International Journal of Government Auditing – Summer 2017
S.J. Stuiveling, former President of the Netherlands Court of Audit passed away April 20, 2017, at the age of 71. A member of the Netherlands Court of Audit from 1984 to 2015, she held the esteemed position as its President for the last 16 years of her career.
Saskia, as she was known, was preceded by her reputation when she was appointed to the Court of Audit's Board in 1984. Her work for the parliamentary inquiry into the Rijn- Schelde-Verolme group, her membership of the Senate for the Dutch Labour Party and her position as State Secretary for the Interior had already earned her an impressive record in public administration.
Elected in 2000, she was the Court's first female president. She possessed an unmatched energy, an extraordinary expertise, and she personally contributed to the modernization of the Court of Audit, where she often worked behind the scenes and laid foundations for later successes that led to improved public administration.
Saskia was admired for so many things, including her perfectionism and eye for detail. She was a source of inspiration to her colleagues and had the creative knack to identify relationships and develop conceptual approaches long before others. On more than one occasion, she initiated the public debate and was greatly appreciated for doing so.
From her very first day in office, Saskia was concerned with government performance and its responsibility for weaker members of society. She set the Court of Audit's course to audit public sector performance in the fields of education, care and security, and under her leadership, the Court gained a wealth of expertise in these fields.
Saskia had a keen sense for social and political relations and frequently took the initiative to undertake new activities. Her work within the international audit community was exceptional. She was at the birth of many innovative activities that widened the reach of Supreme Audit Institutions and brought them closer to citizens.
She also strengthened ties between audit institutions. In 1992, she established the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) Working Group on Environmental Auditing and in 2002 the European Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (EUROSAI) Working Group with a focus on IT governance.
Following the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, she took the initiative to increase the transparency of aid flows. Her IntoSAINT self-assessment initiative put the integrity of public administration and the role of audit institutions on the map.
As President of the European regional network, she inspired EUROSAI to be more innovative and creative. She pioneered cooperation with audit institutions in the Arab region. The enormous respect she enjoyed internationally and her personal charm enabled her to move mountains.
Upon Saskia's retirement as President of the Court of Audit in 2015, the prime minister, Mark Rutte, announced the creation of the "Stuiveling Open Data Award," an annual award first conferred in 2016 for public initiatives that promote, clarify or encourage the use of open data.
The establishment of this award in her honor was born from Saskia's interest in everything related to the modern information society. Sometimes referred to as "The Hague's Digitization Prophet," she warned against the risk of the government missing the digital boat. She reasoned that with so many sources of information available to the public, it became even more important for the government to be transparent. Saskia likened the digital revolution to the invention of the printing press.
She could ease the tension with a witty comment or anecdote, and in more private settings, she would often surprise people with the personal attention she would give.
Working with Saskia was a great privilege. Knowing Saskia was a gift. Missing Saskia will be eternal, as will remembering her.
The Turkish Court of Accounts (TCA) hosted the 10th European Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (EUROSAI) Congress in Istanbul, Turkey, May 22-25, 2017.
This year's congressional theme-"Implementation of International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAIs): Challenges and Solutions for Improvement"- geared participants toward discovering ways ISSAIs can be enhanced to best serve public sector credibility and quality.
ISSAIs are extremely important for Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), as they provide a framework and guide SAIs in audit work that requires a high-level of technical, organization and professional competencies. Adopting and implementing appropriate and effective ISSAIs are key to promoting strong, independent SAIs.
Approximately 170 participants from 51 countries (including 41 EUROSAI member-SAIs and 10 observers and guest countries) attended the congress that included two Governing Board (GB) meetings, where the SAIs of Poland and Latvia were approved as GB members; two plenary sessions; and several workshops and seminars on such topics as emerging issues and sustainable development.
The Netherlands Court of Accounts (NCA) handed over the reins to the Turkish Court of Accounts (TCA) at the congress. The TCA, who will hold the EUROSAI presidency for the next three years, vows to implement significant initiatives, including the implementation of the EUROSAI Strategic Plan. The TCA also plans to create a EUROSAI that is more active and dynamic.
