Technical Articles

International Journal of Government Auditing – Special INCOSAI XXII Edition


NAVIGATING THE JOURNEY

NEW PATH TO SUCCESS UNANIMOUSLY EMBRACED

Some 12 years ago, 187 members unanimously adopted the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institution’s (INTOSAI) first strategic plan at the 2004 Budapest Congress. Fast forward to INCOSAI XXII, and INTOSAI, once again, faces a landmark moment with the roll out of the Strategic Plan 2017-2022.

The plan establishes a new and exciting path for INTOSAI, a path that will better position the organization and each SAI to take advantage of emerging opportunities to provide value and benefits to our stakeholders and fellow citizens.

In presenting the plan for endorsement at the congress, U.S. Comptroller Gene L. Dodaro, who led INTOSAI’s Strategic Planning Task Force, indicated the plan presents an improved way of doing business for INTOSAI.

“The plan is based on a more strategic, agile, and integrated approach, capable of responding to global development efforts as well as other current and emerging opportunities and challenges,” noted Dodaro.

Guided by a process firmly grounded in consultation and consent, this strategic planning process truly exemplified the INTOSAI motto, “Mutual Experience Benefits All.” An extensive internal and external scanning effort of the Task Force provided INTOSAI members and SAIs with an opportunity to provide input and comment on the plan while it was being developed. The scans were organized around three main themes: what worked well, what could be improved, and what changes, if any, are needed for the future.

The scans showed consensus among member SAIs that the current strategic goals generally capture the direction and results that INTOSAI hopes to achieve going forward. Accordingly, the plan includes four strategic goals under which INTOSAI broadly organizes its work. They include: (1) professional standards; (2) capacity development; (3) knowledge sharing and knowledge services; and (4) maximize the value of INTOSAI as an international organization.

At the same time, the scan results revealed INTOSAI needs to change the way it operates to be more effective and to meet emerging opportunities and needs. The plan introduces five crosscutting priorities to support such changes:

  1. Advocating for and supporting the independence of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs)
  2. Contributing to the follow-up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within the context of each nation’s specific sustainable development efforts and SAIs’ individual mandates
  3. Ensuring effective development and coordination among standards-setting, capacity development and knowledge sharing to support SAIs and improve their performance and effectiveness
  4. Creating a strategic and agile INTOSAI that is alert to, and capable of responding to, emerging international opportunities and risks
  5. Building upon, leveraging and facilitating cooperation and professionalism among INTOSAI regional organizations

In addition to the crosscutting priorities, there are a number of very important features designed to help chart a new way forward, including the vital role INTOSAI plays as a global public voice for SAI independence, external public sector auditing and good governance.

The plan formally recognizes establishing communities of practice, the common forum on standard setting, regional development forums, as well as the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI)-Knowledge Sharing Committee (KSC) capacity development program on auditing implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Strategic Plan 2017-2022 includes a commitment to performance assessments and reporting against a set of strategic objectives along with a pledge to implement a concerted enterprise risk management program.

The plan articulates the respective roles and responsibilities for SAI capacity development recognizing that individual SAIs are at the center of those efforts, as are the efforts of key stakeholders and initiatives, such as IDI, the Capacity Building Committee, and the INTOSAI-Donor Cooperation.

At the same time, the plan ensures that our ambitions are realistic and appropriate given the financial realities and resource constraints we all face.

The Strategic Plan 2017-2022 includes a commitment to performance assessments and reporting against a set of strategic objectives along with a pledge to implement a concerted enterprise risk management program.

Dr. Harib Al Amimi, President of the State Audit Institution, United Arab Emirates, expressed his sentiments regarding the success of the strategic plan and INTOSAI.

“The adoption of the next strategic plan gives us a great opportunity to look ahead and discuss how we want INTOSAI to grow and where we should focus our energy,” Al Amimi emphasized.

While there is a clear path for our way ahead through 2022, it is also important to ensure that what is accomplished now leads to even more success in the future.

“The adoption of the next strategic plan gives us a great opportunity to look ahead and discuss how we want INTOSAI to grow and where we should focus our energy.”

—Dr. Harib Al Amimi
State Audit Institution, UAE

“It is important for us to realize the expected results from the strategic plan,” commented Shourjo Chatterjee, Strategy and Knowledge Manager of the INTOSAI Development Initiative.

Chatterjee added that the crosscutting strategic priorities are to be driven by the goal committees and believes advanced coordination and planning are crucial to ensuring no priority is left behind, that no priority is promoted at the expense of another.

Dr. Hussam Al Angari, President of the General Auditing Bureau of Saudi Arabia and Chair of the Financial Accounts Committee, agrees, “As it is stated in the strategic plan, we need INTOSAI and all of the goal chairs to work in the best possible manner.”

From the regional perspective, Tan Sri Dato’ Setia Haji Ambrin Bin Buang, Auditor General of Malaysia and Chair of the Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI), believes the time has come for implementation.

“ASOSAI has to align the strategic plan as well as the activities to ensure that the objectives will be successfully implemented at the regional level.”

