Inside INTOSAI

International Journal of Government Auditing – April 2009

20th United Nations/INTOSAI Symposium Held in Vienna

In cooperation with the United Nations (UN), the INTOSAI General Secretariat organized the 20th UN/INTOSAI Symposium in Vienna, Austria, February 11-13, 2009. The topic was “INTOSAI—Active partner in the international anti-corruption network; Ensuring transparency to promote social security and poverty reduction.”

This was the most successful UN/INTOSAI Symposium in the more than 40 years’ history of these events. More than 170 participants represented 68 different SAIs (including 40 heads of SAIs) and high-ranking representatives from eight different international organizations and institutions: the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), Interpol, German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the World Bank.

photo of Participants in the 20th UN/INTOSAI Symposium in Vienna in February 2009
Participants in the 20th UN/INTOSAI Symposium in Vienna in February 2009

The participants and speakers stressed the importance of independence, adequate training, and public reporting by SAIs. They agreed that because SAIs oversee all government operations, they are uniquely positioned to fight corruption. They stated that INTOSAI considers its main task to be increasing transparency, promoting good governance, guaranteeing accountability, fighting corruption, and strengthening public confidence in government institutions and their work. They also noted that INTOSAI must lead by example in the fight against corruption and that the organization has fulfilled its responsibility to ensure transparency and prevention through a host of activities and measures.

Recommendations

The symposium adopted recommendations by an overwhelming majority. (See http://www.intosai.org/blueline/upload/sympconcl1602e.pdf for the complete text of the conclusions and recommendations.)

Participants agreed on the need to promote integrity by building a culture that rejects corruption and ensures responsible governance. They also underscored the need to maintain and enhance accountability and transparency and to deter fraud and corruption.

Participants recommended that the required legal bases (anti-corruption laws, including codes of conduct and codes of ethics) be created and strengthened to adequately address corruption, fraud, and mismanagement in the public and private sectors. Participants also recommended that close international cooperation be fostered to optimize the exchange of information and know-how and to increase needed training activities.

In addition, the participants advocated the need for SAIs and INTOSAI to collaborate closely with international organizations (for example, the UN organizations, the World Bank, the OECD, Interpol, the IIA, OLAF, and civil society) in anticorruption networks.

The INTOSAI Working Group on the Fight against International Money Laundering and Corruption strongly proposed the following:

  • strengthening cooperation between INTOSAI and SAIs to (1) prevent and detect corruption and money laundering and (2) facilitate the exchange of information as well as the development of typologies and guidelines used by SAIs;
  • strengthening cooperation between INTOSAI and international organizations involved in fighting corruption;
  • identifying national rules, measures, policies, and programs for SAIs to detect and prevent corruption; and
  • identifying relevant anti-money-laundering and corruption training programs and cooperating with IDI when specialist training is needed.

The symposium unanimously agree d that INTOSAI should draft standards and best practice notes for SAIs to fight corruption, fraud, and mismanagement and to foster the appropriate communication of such standards and notes by involving the INTOSAI Development Initiative and other stakeholders.

The participants also stated that the INTOSAI strategic plan for 2011–2016 should pay attention to the fight against corruption and mismanagement.

The participants stressed the importance of ensuring an appropriate constitutional framework in line with the Lima and Mexico declarations. This framework should provide for a comprehensive audit mandate, with unlimited access to information, and allow for the open publication of SAI reports. Furthermore, it should support institutional capacity building and staffing required for SAIs’ organizational and financial independence. These are considered prerequisites for enhancing the credibility of SAIs in the fight against corruption, fraud, and mismanagement. In this regard, it would be helpful to work out guidance for implementing the Lima and Mexico declarations and to emphasize the importance of appropriate training and peer reviews.

The 13 recommendations of the symposium culminated in the conviction that the Lima and Mexico declarations should be integrated in the body of law governing the international community of nations through a pertinent UN resolution, as these texts protect the independence of SAIs, which is required for effective government audit.

Conclusions

The 20th UN/INTOSAI Symposium demonstrated in a convincing manner that INTOSAI is an active partner in tackling the risks posed by corruption, fraud, and mismanagement. Much has been achieved and those areas where work is in progress, as well as those in need of more fundamental assistance, have been identified.

INTOSAI is unique in its global reach, and its members have experience in every type of operational government system. SAI staff often see examples of corruption in their day-to-day work and report these findings to judicial authorities without fear or bias.