During the event, new strategic goals for EUROSAI were proposed, goals that Mr. Arno Visser, President of the NCA, believes are "building blocks for an agile, responsive knowledge broker."
The Istanbul Declaration, consisting of outcomes and work session recommendations, marked the conclusion of the congress.
A few years ago, a great idea arose in the European Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (EUROSAI), an idea that proved a perfect match for young staff of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), an idea that led to the realization of two extremely successful events-Young EUROSAI (YES) Conferences.
The National Audit Office of Estonia's young staff continues the legacy of YES success, as they prepare to host the third YES Conference September 11- 14, 2017, in Tallinn, Estonia.
Innovation, one of EUROSAI's main values, drives the YES initiative. We are living in an era described by exponential growth and availability of data, which brings about substantial changes happening all around us- trends toward connectivity, globalization and unbroken access. Digital technologies have been integrated into our everyday lives by the digitization of everything that can be digitized. All of this has an effect on SAIs' work, as well!
"Updates Available" will be the main theme of the third YES Conference, and it symbolizes the constant need for improvement, which, in combination with the developments in digitalization and an increase in data volumes, represents a must-have upgrade for every auditor. By sharing ideas, success stories and not-so-successful practices, we can find ways to further improve our work and to update our auditing. And who better to make use of all the data out there but the people that have grown up within it!
In September, we will spend four days generating ideas, sharing experiences and networking. And, one of the best things about the YES Conference is that it actually builds upon participants' contributions! In addition to keynote presentations and group discussions, there will be a number of workshops developed and moderated by the young professionals themselves.
We will explore the opportunities the information age presents and how these opportunities have been used so far. A special kind of brainstorming session, Idea Garage, will be organized to further encourage participants to generate, propose and develop new ideas on solutions to different pressing social issues using open and big data.
One full day will be dedicated to sharing participants' experience with data in all formats, whether it be data collection, analysis, statistics, visualization.you name it!
Toward the end of the conference, we will attempt to look into the future and discuss the future of e-governance as a whole, particularly open information society's influence and SAI impact.
YES is not just a conference. It is a network of young, inspired, enthusiastic professionals, driven by innovation and the courage to think big-carrying the YES spirit! We hope the ideas discussed at the YES Conference will inspire all participants, and that the YES spirit continues to spread within the SAI community!For more information, please refer to the YES 2017 website or contact the organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Communication and Information Technologies Commission (CTIC), spearhead by Dr. Francisco J. Fernández, National Auditor of the Republic of Argentina and CTIC Chairman, implemented an online survey platform to strengthen Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) capabilities in data collection and inquiry processes.
CTIC analyzed several alternatives and selected LimeSurvey, a no-cost, web-based platform to develop and publish online surveys, collect responses, create statistics and export resulting data to other applications. The software is also compatible with the technological infrastructure utilized by the Organization of Latin American and Caribbean Supreme Audit Institutions (OLACEFS) secretariat.
During the XXVI OLACEFS General Assembly held in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, in September 2016, an electronic preliminary survey was disseminated using this new platform to acquaint participants with the software and gauge participant awareness of CTIC activities.
The Commission is currently developing the necessary protocol and survey site (http://encuestas.olacefs.com) documentation to provide a reference framework for processing requests, including admissions, withdrawals, modifications and reports.
Mr. Fernández emphasized, "The Commission seeks to make this platform a service that will enable, through the use of technology, a much more agile and efficient survey system."
The President of the Salvadorian Supreme Audit Institution (SAI), Mr. Rodrigo Antonio Barahona Escalante, alongside the Auditor General of the Argentinean SAI and Chairman of the Organization of Latin American and Caribbean Supreme Audit Institutions (OLACEFS) Committee on Good Governance, Mr. Jesus Rodriquez, introduced a new book at a launch party in San Salvador, El Salvador, in late March 2017.