Khalid Hamid, Executive Director of the Department of Professional Services with the State Audit Institution of the United Arab Emirates believes “the way INTOSAI has evolved is fantastic, the way in which we are a community is brilliant.”

Hamid furthered that we need to work out how we get the best return on the investment of all our in-kind contributions in a way that gives most value back to the organization.

“We have the infrastructure. We have the ability. We definitely have the people. What we need now is a way to harness it in a more agile way as the Strategic Plan says.”

image of sustainable development goals
A SUCCESSFUL INTOSAI AND ACHIEVING GLOBAL SUSTAINABILITY

Theme I of INCOSAI XXII addressed Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) roles and contributions in reviewing and monitoring the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda).

There is a growing global recognition (and expectation) regarding roles and valuable contributions the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) and SAIs play in making a meaningful contribution to ensure efficient, effective, transparent and accountable implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 aspirational objectives aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring peace and prosperity for all. These global goals are interconnected and build on the success of their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under Secretary General of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), attended this year’s Congress in Abu Dhabi, and offered a clear distinction between the SDGs and the MDGs.

“The difference between MDGs and SDGs is that we have follow-up and review,” Mr. Wu noted, and asked, “How do we do that? How do we make sure that all the money, the financial support for the implementation will be used wisely, effectively and for the purposes allocated to the implementation?”

Mr. Wu affirmed that attempting to do so means mobilizing oversight by all, particularly SAIs.

“They have to expand their mandates, because the 2030 Agenda is really unprecedented. It covers a much wider area. The national auditors are encouraged to step outside the traditional boundary of their mandates. One more challenge is that they have to develop methodologies to measure the new mandates, as well as indicators,” declared Mr. Wu.

“I am so glad that this current Congress has greatly encouraged all INTOSAI members to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, to play its role to oversee the implementation. This is important. And we, the United Nations, are very glad to be associated continuously with INTOSAI to work together,” he said.

Mr. Wu noted that by working together “we could make the financial support for implementation more effective and efficient, and that will be for the benefit of all human beings, for future generations.”

The UNDESA presence at the Congress was also highlighted at their booth, where they hosted a breakout session focusing on the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. Helping to generate the discussion among the participants was Ms. Aránzazu Guillán Montero, Inter-Regional Adviser on Public Accountability for UNDESA.

“One of the challenges we have to address now is how we lead this work in the follow up and review of the 2030 Agenda,” Ms. Guillán Montero emphasized.

The 2030 Agenda is a comprehensive and transformative blueprint, and Ms. Guillán Montero expressed that there are different levels at which SAIs can contribute in a wide variety of ways—individually, regionally and globally.

“I am so glad that this current Congress has greatly encouraged all INTOSAI members to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, to play its role to oversee the implementation. This is important. And we, the United Nations, are very glad to be associated continuously with INTOSAI to work together.”

—Wu Hongbo, UNDESA

Particularly at the regional level, Ms. Guillán Montero highlighted, each region uses a different approach when it comest to contribtuing, and she stressed, “We think it is important for the INTOSAI community to engage its regional organizations, which will provide input into the global venue at the High Level Political Forum.”

According to Ms. Guillán Montero, the annual High Level Political Forum (HLPF) is the core of the learning process, and it has two main mechanisms: the thematic review, where a report from the SAI perspective “can be very useful to understand the main lessons learned from the implementation process regarding that theme.”

“The other mechanism,” she added, “is where countries submit voluntary national reviews to the HLPF.”

INTOSAI’s Working Group on Key National Indicators (KNI) has conducted activities with close ties to SDG implementation.

Dmitry Zaitsev from the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation that leads the KNI working group, emphasized the significance of the group’s efforts.

“KNI is a very important topic. The working group on KNI will give the impetus to the implementation of the SDGs. I think we need to join our efforts, to join the UN initiative, to be a part of it,” Zaitsev said.

Tackling the goals can be broken down into achievable components, he furthered. “There are 17 goals. For example, each country will choose a goal, the key goal, which will have several targets followed by indicators—the key indicators are what we are interested in.”

INTOSAI’s Strategic Plan for 2017-2022 serves as a road map for INTOSAI and its members support the implementation and assist in the follow-up and review of the SDGs and related national sustainable initiatives.

The importance of this effort was echoed at INCOSAI XXII throughout the discussions and with the Abu Dhabi declaration.

Utilizing four different approaches and providing regular feedback to its community on SDG-related audit issues, INTOSAI set forth an intention to better engage with, inform and encourage SAIs to do effective work in this area.

Several key objectives were identified to address in the years leading up to INCOSAI XXIII in 2019:

  • Develop and deliver frameworks for implementing the four approaches based on SAIs’ initiatives, and a mechanism for monitoring progress and collecting information;
  • Support the production of high-quality SDG-related information through these frameworks, and sharing the information within the SAI community; and
  • Ensure effective relations with external partners, including informative and accessible reporting and value maximization of future INTOSAI/UN symposia on the theme.
What does success for INTOSAI look like to me?
“A successful INTOSAI is one where Supreme Audit Institutions have independence in that they are able to complete their work but at the same time be able to attract and train very competent workers, so that we can ensure we give proper feedback and good counsel to governments, as well as to citizens.”

