International Journal of Government Auditing – April 2015
INTOSAI’s motto “Mutual Experience Benefits All” was in evidence February 10-13, 2015, as 180 delegates from 39 countries gathered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions’ (ASOSAI) XIII Assembly.
Also attending the conference were observers from International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), INTOSAI Development Initiatives (IDI), African Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI), European Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (EUROSAI), Confederation of Asian and Pacific Accountants (CAPA), and representatives from the international donor organizations and the Malaysian Institute of Accountants.
Mr. Shashi Kant Sharma, President of ASOSAI and Comptroller and Auditor General of India, delivered a strong opening address. He emphasized whether a SAI functions effectively depends on the environment in which it operates: “Responsive executive and robust legislative processes that guarantee independence of a SAI are the key to its performance.”
The host of the conference, Auditor General of Malaysia Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, introduced the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Hj Abdul Razak. The Prime Minister commended ASOSAI for its invaluable service for 36 years, noting the organization’s contributions to individual achievement, national development and regional progress. He recognized the important role of government auditors in strengthening governance and ensuring integrity in the public sector.
Dr. Sun Baohou, Deputy Auditor General of the China National Audit Office congratulated ASOSAI for its achievements over the past 35 years. He noted that both ASOSAI and INTOSAI share the aspiration to promote good governance.
Dr. Josef Moser, Secretary General of INTOSAI, conveyed his gratitude to ASOSAI members for supporting the initiative of the UN General Assembly Resolution A/69/228, which was adopted last year. (Editor’s note: See related article in January 2015 edition of the Journal.)
Mr. Krishnan Sangaran Subramanian of SAI India presented the ASOSAI Journal’s Award of Excellence for the best article published in the ASOSAI Journal over the previous three years. This year, the award was presented to the SAI of Turkey and was accepted by Mr. Recai Akyel, President of the Turkish Court of Accounts.
The delegate from SAI of India noted that to enhance knowledge sharing and make the effort more participatory, it plans to move from the distribution of a printed ASOSAI Journal to electronic distribution. This transition is expected to save nearly $4,000 each year and make a small contribution towards ASOSAI “Green Initiative.”
At the end of a full day of committee meetings and progress reports, Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, Auditor General of Malaysia, accepted the Chair of ASOSAI for 2015-2018. He said that during his three-year tenure, he will focus on implementing the strategic priorities highlighted in the ASOSAI Strategic Plan 2016-2021: capacity building, knowledge sharing, and establishing ASOSAI as a regional role model institution. He stressed that the success of the Strategic Plan depends on the close cooperation among ASOSAI members with INTOSAI, regional groups, and other international agencies.
The Assembly adopted a new electronic voting system to elect six Governing Board members and two Audit Committee members for 2015-2018. The six newly elected Governing Board members were the SAIs of Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Turkey. The SAIs of Jordan and Mongolia assumed the posts as Audit Committee members.
The Assembly coincided with the 6th ASOSAI Symposium held February 12. The event attracted 801 participants from the public and private sectors, including the 180 ASOSAI delegates and observers.
This year’s Symposium theme was “‘Leveraging Technology to Enhance Audit Quality and Effectiveness.” The symposium is an ideal platform for member SAIs to leverage the use of technology in auditing and identify new auditing tools.
The new ASOSAI Chairman, Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, said that selection of the theme was apt; government systems, processes and procedures have been transformed as technology has been used to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of public service delivery.
He added that auditors need to pay attention to issues on governance, legal mandate, security risks management and internal controls to ensure the integrity and credibility of technology infrastructure. They also must equip, upgrade and update their competencies in carrying out quality Information Technology (IT) audit.
The Secretary General of ASOSAI, Mr. Hwang Chan-Hyun, stressed the need for SAIs to establish an IT-based audit system to secure professionalism and the transparency of their audits, thus enhancing citizen trust.
The Symposium’s morning forum was moderated by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. Four panellists from the SAIs of Australia, China, Pakistan and Vietnam participated in the panel discussion. In the afternoon session, speakers from private entities such as Audit Command Language (ACL) Services Ltd, private audit firms (PWC and KPMG) and IDI shared their insights and experiences on IT related topics.