The book, "Auditing and Quality of Public Expenditure in Latin America and the Caribbean-The Role of Parliament and Supreme Audit Institutions," aims to improve the quality of public expenditures in Latin America and the Caribbean. The publication is based on research in the area of good financial governance and was developed through a regional comparative study of 7 countries-Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic-that investigates Parliamentary and Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) roles in budget cycles, as well as participation in public expenditure quality improvements.
The text is organized into 3 parts:
Researchers: Dafina Dimitrova, Nelson Shack Yalta, and Salvador Delgado-Garza.
Editors: Reinhard Engl, Peter Dineiger and Mauricio García Moreno.
Publication research efforts were carried out within the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) project "Supporting Fiscal Policy in El Salvador." The study's conceptual and methodological design included members of the Ecorys research team (who fully conducted field research), as well as GIZ employees.
The International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) Working Group on Financial Modernization and Regulatory Reform (WGFMRR) continues to make substantive progress promoting knowledge sharing and enhancing its capacities.
During the WGFMRR 4th annual meeting held in Washington, D.C., May 9-10, 2017, members from 17 Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), including representatives from the working group's two newest members-SAIs of Germany and Pakistan-enjoyed an array of knowledge-sharing and knowledge-building opportunities.
SAIs from Austria, China, European Court of Auditors, Germany, Netherlands and the United States shared experiences and results of recent financial sector and parallel audits. As part of WGFMRR ongoing efforts to cultivate relationships with international standard setting bodies, officials from the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, International Monetary Fund, and Financial Stability Board discussed current efforts to strengthen the financial sector and presented ways in which SAIs and standard setting bodies can collaborate with or complement one another.
In response to a high volume of member requests, the U.S. Government Accountability Office hosted a supplemental workshop immediately following the annual meeting. The workshop, devised to enlighten participants on using criteria in financial sector audits, fostered the sharing of techniques and practices, as well as identifying and evaluating other sources (e.g. cross-border) of potential criteria.
The workshop resulted in positive feedback and participants looking forward to similar training opportunities in the future.
The International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) Working Group on Information Technology Audit (WGITA) met in Seoul, Republic of Korea, May 22- 23, 2017.
Korea's Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) hosted this 26th WGITA meeting that included 54 representatives from 27 Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs). Heads of SAIs from Bhutan, Fiji, Hungary and India attended, as well as the Vice Chairman from the SAI of Indonesia.
Mr. Hwang Chan-hyun, BAI's Chairman, welcomed participants.
"The development of IT will serve as a new opportunity for all SAIs to take a leap forward. For SAIs to proactively respond to such changes, we must enhance IT audit techniques and guidelines," he remarked.
He also announced various methods the BAI has been implementing, which have led to significant achievements in auditing, such as the "E-audit Management System," a system designed to comprehensively oversee and process all data. Additionally, the BAI recently established a department dedicated to IT audit aimed at ensuring professionalism.
The meeting served as an opportunity to contribute to developing the IT audit field and facilitated the exchange of audit knowledge, experience and individual SAI perspectives on several topics, such as cyber security, big data analysis and emerging audit techniques. The group also utilized the two-day event to discuss the 2017-2019 work plan to develop IT audit capacities and guidelines over the next three years.For additional information, email SAI Korea at email@example.com or visit the BAI website http://english.bai.go.kr/.
The European Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions Task Force on Municipality Audit (EUROSAI TFMA) had its kick-off meeting April 11-12, 2017, in Vilnius, Lithuania. Forty-nine representatives from SAIs representing 25 EUROSAI countries assembled to build the foundation for task force future work.
During the inaugural meeting, the Working Program 2017- 2020 was discussed and approved, which encompassed planning activities, sharing responsibilities, establishing deadlines and defining strategic goals, which are:
Each task force member contributed to identifying working principles during a special session of the kick-off meeting. Being resourceful and inventive; fully engaged and involved; showing respect for personal and team considerations; and striving for novelty and innovation were deemed key values to fluently and efficiently contribute to strategic goal achievement.