—Kimi Makwetu
Auditor General, SAI South Africa and Chairman, Capacity Building Committee

“Working together to address common issues of importance not just for our countries and regions but for the world.”

—Geoffrey Simpson
Director of the Presidency
European Court of Auditors

“Success has many faces. One, for example, would be the Journal, which is getting better and better. I believe it will be even better than it is already. The other success is if INTOSAI is accepted worldwide as a true representative of our community.”

—Imrich Gal
Head Counsel, International Relations Division
Supreme Audit Office of the Slovak Republic

PROFESSIONALIZATION: A KEY ELEMENT TO INTOSAI SUCCESS

INTOSAI’s members agree—a decisive contribution to improving professionalization requires a commitment from across the entire organization in order to develop the professional capacity and support all Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs). Ultimately, the goal is to enable SAIs to deliver timely, relevant high-quality products.

INTOSAI plans to address professionalization across the organization through three major initiatives:

  • Enhancing INTOSAI’s standard setting;
  • Professionalization at global, regional and SAI levels; and
  • Rolling out the SAI performance measurement framework (SAI PMF).

In a joint interview, Nanna Henning from SAI Denmark and SAI Brazil’s Rafael Lopes Torres, outgoing and incoming Professional Standards Committee (PSC) chairs respectively, discussed their views on success and the impact of professionalization.

“I think we’ve come a long way with the new strategic plan. We are very pleased with it, and we are taking some very important steps towards professionalization. Within the standards committee, we’ve been working a long time to evaluate to see what SAIs need, and one of the key elements of this is all of the important ISSAIs [International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions] that give us a basis for us to work on,” remarked Henning.

Torres believes SAI Brazil is inheriting a committee that is well-organized, which facilitates the ownership. At the same time, Torres affirmed the numerous changes affecting the committee and INTOSAI.

“We are in a moment of changes. We have a new framework, new pronouncements, so we will need to have a process of migration from the old framework to the new one. We also have a new body, the FIPP [Forum for INTOSAI Professional Pronouncements],” Torres explained.

Torres recognized that transitions typically bring challenges but also emphasized that the changes occurring now will be advantageous to INTOSAI improvement in the long run.

Henning added that there are still two outstanding recommendations from the evaluation report the PSC made three years ago that she hopes the committee will continue working on: the common supporting functions and some kind of advisory board with the external stakeholders.

She acknowledged the TCU’s steps in that direction, calling their actions, “another big leap toward professionalization for INTOSAI and the work for standard setting. These are very important things to come, in my opinion,” emphasized Henning.

Torres and Henning agreed that while there has been much progress, there is still much work that needs to be done, recognizing the roles of their respective SAIs on the journey.

One of the highlights of the Professionalization Theme discussions and presentations was the video, “The Journey So Far—Point of No Return.” This diorama-style movie produced by the PSC Chair and Secretariat about the evolution of the International Standards for Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAIs), was a big hit with attendees. It was informative, offered a good dose of light-hearted humor and gave the movie-goers an “unprecedented look into INTOSAI’s world of standard setting.”

Representatives of outgoing and incoming PSC Chairs as the Chairmanship officially rests with head of the SAI

“I see INTOSAI becoming more relevant as it becomes more professional,” explained Kayemba Keta from the SAI of Uganda and member of the Working Group on Extractive Industries.

Keta referenced the PSC video, “The Journey So Far,” as providing a good illustration of the history and development of the ISSAIs, and she pointed out that this INCOSAI is bringing the notion of professionalization “more into focus on how we actually professionalize, how we assure we become a more relevant, professional organization...so when we come out with something, it is universal, it’s acceptable, it has followed methodologies, and it’s something that can be embraced by the world.”

Natalya Bocharova from the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, also spoke of setting standards as beneficial to the INTOSAI community. Speaking from the perspective as Chair of the Task Force on Public Procurement Audit, which was created in 2014, Bocharova noted that they have had a number of impacts, including the publication of practical guidance with a special annex, as well as the completion of a pilot for procurement audit projects.

“We are going to continue our work and would like to create standards for adoption and hope several countries join us to help us improve the guidance and make comprehensive standards suitable for many countries, many communities,” Bocharova emphasized.

Creating relevant, useful guidance and standards in accordance with INTOSAI’s Due Process was a prevalent objective for many delegates at INCOSAI XXII.

Jan van Schalkwyk, Capacity Building Committee, believes capitalizing on the two angles of SDG implementation and professionalization featured at this year’s Congress will lead to a more successful INTOSAI.

In his interview, he notes SAIs that are energetic, relevant, willing to try new things, willing to continually improve are key. “Despite the fact that we believe we are fantastically strong, that we are in it for the right reasons, we must keep stretching.”