The 49th ASOSAI Governing Board meeting held on February 13, 2015, approved two proposed research topics: “Risk-Based Assessment on Financial Audit” and “Audit of Public Private Partnership Arrangements.” It was determined that the hosts for the 50th meeting in 2016 and the 51st meeting in 2017 will be, respectively, the SAI of Thailand and the SAI of Indonesia.
After six years as Secretary General and Director of Audit of the Supreme Audit Institute (SAI) of St. Lucia, Mrs. Averil James-Bonnette embarked on early retirement beginning December 1, 2014.
Under Mrs. James-Bonnette’s leadership, CAROSAI worked closely with a number of institutions, including the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI), the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and several regional bodies such as AFROSAI-E, PASAI and OLACEFS.
CAROSAI benefitted greatly from several capacity development training programs, peer to peer exchanges, workshops, conferences and regional projects aimed at strengthening the member SAI’s institutional and professional capacities.
A dedicated, committed, enthusiastic and passionate leader, Mrs. James-Bonnette always put in the extra time and effort towards the institutional and human development of her SAI, as well as CAROSAI member SAIs. She has demonstrated a commitment to excellence on which the CAROSAI region has come to depend.
As the Secretary General of CAROSAI, Mrs. James-Bonnette participated as a facilitator at several of the IDI and CAROSAI workshops in the region. By doing so she ensured that she fulfilled her role as an IDI training specialist, which she attained in 2002.
“You will be missed by the entire CAROSAI region, where you worked tirelessly towards the improvement of the audit profession. Your commitment to CAROSAI and your SAI has been outstanding,” said Mr. Leigh Trotman, Auditor General of Barbados and member of the Executive Council.
Mrs. Sharman Ottley, the former Chairman of CAROSAI, expressed her most sincere thanks to Mrs. James-Bonnette for the enthusiasm, dynamism and thoroughness which she exhibited as Secretary General of CAROSAI.
Miss Florence Lee, Auditor General of Montserrat, commenting on Mrs. James-Bonnette’s retirement, said that the former Secretary General performed her duties with much zeal, understanding and care. Mr. Dean Evanson, Auditor General of Antigua, also expressed similar sentiments in that Mrs. James-Bonnette will be truly missed by the CAROSAI community for her commitment, which was truly inspirational.
In her departing words to the membership, Mrs. James-Bonnette expressed that she sincerely appreciated the professional and personal friendships that she cultivated with the members of CAROSAI over the past several years.
The CAROSAI Secretariat wishes Mrs. James-Bonnette well as she embarks on a new chapter in her life.
“You will be missed by the entire CAROSAI region,
where you worked tirelessly towards the improvement
of the audit profession. Your commitment to
CAROSAI and your SAI has been outstanding.“
—Leigh Trotman, Auditor General of Barbados and
member of the Executive Council”
Peer reviews provide benefits to all participants; they help to hold a mirror to the SAI audit processes.
Quality and excellence are rarely achieved spontaneously; they need to be managed into the organization and should be based on continuous improvement. It is vital that a Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) provides good work—the SAI’s reputation is based on the quality of its output.
SAIs can only achieve respect and authority if they can demonstrate they are managed to high standards. INTOSAI’s Capacity Building Committee (CBC) and its Subcommittees’ activities help to achieve excellence.
The INTOSAI community should use peer review, among other tools, for the sake of balanced and continuous development.
The CBC Subcommittee on Peer Review continues to map, assess and promote best practices and quality assurance through voluntary peer reviews according to the Joint Work Plan arising from the annual CBC Meeting held in Lima, Peru, September 9-11, 2014.
In this workplan, Goal 6 is to support verification of capacity development efforts (peer and/or self-assessments using ISSAI 5600). Initiative 6.2 is to continue to assess and document existing peer review arrangements in the INTOSAI community, and disseminate the results of peer reviews.
The SAI of Slovakia conducts an annual e-mail survey on peer reviews within the INTOSAI community. In 2014, survey questionnaires were sent to 170 INTOSAI members.
In the second half of January 2015, the questionnaire was sent and received via e-mail by all INTOSAI members listed in the INTOSAI membership roster on the INTOSAI website (193 SAIs excluding the SAI of Slovakia), less 10 SAIs that couldn´t receive the mail for various reasons. The INTOSAI General Secretariat, Regional Working Group secretariats, and supranational organizations IDI and OECD (as INTOSAI partners) were also among the recipients.
