International Journal of Government Auditing – July 2010
On May 26 and 27, 2010, the INTOSAI General Secretariat hosted a 2-day conference in the Austrian Parliament on strengthening external public audit. Heads of SAIs from INTOSAI’s seven regional working groups (AFROSAI, ARABOSAI, ASOSAI, CAROSAI, EUROSAI, OLACEFS, and PASAI); representatives of the United Nations, World Bank, Interparliamentary Union, and donor community; and external experts attended the event.
On the first day, the conference sessions addressed the role and responsibilities of external public audit. The speakers emphasized the role that SAIs play in the system of checks and balances of state powers in democracies in ensuring efficient and transparent government and accountability and promoting good governance. The speakers also underlined the instrumental function of SAIs in fighting corruption and achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. There was a general consensus that given the current financial and economic crisis, SAIs are gaining importance and influence. SAIs are perceived as embracing values such as credibility; in addition, they are trusted by citizens and the international community.
The speakers repeatedly stressed independence as a fundamental prerequisite for the effective delivery of SAI tasks. The conference re-endorsed INTOSAI’s objective of incorporating the basic principle of independence that the Lima and Mexico Declarations laid down in international law. Moreover, the crucial role of INTOSAI’s standards and guidelines in asserting SAI independence was recognized.
The speakers emphasized that presenting the value and benefits of independent SAIs for government and civil society is another major prerequisite for the effectiveness of external public auditing and that communication with the public is instrumental in achieving this goal.
The second day of the conference was devoted to SAI capacity building. The issues addressed included INTOSAI’s cooperation with the donor community to build institutional capacity in developing and emerging countries. Specific presentations discussed current activities of the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI) in this area and IDI’s role in the cooperation between INTOSAI and the donor community.
Based on the specific needs and challenges identified by the SAIs represented, the joint conclusions of the delegates recommended that a stronger focus be placed on the following core issues: independence, institutional capacity building, the development of material and staff competences, the development and use of professional audit standards and methods, training and development, knowledge sharing and transfer, and the presentation of the value and benefits of independent SAIs. A document containing the complete text of the conclusions and recommendations was issued after the conference. The document is available in INTOSAI’s five official languages on the INTOSAI Web site (www.intosai.org/en/portal/).
For additional information, contact the INTOSAI Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The annual steering committee meeting of the Professional Standards Committee (PSC) took place in Copenhagen in May 2010. One of the meeting’s purposes was to approve the last few International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI) and INTOSAI Guidance for Good Governance (INTOSAI GOV) that had been prepared by the PSC subcommittees on Financial Audit, Performance Audit, Compliance Audit, Internal Control Standards, and Accounting and Reporting, as well as the Projects on Audit Quality Control and Transparency and Accountability.
The ISSAI framework has been developed into a comprehensive set of standards and guidelines. After a very productive session in Copenhagen, the PSC is ready to present 36 ISSAIs and 2 INTOSAI GOVs for approval in November at the XX INCOSAI in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mr. Otbo, Chairman of the PSC, stated, “It is my hope that SAIs around the world will find the ISSAIs useful and supportive in their daily auditing practice.”
Three of the new ISSAIs deal with transparency, accountability, and quality control. A number of other ISSAIs related to audits of financial statements address such areas as audit evidence, using the work of internal auditors, sampling, and fraud. Similarly, standards for performance and compliance audit are now included in the ISSAI framework. The two new INTOSAI GOVs deal with internal auditors and cooperation between internal auditors and SAIs.
Before being endorsed at the XX INCOSAI, versions of the new ISSAIs and INTOSAI GOVs have been released on www.issai.org in English. Translations into the other official INTOSAI languages will be available in October. The PSC encourages all INTOSAI members to visit the Web site and familiarize themselves with the new standards. In line with the request of the South African INCOSAI host to keep printed material to an absolute minimum, the new ISSAIs will be available only electronically to congress delegates on the ISSAI Web site, which also presents information on the ISSAI framework and all the previously endorsed ISSAIs. Interested parties can receive news from the Web site by signing up for the e-mail update service.
In the coming years (2011–2013), the PSC will shift its main focus from developing new ISSAIs to the following three new tasks:
For additional information, contact the PSC:
Activities to Raise Awareness
The Financial Audit Subcommittee’s (FAS) introductory presentation, handout, and speaking notes on the INTOSAI Financial Audit Guidelines have been translated into the official INTOSAI languages and will be available on the FAS Web site by the end of August. The English version of the material had previously been sent to key persons nominated by SAIs to enable them to give introductory presentations to their respective organizations.
Development of Standards and Guidelines
The FAS Chair, Gert Jönsson, is a member of the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) and is supported by Jonas Hällström as technical advisor. The most recent meeting was held in Mainz, Germany, in June.
FAS Work Plan for 2011–2013
The FAS work plan was approved by FAS in April and by the PSC Steering Committee in May. The work plan includes the following main tasks:
The next FAS meeting will be hosted by the Swedish National Audit Office on the island of Sandhamn outside of Stockholm, Sweden, September 8–9, 2010.
