International Journal of Auditing – April 2004
Members of the INTOSAI Auditing Standards Committee’s (ASC) reference panel of audit experts met in Stockholm, Sweden, January 28-30, 2004, to discuss upcoming work with the International Federation of Accountant’s (IFAC) International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB). Ten audit experts were able to attend the Stockholm meeting, which also included two representatives of the IFAC IAASB, the project secretariat set up at the Swedish National Audit Office, and other Swedish audit staff.
In response to an invitation from the ASC, the heads of 45 SAIs have nominated more than 80 of their best auditors to serve on the reference panel. As reported in this Journal’s January 2003 issue, these experts will serve on task forces set up by the IFAC IAASB to revise or develop international standards of auditing (ISA). Audit experts have already been appointed to serve on task forces relating to documentation, modifications to the auditor’s report, and communications with those charged with governance. For more details on the work of IFAC, see its Web site: www.ifac.org.
During the productive meetings in Stockholm, the group was able to agree on working documents on topics such as terms of reference for experts participating in ISA task forces and related reporting procedures. The discussions also covered cooperation between the experts and with IFAC, the project secretariat, and the working group set up by the ASC. The proposals from the meeting were discussed and approved by the ASC Working Group on Financial Audit Guidelines at its meeting in Yaoundé, Cameroon, March 30-31, 2004.
For additional information, contact: Project Secretariat, e-mail: email@example.com.
ARABOSAI Governing Board and Training Committee Meet in Yemen
The Central Organization for Control and Auditing (COCA) of the Republic of Yemen hosted the 31st meeting of the ARABOSAI Training Committee and the 32nd meeting of ARABOSAI Governing Board in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, December 6-10, 2003.
Heads of SAIs and delegations from ARABOSAI member countries attended the meetings and discussed a wide range of training and technical issues. They reviewed the activities of the Secretariat and Governing Board since the last meeting, as well as the future plans of the committees and working groups; they also finalized a number of decisions and recommendations. In addition, COCA arranged social and cultural programs to make the participants’ stay more enjoyable and fruitful.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah Al-Sanafi, the President of COCA, and officials from other agencies extended a warm welcome to all the delegations and wished them a pleasant stay in Yemen.
Internal Control Standards Committee
The INTOSAI Internal Control Standards Committee met in Brussels, Belgium,
February 10-11, 2004. Mr. William Dumazy, Senior President of the Belgian Court of Audit, chaired the meeting, which was attended by representatives of 16 SAIs (out of a total committee membership of 25).
The main topic of discussion at the meeting was updating the guidelines for internal control standards in the public sector. This project was assigned to the committee in response to a recommendation made at the 17th INCOSAI, and implementing it has been the main focus of the committee’s activities during the past 2 years.
The committee reached fundamental agreement on the updated draft guidelines
prepared by a committee task force. This draft is currently being finalized and will be sent to all INTOSAI members for comment after a final check by committee members.
The second item on the agenda was the committee program for 2005 through 2007. During a brainstorming session, all committee members had the opportunity to formulate their proposals. Based on this input, the chairman of the committee is drawing up a draft note for the 2005–2007 program to be submitted to all committee members for comment. An action plan for implementing the updated guidelines will be an important topic in the note. The delegates agreed that the committee has a general and permanent task to provide information and guidance and should therefore support the SAIs in implementing the updated guidelines, primarily through the transfer of the ideas in the guidelines.
The meeting closed with a celebration of the committee’s 20th anniversary. The celebration was held in Belgium’s House of Representatives. The Speaker of the House participated in the festivities, and the activities and achievements of the committee were commended in speeches marking the occasion.
For additional information contact: Internal Control Standards Committee, e-mail: InternalControl@ccrek.be.
Working Group on the Audit of International Institutions
Since the audit of international institutions was one of the two themes of the 17th INCOSAI in Seoul in 2001, the Congress established an ad hoc working group to address the issue further and report back to the 18th Congress in Budapest in 2004. The working group’s mandate is to define the principles for the audit of international institutions, develop best practice guidance for SAIs, and prepare a list of relevant international institutions.
The SAI of Norway was appointed chair of the group, whose members are the SAIs of Austria, Denmark, India, Japan, South Korea, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Tuvalu, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela.
To date, the working group has held five meetings hosted by different participating SAIs. At the first meeting, it prepared a work plan that was approved by the Governing Board at its 50th meeting. Since the working group has a time-restricted mandate, the work has been intensive, with the member SAIs preparing documents and exchanging them between the meetings. Each member SAI has also compiled a list of international institutions of which its country is a member as input to the global list.
The working group decided to focus its initial work on defining the principles that should guide the audit of international institutions. After extensive discussions, the group reached consensus and has circulated an exposure draft of the proposed text (see box on next page) to SAIs for comment. The group will prepare a final proposal, which will be considered for adoption by the 18th INCOSAI.
To prepare a list of international institutions, it was first necessary to clearly define those institutions; the group agreed on a definition early in the process. Subsequently, group members have gathered information concerning the institutions that fall within the agreed-upon definition. They have found that while some information is available on the Internet, much information relating to audit is not easily available. Consequently, a basic list will be submitted to the SAIs at the next INCOSAI.
The working group is still finalizing the best practice guidance for SAIs. The guidance will cover promoting the principles for best audit arrangements, preparing SAIs to take on the audit of international institutions, contacting national authorities to be informed of upcoming audit opportunities, and giving practical advice on the audit itself. The working group’s intention is that the guidance be sufficiently detailed to assist those SAIs that have little or no experience in auditing international institutions. The guidance document will be presented to the 18th Congress.
As chair of the working group, the Norwegian SAI believes that the group members have worked very hard and that the final outcome will be of high quality. If the proposed principles are implemented in more international institutions, transparency and accountability for the spending of what are in actuality the public funds of member states will increase significantly.
In the past, although important work has been done on this topic and decisions and recommendations have been made, there has not been systematic follow-up and the impact has been limited. Therefore, it is essential that INTOSAI and its members look for a way to implement the working group’s recommendations regarding both the international institutions concerned and the national authorities with budgetary accountability for the funds.
At its next meeting, which is being held in April 2004, the working group will finalize the papers to be presented at the Congress and discuss a proposal on ways to promote the principles it has developed and increase the number of international institutions audited by SAIs.
For additional information, visit the working group’s temporary home page, which is under “International Activities” on the English version of the Norwegian SAI’s home page (www.riksrevisjonen.no). The principles are available in the five working languages of INTOSAI.
Proposed Principles for the Audit of International Institutions
To be effective, the audit arrangements for international institutions should ensure that:
All international institutions financed or supported by public money should be subject to audit by SAIs to promote better governance, transparency, and accountability.
and that the external auditor:
2. Is fully independent in the conduct of the audit.
3. Has sufficient powers to carry out the audit in a manner that meets best practice in
the audit of public money.
4. Has adequate resources to carry out the audit.
5. Has the right to report on the audit results to the member states concerned through
the governing body(ies).
6. Meets relevant professional and ethical standards.
7. Is appointed in an open, fair, and transparent manner.