The mailing to INTOSAI members contained a letter from SAI Slovakia’s President Ján Jasovský, addressed to all SAI heads, which underlined the importance of the peer reviews.
Jasovský highlighted one item in the questionnaire inquiring whether the recipient SAI would be interested in being included in the list of potential reviewing SAIs.
The ultimate aim is to create a pool of potential peer reviewers that could be easily contacted by the SAI that wishes to undertake a peer review. Such “matchmaking” could facilitate peer review preparation.
In order to lead by example, SAI of Slovakia’s President in his letter offered the organization’s capacity to be a reviewing SAI for interested SAIs.
The SAI of Slovakia also embarked on the SAI of Latvia’s peer review as the lead, alongside the SAIs of the United States, the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark and the European Court of Audit. This peer review is to be finished by July 2015.
The results of the peer review survey are to be presented to the INTOSAI community on the CBC website in May 2015.
For more information, visit the CBC’s website at www.intosaicbc.org
See the Joint Work Plan arising from the annual CBC meeting held in 2014:
On Monday morning February 2, 2015, the Court received the sad news that the Danish Member Mr. Henrik Otbo had passed away the day before.
Henrik Otbo was born in 1949. He had been a Member of the European Court of Auditors since March 2012. He had also worked at the Court from 1984 to 1989.
Most of his career, however, was spent at the Danish National Audit Office where he served 16 years as Auditor General. During those years he greatly influenced the development of Danish governance and financial management. He had vision, and understood the necessity of professionalizing the Audit Office if it was to have a continuous impact on public administration and not just be a bureaucratic supervisory body.
At the same time he worked hard to communicate key messages and audit conclusions in a brief, clear and precise way, so they could be followed up by the auditees and stakeholders.
The focus on professionalization meant that the National Audit Office participated in numerous peer reviews of other countries’ supreme audit institutions (SAIs). The Danish National Audit Office was also invited to participate in the Global Audit Leadership Forum—a group of the foremost National Audit Offices in the world.
In 2004 Henrik Otbo was appointed by INTOSAI as Chairman of the newly created Professional Standards Committee, whose aim was to create common international audit standards. Henrik Otbo continued as Chairman until his resignation as Auditor General in 2012.
After his resignation he continued to follow, from the sideline, the culmination of this work when, in Beijing in October 2013, a number of international audit standards addressed to SAIs were adopted.
Henrik Otbo was very proud to work as the Danish Member of the European Court of Auditors. In the CEAD-Chamber (responsible for coordination, evaluation, assurance and development) he found a platform from which he was able to continue being a champion of getting results and encouraging sound financial management—always with the incentive to make the best use of taxpayers’ money. He would emphasize the importance of achieving good results whenever the opportunity arose—for instance, when talking to Members of the European Parliament or Commission.
At the European Court of Auditors he continued his quest to modernize and improve. He involved himself in the reform of the Court’s annual report —the so-called 2014+ work. He wanted an annual report where the works of others would play a bigger role, and where clear replies to the following questions could be found: where did things go wrong, why did they go wrong and what should be done about it?
Being a former elite athlete, Henrik Otbo demanded much of himself and others. He placed great emphasis on loyalty and expected that his employees had the organization’s best interests at heart. At the same time, Henrik Otbo was the first to provide back-up when needed.
Henrik Otbo was a big man in every way. Wherever he was, he would strive towards modernization, streamlining and focusing on results, while never losing sight of the people who contributed towards the institutions’ achievements and recognising their efforts.
Henrik Otbo’s funeral took place February 6, 2015, in his hometown of Farum, Denmark. Apart from his family and friends, there were many former colleagues from the National Audit Office, representatives from ministries, public institutions and politicians as well as a delegation from the Court who paid their last respects to Henrik Otbo.
Very many letters of condolences were received by the European Court of Auditors from SAIs and other organizations all over the world. Henrik Otbo will be greatly missed. Our thoughts go to his family, which has suffered a great loss by his untimely demise.