For additional information, please contact the FAS Secretariat:
The Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Peru (CGR), Chair of Subcommittee 2 of the INTOSAI’s Capacity Building Committee, is requesting the collaboration of the INTOSAI community in developing a database of experts in the field of public finance. SAIs are asked to supply information about professionals currently working in different SAIs, as well as recently retired SAI staff who may be available to perform consulting and advisory duties upon request of other SAIs.
To register or to search for experts, please fill out the application at the following Web site: http://apps.contraloria.gob.pe/intosai.
For additional information, contact Subcommittee 2:
From April 12–17, 2010, the National Audit Office of the People’s Republic of China (CNAO) hosted the 19th INTOSAI Working Group on IT Audit (WGITA) meeting and 6th Performance Auditing Seminar in Beijing. A total of 93 participants from 40 SAIs attended.
In his welcoming address, Liu Jiayi, Auditor General of the CNAO, remarked that with the integration of the global economy and increasing communication in recent years, information technology has brought new challenges as well as new vigor to the auditing profession. He praised the WGITA as an important research group within the INTOSAI community that promotes knowledge-sharing in the field of IT audit. He also stated that the CNAO would like to strengthen its exchanges and cooperation with other SAIs through the WGITA to contribute to the development of IT audit.
Vinod Rai, Chair of the WGITA and Comptroller and Auditor General of India, and Anol Chatterji, his Deputy, presided over the meeting and seminar, respectively. As this was the last meeting before the XX INCOSAI in South Africa in November, participants focused on taking stock of WGITA developments and achievements for the current period that will be reported to the congress. The participants also discussed and approved the results of the survey on future projects for initiating the new work plan for 2010–2013.
During the seminar, 12 papers from 9 SAIs were presented on the theme of performance measures indicating IT project effectiveness and investment success. Participants exchanged ideas and experiences and actively discussed the theme, which may also be addressed at the next seminar.
Many countries have developed systems of key national indicators (KNI) to address the important issue of evaluating socio-economic development. SAIs have a key role to play in this process. A draft guide to KNI terms and concepts the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) developed in cooperation with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states the following:
The development of key national indicators can help nations to measure progress toward desired national outcomes, assess conditions and trends, and help communicate complex issues. Key national indicators can be seen as part of efforts to align the programs and policies of governments with the results—a healthy and educated population, adequate jobs and housing, a healthful and sustainable environment—that citizens care about. For Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), key national indicators represent an important tool to help promote transparency and accountability in government.
SAIs can contribute to the use of KNIs in a wide variety of ways, including validating the reliability of indicators and incorporating them into their performance audits. KNIs can also support the work of audit organizations by providing widely-accepted standards, goals or criteria against which to assess government performance.
The INTOSAI Working Group on Key National Indicators was established by the XIX INCOSAI (November 2007 in Mexico City) within the framework of goal 3 of the INTOSAI Strategic Plan for 2005–2010. The working group, which comprises 21 full members and 5 observers, has collected extensive materials on SAI experiences in developing and using national indicators and launched several pilot projects. It has carried out scientific and practical tests of methods and techniques for multidimensional visualization of KNI measurements.
The working group’s first meeting, held in Moscow in May 2008, was attended by representatives of 20 SAIs (16 working group members and 4 observers) and two international organizations (OECD and the World Bank). During this meeting, terms of reference, rules of procedures, and a working plan for 2008 were discussed and approved. A working plan for 2009 was proposed for further consideration.
After this first meeting, a bilingual (English and Russian) Web site was developed for the working group (www.ach.gov.ru/en/intosaikni). It serves as a tool for online exchanges of information related to the development and use of key national indicators.
The working group’s second meeting was held in Beijing in April 2009. It included a seminar on conceptual approaches to developing and using KNI systems. It was attended by 16 SAIs (15 working group members and 1 observer) and one international organization (OECD). During this meeting, the output of the working group subprojects was considered and the working plan for 2009 was approved.
At the working group’s third meeting—held April 7–8, 2010, in Astana, Kazakhstan—the main outcomes of working group activities for the preceding 3 years were discussed. In addition to discussing subproject outcomes, working group members approved the structure of a white paper on developing and using KNI systems and the working plan for 2010. The white paper provides the basis for developing a reference model for SAI activity within the KNI system to develop, implement, and compare national strategies for social and economic development. Also, a knowledge base on KNIs, which includes data from countries and international organizations, and principles for SAI application of KNIs were presented at the meeting. The working group members decided to examine the working group activities that the Secretariat had proposed and draw up a working plan for the next 3 years.
Since its first meeting, the working group’s membership has increased. The SAIs of Austria, Israel, Indonesia, and Bulgaria became members and Kyrgyzstan joined the group as an observer.