With the right support and investment, there is always more that can be done to prevent corruption and fraud; the conclusions and recommendations of the 20th UN/INTOSAI Symposium rightly draw attention to these areas. Nevertheless, the results of the symposium discussions clearly demonstrate that although there are many areas for further work, INTOSAI and its members are active and effective partners in the fight against corruption, fraud, and mismanagement.

For further information, contact the INTOSAI General Secretariat:

E-mail: intosai@rechnungshof.gv.at
Web site: www.intosai.org

New Publication Process for ISSAIs Approved

At the October 2008 Professional Standards Committee (PSC) steering committee meeting in Beijing, China, the delegates adopted a new publication process for International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI) and INTOSAI Guidance for Good Governance (INTOSAI GOV). The new process does not differ significantly from the previous procedure and can best be illustrated in figure 1.

Chart: Publication Process for ISSAIs
Figure 1: Publication Process for ISSAIs

The most significant new features are the following:

  • Exposure drafts now require the approval of only the PSC steering committee.
  • The point of access for exposure drafts is now www.issai.org, but comments should be forwarded directly to the subcommittee or project responsible for elaborating the guidance.
  • Subcommittees and projects are required to forward to the PSC Secretariat an overview of comments received on an exposure draft for display on www.issai.org.

E-mail Update Service

Immediately before the steering committee meeting, the PSC Secretariat launched an e-mail update service on www.issai.org. This free service is offered to all those interested in public sector auditing and is particularly relevant to those who want to be notified immediately when new exposure drafts of ISSAIs and INTOSAI GOVs are posted on the Web site and are open for professional comments. At present, 14 exposure drafts are open for comment on the ISSAI Web site. These drafts deal with transparency and accountability, compliance audit guidelines, and financial audit guidelines.

For additional information see www.issai.org.

Knowledge Sharing Steering Committee Holds Initial Meeting in New Delhi

The first meeting of the Knowledge Sharing Steering Committee was held March 5 and 6, 2009, in New Delhi. The primary purpose of the meeting was to inaugurate the committee and approve its draft terms of reference. The steering committee was established to implement the decision at the XIX INCOSAI to create a knowledge sharing and knowledge services committee so that the functioning of goal 3 would be consistent with the other goals in the strategic plan.

Representatives of 10 of the goal 3 working groups and task forces attended the meeting, along with liaisons from goals 1 and 2; the INTOSAI Director of Strategic Planning; and representatives of the INTOSAI General Secretariat, the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI), and this Journal. During the meeting, members of the committees, working groups, and task forces and other participants presented reports on progress achieved to date and plans for the future.

Vinod Rai, Comptroller and Auditor General of India and chairman of the steering committee, welcomed the delegates at a reception held at the Taj Mahal Hotel the evening before the official meeting began and on the first day of the meeting, which was held at the offices of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Alexander Semikolennykh, the goal 3 liaison from the Russian Federation Chamber of Accounts, indicated his SAI’s support for the draft terms of reference and agreed that the terms conformed to the strategic plan for 2005–2010 and the responsibilities INTOSAI recommends for the goal liaison. He further stated that the Chamber looks forward to working closely with the committee chair and facilitating interaction with all SAIs to achieve the strategic objectives of goal 3.

In remarks on behalf of INTOSAI General Secretary Josef Moser, Gertrude Schlicker stressed the importance of knowledge sharing, which is directly linked to INTOSAI’s motto, “Mutual Experience Benefits All.” She affirmed that knowledge sharing can, therefore, be considered one of the main pillars of INTOSAI.

Kirsten Astrup, INTOSAI Director of Strategic Planning, reported on the development of the INTOSAI strategic plan, emphasizing adherence to the principles of consultation and consensus in its development. The goal structure of the 2011–2016 strategic plan remains unchanged from the previous plan, but changes are being made to activities and plans as INTOSAI makes progress towards its goals.

IDI’s presentation was made by Magnus Borge, Director General, and Elizabeth Wallman, Project Manager. They highlighted the concept of knowledge management and IDI’s establishment of a knowledge management team in 2008. The team’s work led them to an awareness of the four components of knowledge management—creating, capturing, applying, and sharing knowledge. They emphasized that all the elements are necessary to enhance SAI performance.