For more information, contact the European Court of Auditors
The INTOSAI Task Force on Strategic Planning (TFSP) held its third meeting and second in-person meeting on March 5, 2015, at the Rechnungshof (Austrian Court of Audit) in Vienna, Austria. Auditors General and staff representing 15 Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI), the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI), and the INTOSAI Secretariat participated in the day-long discussion of INTOSAI’s next strategic plan. The discussion covered a wide range of issues such as SAI independence, INTOSAI standard-setting and SAI capacity development, and the increasing global expectations for INTOSAI and SAIs.
The TFSP meeting followed the 2.5 day 23rd United Nations (UN)/INTOSAI Symposium on “UN Post-2015 Development Agenda: The Role of SAIs and Means of Implementation for Sustainable Development.” The Symposium underscored the growing global recognition— and importantly, expectation—of the central roles of INTOSAI and SAIs in monitoring and assessing the implementation of the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals and related national sustainable development efforts. The recognition of these roles was prominently shown in the United Nations General Assembly resolution of December 2011, “Promoting the efficiency, accountability, effectiveness, and transparency of public administration by strengthening supreme audit institutions” (A/66/209), and of December 2014, “Promoting and fostering the efficiency, accountability, effectiveness and transparency of public administration by strengthening supreme audit institutions” (A/69/228). The General Assembly Resolutions, as well as the discussion and conclusions of the Symposium, provided the broad context for the Task Force’s meeting.
The Task Force reviewed key decision points that need to be considered in the context of the next plan covering the period 2017-2022. The key decision points were developed based on a number of inputs including the results of the Task Force’s internal and external scans and related planning efforts underway within INTOSAI, the discussion during the first in-person meeting of the Task Force on November 5, 2014, and input from Task Force members. Most recently, more than 23 TFSP participants from 13 SAIs developed the key decision points during a working meeting hosted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office January 28-29 in Washington, D.C.
INTOSAI General Secretary Dr. Josef Moser opened the March 5 meeting and emphasized the content of the UN/INTOSAI Symposium and the implications for INTOSAI’s next Strategic Plan. He noted that it is essential to show in the new plan the indispensable role of independent and capable SAIs as well as the improvement of the public accounting system in the efficient, effective, transparent, and accountable implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Further, he emphasized that all SAIs must be aware of the important role they have to play regarding the implementation, monitoring and controls of the SDGs and also of the opportunity to show all stakeholders the value and benefit of SAIs in this context.
Finance and Administration Committee Chairman Dr. Osama Faqeeh also addressed the Task Force and highlighted the growing worldwide recognition for INTOSAI. Such recognition also creates greater responsibilities for the organization. He noted that we have ambitious goals and priorities as well as challenges that accompany such demanding high expectations for our organization. INTOSAI has achieved much during implementation of its first two strategic plans and it is important to acknowledge how far our organization has come while also remaining aware of the diversity and special needs of INTOSAI’s membership and the opportunities that exist for continued accomplishments in the future.
The Task Force agreed on a structure for the next INTOSAI Strategic Plan as well as the broad parameters for the content of the plan. The text of the plan will be drafted during the coming months as the Task Force looks to the November Governing Board meeting as a major milestone for previewing the plan prior to circulating a first draft among all INTOSAI members in early 2016.
As agreed at the March meeting and in alignment with the internal scan, the Task Force will base the plan on INTOSAI’s current mission, vision, values, and goals, with modifications to reflect the evolving role of INTOSAI, especially with regard to standard-setting. Building on this foundation, the new plan is intended to build upon INTOSAI’s core functions and achievements in standard-setting, SAI capacity development, and knowledge sharing. Task Force members shared suggestions and perspectives on how best this could be accomplished.
The Task Force agreed on five broad crosscutting priorities that will provide the underpinning and context to help focus INTOSAI’s work in the coming years:
These crosscutting priorities will be reflected in the activities for each of INTOSAI’s Strategic Goals during the period from 2017-2022. Similar to the current strategic plan, the goals will remain as follows:
To further focus the efforts of each Strategic Goal, the Task Force agreed to develop two or more Strategic Objectives for each goal to identify and further clarify the expected results for each goal, plans to measure and report on each goal, and specific activities to focus the efforts for each goal. The Strategic Objectives will reflect the outcomes that INTOSAI is trying to achieve within the timeframe of the next strategic plan. The goal chairs will work with the Task Force and the regions to develop Strategic Objectives during the next several months.
