funding agencies involved in implementing climate change adaptation projects. This increases the need for robust systems and processes to be in place at all levels of government, including at the level of individual project implementation.

Impact of regional cooperative audits

Connecting with other regional organizations on the issue of climate change will be a key component of addressing the issues outlined in the regional cooperative audit. For example, at a recent meeting of the Governing Board of PASAI, a representative from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat welcomed PASAI’s cooperative auditing on climate change and disaster risk reduction strategies. Over the past few years Forum Leaders have reaffirmed that climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific. In acknowledging this, climate change issues continue to be on the agenda of the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM). The forum sees the regional audit report as an important contribution to the regional discussion on climate change adaption and disaster risk reduction. This highlights the importance of PASAI’s approach to work collaboratively with key stakeholders in the region so that its audit work is relevant to and informs key regional imperatives.

More information

For more information about the regional cooperative audit, please contact the report’s author, Claire Kelly, Cooperative Audit Adviser at clairekelly2009@gmail. com or PASAI’s Capacity Building Advisor, Ms. Sina Palamo-Iosefo at sina.iosefo@pasai.org.

References and resources

INTOSAI Capacity Building Committee (2007). Guide for Cooperative Audit Programs between Supreme Audit Institutions.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2013). Assessment Report 2013.

Small Island Developing States (2014). SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway. Accessed in 3 March at: www.sids2014.org/index.php?menu=1537

Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) (2014). “SIDS leadership commended as 3rd UN Conference on SIDS adopts SAMOA Pathway.” Accessed 3 March at: www.sprep.org/general-news/sids-leadership-commended-as-3rd-un-conference-on-sids-adopts-samoapathway.

United Nations Development Program (UNDP) (2012). 2011 Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.

United Nations (2015). “At ‘Road to Paris’ Global Climate Agreement Meeting, Secretary-General Emphasizes Addressing Climate Change Is Essential for Realizing Sustainable Development”, Press release, 23 February 2015. Accessed 24 February: www.un.org/press/en/2015/sgsm16547.doc.htm.