Muriel Forster, the new Journal editor, reported that the Journal will be seeking input from committee members and the INTOSAI membership on ways to keep the Journal useful and vital and will also be focusing on enhancing its Web site (www.intosaijournal.org).

Reports from Goal 3 Task Forces and Working Groups

Representatives of 10 of the goal 3 task forces and working groups reported on their goals and activities.

  • Communications Strategy Task Force (Austria)

To improve communications inside and outside of INTOSAI, the task force is developing its draft communication framework, its Web site-linked template for INTOSAI product executive summaries, and its support for the 2009 INTOSAI theme—independence.

  • Working Group on Accountability for and Audit of Disaster-related Aid (European Court of Audit)

The working group’s goal is to develop guidance and good practices and promote a standard information structure to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of assistance provided in disasters. Using its experience from the INTOSAI tsunami task force, the working group is approaching international standard-setting bodies and will report to the XX INCOSAI with proposed guidance to be adopted. The working group’s Web site is http://www.intosai-tsunami.org.

  • Working Group on Environmental Auditing (Estonia)

The working group’s central theme is climate change and its goals are to provide more guidance materials, facilitate joint and concurrent audits, enhance information dissemination, and increase cooperation with international organizations. Currently, the group’s activities include developing audit guidance materials, a coordinated climate change audit with multiple SAIs, a biodiversity training course, and a Web page. The working group’s Web site is http://'.environmental-auditing.org.

  • Program Evaluation (France)

This working group has focused on the definition and methodology of evaluation and promoted good practices and implementation. Its report addressing the challenges, definition, planning issues, and conduct of program evaluations is being translated into INTOSAI’s official languages and should be submitted at the XX INCOSAI.

  • Information Technology (India)

The working group’s goal is to support SAIs in developing their knowledge and skills in the use and audit of information technology (IT). Its ongoing projects include developing IT governance reference materials, an IT database on e-governance, guidance for audit systems development, strategies to address risk for e-governance projects, IT tools for electronic workpapers, and measures to counter fraud in the IT environment. The working group’s Web site is www.intosaiitaudit.org.

  • Public Debt (Mexico)

The goal of this working group is to publish guidelines and other informative materials for SAIs to use to encourage proper reporting and sound public debt management. The working group is reviewing members’ analyses and feedback to enhance its strategic plan based on recommendations from the XIX INCOSAI, developing a database of experts on public debt auditing to assist IDI in its capacity-building activities, and working with IDI and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development to implement a transregional capacity-building program to audit public debt management. The working group’s Web site is www.intosaipd@org.mx.

  • Key National Indicators (Russian Federation)

The goal of this working group is to support (1) SAIs in their efforts to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of government activities based on key national indicators and (2) INTOSAI in promoting the development and use of key national and supranational indicators. The working group signed a memorandum of understanding with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) focusing on developing cooperation and conducting training on OECD’s global project to measure the progress of societies. Future projects include devising a logic model for designing and implementing national strategies, creating communication networks for evaluating social and economic development, and providing training on implementing key national indicators. The working group’s Web site is http://intosai4kni.org.

  • Value and Benefits of SAIs (South Africa)

The scope of the working group is threefold and focuses on:

  • examining independence, transparency, quality assurance, and relevance in the performance of SAI activities,
  • examining the impact of auditing, and
  • developing appropriate measurement indicators and tools.

This working group and others face a major challenge in contacting SAIs when the contact details on SAI Web sites are not current. The working group’s first meeting was held March 9-11, 2009, in Sun City, South Africa, and it expects to finalize its work before the XX INCOSAI, where the value and benefits of SAIs is a congress theme.

  • Privatization, Economic Regulation and Public-Private Partnerships (United Kingdom)

The goals of the working group are to identify and examine problems facing SAIs in the audit of privatization, exchange information on SAI experiences in this area, and facilitate dissemination of information to INTOSAI members. The group has produced multiple sets of guidelines, technical cases, and a guide to and dictionary of privatization terms, among other products. The United Kingdom has held the secretariat for the working group since 1993 and has requested that another member take over this responsibility; however, no SAI has indicated a willingness to do so to date. The 15th meeting of the working group was held in Moscow March 17–18, 2009. The working group’s Web site is http://www.nao.org.uk/nao/intosai/wgap/home.htm

For the meeting’s closing presentation, the SAI of Denmark briefed the committee on the INTOSAI framework of International Standards of SAIs (ISSAI) and INTOSAI Guidance on Good Governance (INTOSAI GOV). The ISSAI framework merges all existing and new INTOSAI standards and guidelines; it currently includes about 80 official standards and guidelines developed by working groups under goals 1 and 3. The briefing explained the process for publishing ISSAIs and INTOSAI GOVs, from the original draft prepared by an SAI to the official INTOSAI document. The Web site (www.issai.org) provides guidance and documents and includes a service whereby subscribers can sign up to receive e-mail updates on selected issues.