The next plan will include clear performance management, evaluation, and enterprise risk management components as well as a high level financing plan. Furthermore, there was broad agreement to explore additional opportunities for cooperative and coordinated audits among SAIs. Work related to the monitoring and assessing of the SDGs provides especially good opportunities in this regard.
Finally, the Task Force also engaged in a robust discussion of options to assure that INTOSAI’s governing structure reflects the ambitious and important priorities of our organization. The Task Force will continue to discuss how to assure that the current configuration of the Governing Board and the Finance and Administration Committee are positioned to lead the organization, discuss and approve the strategic direction of the organization, and play an important role in overseeing implementation of INTOSAI’s goals.
The Task Force on Strategic Planning continues to welcome all questions, comments and suggestions. It can be reached at INTOSAIStrategicPlan@gao.gov
The OLACEFS Capacity Building Committee (CCC) introduces the development of new administrative software called the “Education Management System.” This software optimizes the academic management of the Committee through the registration of participants, courses, academic activities and the certification of the different CCC lines of actions.
This software is intended to unify the CCC management process in order to reduce costs and maximize results. The system presents four modules: academic programming, registrations, coordination and certification.
The benefits of the tool are:
Importance of implementing this OLACEFS tool for SAIs:
Due to information gathered based on technical standards and best practice models internationally recognized within the governance framework of supreme audit institutions, an information technology (IT) coordinated audit on IT governance is under development.
The coordinator of this audit is the Court of Account of Brazil and the SAI participants are from Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru.
On July 21-25, 2014, a training workshop and planning meeting was held in order to share the concept levelling and discussion of the matrix for the coordinated audit. In addition, the workshop was useful to define specific objectives, criteria audits and research lines.
Following the planning, there will be a consolidation workshop of the coordinated audit on Information Technology Governance was planned for March 24-26, 2015, in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The purpose of this meeting is to compile the findings, as the information will be useful to know the status on information technology governance of OLACEFS countries.
At the 23rd UN/INTOSAI Symposium held in Vienna, Austria, March 2-5, 2015, participants focused on the role that institutions—citizens, parliaments, governments, supreme audit institutions (SAIs), the United Nations (UN) itself, and key development partners—will play in ensuring progress toward the goals of sustainable development in the Post-2015 era.
More than 150 delegates from 70 countries and six international organizations met to discuss the need to include all parties in the effort to ensure that Post-2015 goals are met.
During the Symposium, it was the role of the supreme audit institutions (SAIs) that attracted the most attention. Leaders from 43 SAIs participated, listened to more than 20 presentations, and contributed to three different breakout sessions where three key questions were discussed:
The President of Austria, Mr. Heinz Fischer, welcomed the delegations and was the first to acknowledge and confirm the important role of SAIs. He noted the opportunity that SAIs, together with the United Nations, have to address the challenges and opportunities presented by the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
In his presentation, Secretary General of INTOSAI Dr. Josef Moser noted challenges of public sector accounting frameworks. He emphasized the need for SAIs to have a guaranteed right to audit financial statements or public accounts, and to conduct compliance audits and performance audits. Dr. Moser also reminded delegates that citizens rely heavily on SAIs for transparency and government accountability.
Mr. Wu Hongbo, the United Nations Under-Secretary- General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that this Symposium reflected the importance that the UN and INTOSAI were placing in advancing sustainable development. Its universal agenda will aspire, through 17 goals and 169 related targets, to a better life for all. He reminded us that integration is important—SAIs will need to allocate more resources to performance audits so as to be able to advise on the efficiency, effectiveness and economy of government policy implementation.