Several subprojects are being carried out to implement the working group’s terms of reference:
The working group’s cooperation with the OECD has been an important part of its activities. In early 2009, the two parties signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to collaborate on measuring the progress of societies. In accordance with the MOU, the working group organized a parallel session entitled “Key National Indicators in the System of External Control” during the OECD Third World Forum in Busan, Korea, in October 2009. During that session five members of the working group—representatives of Austria, Poland, Hungary, the United States, and Russia—discussed issues of knowledge-based economies and societies, KNIs as a tool of planning and auditing, and issues in the use of KNIs in SAI activities.
The activities of the working group were reported in this Journal (January 2009), in the Asian Journal of Government Audit (April 2009), and at the first meeting of the INTOSAI Knowledge Sharing Committee (under goal 3 of the INTOSAI Strategic Plan) in New Delhi, India, in March 2009. The working group will report on its activities over the past 3 years and its proposals for the future at the XX INCOSAI in South Africa in November 2010.
Underlying the working group’s activities is a recognition that each country has its own values and chooses its own goals and paths to development. Asian, African, American, and European countries have very different starting points, capabilities, and traditions. While sharing an interest in having metrics for measuring progress both nationally and globally, working group members recognize that the national, historical, cultural, and economic differences within each country should be respected.
This means that in developing KNIs, the objective should be transparency in the formation, implementation, and assessment of national strategies rather than unification. Working group members believe it would be inappropriate to draw up a prescriptive list enumerating KNIs for development. At the same time, however, SAIs can play a constructive role in ensuring that KNIs in their own countries are reliable and relevant and can serve as a basis for assessing government performance.
For additional information, contact the working group:
 GAO/OECD, Key National Indicators: Draft Guide to Terms and Concepts (www.ach.gov.ru/userfiles/tree/OECD-GAO%20Glossary-tree_files-fl-186.doc), March 2010.
The Working Group on the Value and Benefits of SAIs met in Moscow during March 2010. The Auditor-General of South Africa, Terence Nombembe, chaired the meeting, which was hosted by Sergey Stepashin, the Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation. The meeting’s objectives included finalizing the group’s discussion paper that is to be presented at the XX INCOSAI in South Africa later this year and discussing the future plans of the working group.
The working group agreed on the following in principle:
The final discussion paper on the value and benefits of SAIs will be made available in all official INTOSAI languages on the official INCOSAI Web site (www.incosai.co.za) by the end of July 2010.
The next meeting of the working group is planned for November 20, 2010, in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa, preceding the INTOSAI Governing Board meeting and the XX INCOSAI.
For additional information, contact the SAI of South Africa:
The third meeting of the INTOSAI Communications Strategy Task Force took place on May 28, 2010, at the Austrian Court of Audit in Vienna. Attending the third meeting were representatives from the SAIs of Austria, Belize, Denmark, India, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Tunisia, the United States of America, and Yemen.
Dr. Josef Moser, Secretary General of INTOSAI and chair of the task force, welcomed task force members. The SAI of India presented an update on the INTOSAI collaboration tool and distributed a training CD to task force members, noting that this Journal had recently run an article profiling the collaboration tool and that any SAI could request access to the tool for its staff or INTOSAI work groups by sending an e-mail to the SAI of India at email@example.com.
Task force members then reviewed and commented on a draft of the INTOSAI Communication Guideline, which sets out the principles of internal and external communication for INTOSAI and its members to (1) ensure effective, transparent, accurate, and timely communication and (2) help enhance the visibility of the organization. A final draft, based on the comments received at the meeting, will be circulated to task force members for another round of comment.
The task force also continued work on a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis of INTOSAI communications to help develop appropriate communication strategies for the organization. Task force members agreed to submit to the chair by the end of June the elements identified to date in the SWOT analysis that they consider to be most important.
The next task force meeting will be held during the XX INCOSAI in Johannesburg, South Africa, in November.
For additional information, contact the INTOSAI Secretariat:
In January 2010, the SAI of Poland (NIK) hosted a 2-day seminar on performance audit of social programs for professional integration of the disabled. The seminar was organized in cooperation with the European Institute of Public Administration and its Warsaw-based European Centre for Public Financial Management, which contributed subject matter expertise on the topic. The seminar was designed for EUROSAI practitioners involved in auditing social programs.
The seminar’s objective was to discuss the experiences of EUROSAI member SAIs and give delegates a step-by-step approach to use in designing, managing, and conducting performance audits and reporting findings. The inspiration for the seminar came from the VII EUROSAI Congress held in Kraków in June 2008, one of whose themes was the audit of social programs for the professional integration of the disabled. The congress recommended that SAIs take full advantage of the opportunities to share knowledge and experience that EUROSAI colleagues had already gained in this area. The NIK of Poland decided to follow up on this recommendation during its term as President of the EUROSAI Governing Board by offering this seminar and a parallel audit on employing persons with disabilities in the public sector.
All materials from the seminar—general information, presentations, and group photos—are available on the EUROSAI Presidency Web site at www.eurosai2008.pl.
For additional information, contact the NIK:
Web site: www.nik.gov.pl