With the conclusion of the working group’s presentations, the committee membership reviewed and agreed to the steering committee’s draft terms of reference. According to the terms, the chair agreed to coordinate working group activities, consult with the membership, ensure that committee activities are consistent with the strategic plan, develop a knowledge sharing committee work plan and Web site, and report annually to the INTOSAI Governing Board.

With all business concluded, Mr. Rai closed the conference. The SAI of India will incorporate the comments on the terms of reference and will circulate the proceedings to the committee membership. Mr. Rai added that the committee will facilitate and promote its work through Web sites and will align its work plan with the timing of the XX INCOSAI. He also pledged to maintain regular consultation with the committee’s membership until the next committee meeting in 2010.

For additional information contact Sudha Krishnan, Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India, at krishnanS@cag.gov.in.

Working Group on Environmental Auditing Meeting Held in Qatar

In January 2009, the INTOSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing (WGEA) held its 12th meeting in Doha, Qatar. This was the largest INTOSAI working group meeting held to date, with 192 representatives from 66 countries attending, including 20 heads of SAIs.

The main topics addressed at the meeting included auditing environmental agreements and conventions and the management of natural resources, climate change, emerging topics, and lessons learned on environmental auditing. There were interactive parallel sessions on projects related to climate change, sustainable energy, fisheries, forestry, and minerals and mining. There was also a tutorial on waste management. The Chair of the WGEA would like to thank the SAIs of Norway, the Czech Republic, South Africa, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Canada for successfully leading the sessions. The feedback questionnaire showed that these interactive sessions were much appreciated and provided one of the main learning components of the meeting.

photo of Participants in the 12th meeting of the INTOSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing in Qatar
Participants in the 12th meeting of the INTOSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing in Qatar

In recent years, working group members have devoted a lot of attention to reducing our own footprints on the environment and making SAIs “greener” and environmentally friendly. During this meeting, the National Audit Office of the United Kingdom led a panel discussion on sustainability in a modern audit office. The session focused on four key questions:

  • What sustainability topics can we audit?
  • How should we audit government operational impacts?
  • What good sustainability practices have we identified that we should adopt ourselves?
  • What are the benefits or risks from external reporting of SAIs’ operational impact on the environment?

The heads of the Brazilian and Indonesian SAIs and representatives from the SAIs of China and the United States provided valuable information on their experiences. This led to active discussions among the assembly members.

Experts from international organisations gave keynote addresses sharing their experiences. These experts were Stephen Lintner from the World Bank, Martin Parry from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Arnold Kreilhuber from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Kalev Sepp from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and Marwan Hamada form the Ministry of Environment of Qatar.

During the meeting, 17 SAIs made presentations sharing their knowledge and work with participants, and 7 additional SAIs contributed reports on important environmental auditing work to the meeting compendium. This knowledge sharing is the most important factor in making the working group meetings a success. In addition, 10 countries presented relevant issues audited in their country through a poster display organized during the meeting. Before the main working group meeting, 69 participants from 37 countries attended the first training course on biodiversity. The WGEA Secretariat’s desire is that SAIs in every INTOSAI region take responsibility for sharing knowledge on how to audit biodiversity issues with other SAIs and that more audits will be conducted on these topics in the coming years.

The organizers wish to thank all the delegates for their active participation and valuable input. Special thanks go to Salah Ghanim Al-Ali and his staff at the State Audit Bureau of Qatar for their excellent organization and warm hospitality as hosts of the meeting.

All the meeting materials and other relevant information on environmental auditing can be found on the WGEA’s website: www.environmental-auditing.org.

The next WGEA meeting is to be held in June 2010 in China. Everyone is invited to participate!

For further information, contact the WGEA Secretariat in the National Audit Office of Estonia:

E-mail: margit.lassi@riigikontroll.ee