Ms. Carman Lapointe, the Under-Secretary-General for the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Activities, discussed the evaluation results of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). She said that there had been a number of capacity gaps that had not been resourced; the monitoring and evaluation framework had varied considerably, and that there were not provisions made for rigorous evaluation. She said that performance audit is a great tool to support monitoring and evaluation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). A great challenge identified by Ms. Lapointe is reliable data at a local, regional and global level. She concluded by inviting SAIs to collaborate with UN System Oversight Bodies to share methodologies and to jointly identify challenges facing the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The Chair of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Mr. Martin Sajdik, said the international community will require information about the impact of the SDGs— the review of their implementation must be a multi-level process, at a national, regional, and global level. SAIs, as instruments of monitoring and review, can ensure public accountability, thus ensuring preconditions for the implementation of SDGs.
Mr. Zhang Tong, Chief Accountability Auditor for the Chinese National Audit Office (CNAO), spoke about the positive role played by audit institutions in promoting sustainable economic and social development in China.
After these introductory presentations, delegates heard from representatives of other institutions that play a role in ensuring the successful implementation of sustainable development goals.
Mr. Amitabh Mukhopadhyay, former Director General of SAI India, appealed to SAIs to appreciate the vulnerable and weak position of citizens. He called for strong institutions—such as SAIs—to help citizens hold governments to account. SAIs can also play a key role in the fight against corruption. He also noted that SAIs can keep watch on public-private partnerships and strengthen accountability associated with such instruments, conduct performance auditing of the health sectors, and audit the regulatory process and the government’s discretion as applied to the use of key resources such as land, water and fossil fuels. Delegates were reminded that SAIs have a special responsibility in alerting citizens about the long-term sustainability of public finances—SAIs were therefore challenged to live up to the expectations created by ISSAI 12 on the Value and Benefits of Supreme Audit Institutions – Making a Difference to the Lives of Citizens.
Participants focused on the role that institutions—citizens, parliaments, governments, the United Nations (UN) itself, and key development partners—will play in ensuring progress toward the goals of sustainable development in the Post-2015 era.
Mr. Michael Linhart, Secretary-General for Foreign Affairs of Austria, reminded delegates of the three pillars— social, economic and environmental—of sustainable development of the Post-2015 Agenda. In order to fulfil these expectations, he suggested that SAIs must be able to audit all relevant areas of national public administration, and to make their findings available to the public at large.
Delegates raised some concerns that not all SAIs have the requisite mandate to fulfill such an important function. Also, global partners in sustainable development must consider how the independence of SAIs can be promoted, and how their capacities can be developed.
Ms. Margaret Saner, Chair of the United Nations Committee of Experts in Public Administration, said we should not underestimate the changes that will be required by the Post-2015 Development Agenda. She said that one challenge would be to translate global goals into national and local ones, for which policies must be developed. There would be governance risks and challenges associated with this process, and that leadership attitude and behavior would be a key success factor. She appealed to SAIs to assess the SDGs without making people so risk averse that public servants would not want to try new things.
Ms. Jennifer Thompson of the World Bank said that SAIs are essential for the management of public resources. She added that because more than a billion people live in extreme poverty, the maximization of resources must be achieved.
Einar Gorrisen of the INTOSAI Development Initiative elaborated on the challenges and opportunities for SAIs in capacity building. He pointed out seven important factors for the future of capacity development landscape:
On the second day of the Symposium, delegates began to focus on the possibilities of SAIs to effectively engage in the Post-2015 development agenda.
The SAI of Mexico said the contribution SAIs can make to sustainable development should focus on policy audits. For example, SAIs will need to apply stringent methods for evaluating the outcomes of public policies and do more results-based auditing. SAIs can be the independent voice necessary for objective and clear reasoning about the attainment of public policies, but it is important that governments take up SAI recommendations, which identify the challenges and risks of sustainable development.
Three key questions were discussed:
The SAI of South Africa spoke on the need to attend to capacity at both an institutional and organizational level and at the level of the individual audit professional. The traditional audit disciplines provided the base for the value-adding role of SAIs, but SAIs also need to be responsive to the changing environment.
The SAI of Brazil spoke about the fact that public debt solvency remains the main factor determining public financial sustainability. Transparency and reliability are also essential to fiscal sustainability. The SAI of Brazil also shared some information on certain initiatives of the TCU to strengthen public sector governance, including the definition of fiscal targets, public debt management, budget management performance, and credit recovery performance.
The SAI from the United Arab Emirates called for an acceptable financial reporting framework for financial sustainability. The UAE asked stakeholders to realize that SAIs operate within resource constraints. SAIs must advocate for acceptable financial reporting frameworks, as well as competent accounting frameworks and audit personnel.
SAI Austria said that the public accounts are a key instrument, informing citizens of the financial status of the state. The improvement of accounting systems is therefore key to providing solid information such as the cash flow statement, the balance sheet and the operating statement. Since its introduction in Austria, accrual accounting has greatly enhanced the value of financial statements. SAIs can and should contribute to and support government accounting reforms.
The SAI of Ghana made a presentation on their auditing experiences related to development goals:
These examples that SAI Ghana shared indicate the important and valuable contribution SAIs have to offer to the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The SAI of the United Kingdom spoke on the extent to which performance audits of SAIs can support economic development and growth. Such performance audits could focus on the diversity of public policy questions, such as improving the national infrastructure, raising the skill level of the population, and developing balanced and effective regulatory regimes.
In summarizing the events of the preceeding three days, the Symposium’s Technical Chair, Mr. Kimi Makawetu, Auditor-General of South Africa, noted that expectations of the role SAIs could play in the Post- 2015 Development agenda are diverse and range across a broad spectrum. Although these are all potentially good opportunities for SAIs to become even more relevant, it will not be easy for SAIs, and INTOSAI, to meet all of these expectations. While SAIs embrace the importance of SDGs, we must be careful not to overstretch given the limited resources available to SAIs.
The new resolution of United Nations General Assembly underlines the important role of SAIs in promoting the efficiency, accountability, effectiveness and transparency of public administration.
The INTOSAI community has achieved a major step to strengthen supreme audit institutions (SAIs) worldwide: its efforts of the last years to anchor the important role of SAIs in the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals have resulted in the adoption of a respective resolution by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.
With Resolution A 69/228 passed on December 19, 2014, the General Assembly clearly recognizes the importance of strengthening SAIs worldwide. They can accomplish their tasks objectively and effectively only if they are independent of the audited entity and are protected against outside influence, as the document states.
The resolution also underlines the important role of SAIs in promoting the efficiency, accountability, effectiveness and transparency of public administration, which is conducive to the achievement of national development objectives and priorities as well as the internationally agreed development goals.
It again takes note of the Lima and Mexico Declaration and encourages Member States to apply, in a manner consistent with their national institutional structures, the principles set out in those Declarations. Furthermore, the United Nations encourage Member States and relevant United Nations institutions to continue and to intensify their cooperation, including capacity-building, with INTOSAI.
This cooperation is aimed at the promotion of good governance at all levels by ensuring efficiency, accountability, effectiveness and transparency through strengthened SAIs and the improvement of public accounting systems.
This resolution finally also encourages all Member States to give due consideration to the independence and capacity-building of SAIs in a manner consistent with their national institutional structures. The Member States are called upon to improve public accounting systems in accordance with national development plans in the context of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Continuing international cooperation to support developing countries is considered to be an important factor in this context. This cooperation should include capacity-building and the exchange of knowledge and best practices in the area of public accounting and auditing.
With the common efforts of its members, INTOSAI has so far been able to attain other important results in 2014: it actively and successfully contributed to a series of UN documents and decisions calling for strengthened SAIs. The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Ministerial Declaration, for instance, highlighted the importance of good governance, rule of law, transparency and accountability at all levels.
The ECOSOC furthermore acknowledged the indispensable role of SAIs and capacity- building for safeguarding governmental accountability with regard to the use of public funds and their performance in achieving development goals. It called upon the Members States to give due consideration to the importance of SAI independence in the context of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
As another important step, the draft of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contains two target components relevant for capacity-building of SAIs, one factor being the development of effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels and another the enhancement of international support for implementing effective and targeted capacity- building in developing countries.
All INTOSAI members now are called upon to intensify their efforts to encourage governments to increase the independence of SAIs, their capacities as well as to improve the public accounting systems by incorporating these elements in the Post 2015 Development Agenda.
Finally, the UN Secretary-General expressly underlined the need for strengthening SAIs as national oversight mechanisms in the Synthesis Report on the Post-2015 Agenda.
All this, together with the recently adopted UN General Assembly Resolution, is the successful result of the common tireless efforts of the entire INTOSAI community of the last years in the spirit of strengthening government audit worldwide.
In 2015, the preparations for the Post-2015 Development Agenda will be continued intensively and are planned to be concluded by the end of 2015. In order to reach the goal of anchoring independence and capacity-building for SAIs as well as the improvement of public accounting systems in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, continued joint efforts in pursuing this aim will be necessary.
Targeted and tailored information about this resolution is key. Therefore, the INTOSAI General Secretariat informed all INTOSAI members about the content of the resolution only a few days after its adoption. It called upon every single SAI to inform the responsible national and international bodies accordingly and to disseminate the document in the framework of the different INTOSAI functions.
The INTOSAI General Secretariat especially seized the opportunity provided by the 23rd UN/INTOSAI Symposium March 2-4, 2015, to discuss expectations in SAIs and prerequisites as well as possibilities for SAIs to effectively engage in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The results of this very well attended symposium (more than 150 participants with more than 70 SAIs represented), its conclusions and recommendations will be brought into the forthcoming Post-2015 Development Agenda discussions on UN level. (Editor’s note: For further information please see the Symposium-related article in this Journal.)
Furthermore, the Austrian Court of Audit initiated a peer review project in order to strengthen the independence of SAIs in the INTOSAI regions together with the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC).
The aim of this peer review project is twofold. On the one hand the objective is to identify problems related to the eight principles of independence as defined in the Mexico Declaration for the reviewed SAI on national level. The report on the status of its independence should serve the reviewed SAI as an instrument to enforce the principles of its independence using it as an effective tool to approach the respective Parliament and the media.
On the other hand it will also help the whole INTOSAI community to identify further measures necessary to improve the independence on the basis of the results of these peer reviews. In doing so this peer review project will also contribute to the implementation of the new Resolution A 69/228 of the UN General Assembly.
The implementation of the new resolution is not only relevant since it takes special note of the interest of INTOSAI in the post-2015 development agenda. It also creates an important instrument that will contribute to improving the framework conditions for sustainable development in a lasting way.
With Resolution A 69/228, which follows the Resolution A/66/209 of 2011, and thanks to the commitment of all members of INTOSAI, the community of SAIs once again succeeded in positively influencing the start of the negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda in 2015. With these developments INTOSAI has made a significant step to meet the goals of the initiative: strengthen independence and capacity-building for SAIs and improve public accounting systems – thus strengthening public auditing worldwide.
This resolution provides an excellent opportunity for SAIs to engage in national and regional meetings and conferences where discussions on the development goals will be held.
All INTOSAI members now are called upon to intensify their efforts to encourage governments to increase the independence of SAIs, their capacities as well as to improve the public accounting systems by incorporating these elements in the Post 2015 Development Agenda and to seek their involvement in monitoring the implementation of the goals at the national, regional and global level.
Editor’s Note: “The Value and Benefit of SAIs” is a new column the Journal will be featuring in upcoming issues. If you would like to submit news of SAIs that are finding ways to demonstrte their relevance and importance, please contact INTOSAIJournal@gao.gov
At the Supreme Audit Institution of Mexico (ASF), we are conscious that the major value of auditing is the information that is provided by its results. Hence, on the occasion of the recent submission of our Report on the 2013 Public Account to Congress—comprising more than 1,400 individual audit reports—the ASF issued, for the first time, a General Report that incorporates 1) a long-term vision of the significance of our work in understanding government, while looking at the root of the problems, and 2) a direct, clear and simple message.
Based on the audits performed, the General Report identifies those conditions that give rise to vulnerabilities in 13 different areas related to the operation of government institutions. This sort of analysis is aimed at fostering a new culture in public governance that is focused on priority issues according to their impact on the overall government sector, and that allows for concrete solutions to common and ongoing structural problems.
The General Report is also intended to provide relevant and concrete information to the citizens, thus enabling them to understand the value and benefits of our work. In this sense, it is worth noting that the report also includes, for the first time, a section about the benefits, both financial and non-financial, of supreme auditing.
This General Report (available in Spanish at www.asf.gob.mx) is another endeavor of the ASF to better communicate the significance of its work and its relevance to the democratic system.