TFMA members were also tasked to indicate features of municipality audit that are different from other audit types, as well as how task force activities can, and will, add value. Four major aspects were identified- complexity, specificity, openness and accountability, and use of data-all of which make municipality audits unique.
This uniqueness creates space, providing endless possibilities for the TFMA to add value for auditors, SAIs and the auditing community as a whole. Complexity is determined by a large number of municipalities in every country, a wide range of services delivered to citizens and numerous municipal functions, which often overlap with governmental functions. Specificity is the vast amount of municipality audit system units, such as SAIs, external, internal and private auditors, along with dissimilarities of these units, including various audit mandates, goals and functions. Openness refers to the desire (and ability) to share significant information and deal with problems integrally at all levels. Accountability and data use is the need to create a culture of accountability and use data from local accounts and financial statements, which can be encouraged by municipality audits.
The National Audit Office (NAO) of Lithuania's initiative to establish the EUROSAI TFMA was approved by the EUROSAI Governing Board in Luxembourg in June 2016. The approval, based on NAO data revealing the importance of the municipality audit sphere and the necessity to focus more attention on multi-level policy actions and local data, creates pathways from the local level to meeting global goals. Local governments play crucial roles in creating citizen well-being, and the EUROSAI TFMA seeks to transform external municipal auditing systems into more efficient ones. The NAO of Lithuania chairs the TFMA and strongly believes this cooperation will bring benefits to SAIs in planning and conducting local government audits, as well as providing relevant improvements to municipality audit systems in EUROSAI countries.
The TFMA member, SAI of Latvia, will host a seminar on Municipality Audit October 5-6, 2017, in Riga, Latvia, to address: added value from SAI audits conducted in local municipalities and usefulness and efficiency criteria when using local municipality budgets.
The European Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (EUROSAI) Working Group on the Audit of Funds Allocated to Disasters and Catastrophes (WGAFAD&C) met in Rome, Italy, in March 2017.
The Accounting Chamber of the Ukraine, with the assistance of the Court of Audit of the Italian Republic, chaired the meeting, which included representatives from 15 Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), as well as invited experts from the SAIs of the Czech Republic and Indonesia.
Participants signed joint positions on cooperation within international audits on the most relevant group topics; approved the Working Group Activity Report for 2015- 2017; and agreed on the draft Working Group's Strategic Activity Plan for 2017-2020.
Established in June 2014 at the IX EUROSAI Congress, the WGAFAD&C is now composed of SAIs from 20 countries. The group's mission is to coordinate and consolidate European SAI efforts to help governments develop effective and efficient instruments to prevent and eliminate consequences associated with disasters and catastrophes.
Working Group activities during 2015-2017 included:
Results indicate a successful beginning and the basis for developing strategic directions well into 2020. The Working Group has identified three strategic goals for 2020: professional cooperation; professional development; and contributing to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Executing the Strategic Activity Plan will contribute to implementing EUROSAI's Strategic Plan 2017-2023; achieving INTOSAI strategic objectives defined in the INTOSAI Strategic Plan 2017-2022; and fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Working Group will continue to share knowledge by organizing and conducting training and advisory events, as well as international audits on the group's most relevant areas. The group will also focus on promoting and supporting International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAIs) implementation (particularly the 5500 series) to increase professional development and help build institutional capacity. Contributing to the Sustainable Development Goal fulfillment, the group will conduct measures to follow up on countries' efforts aimed at implementing the 2030 Agenda.
"Audit is our business. Information is our oxygen." These words, offered by Mr. Wesley Vaz Silva from the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) of Brazil, capture the essence of the 24th United Nations (UN)/International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) Symposium held in Vienna, Austria, May 31-June 2, 2017.
Roughly 150 delegates from more than 70 SAIs and international institutions, including the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), UN Office of Internal Oversight (OIOS), International Budget Partnership (IBP), and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) united to share knowledge and experiences with digitalization, open data and data mining to lay the foundation to monitor progress toward Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) implementation.
The three-day event included numerous presentations and thought-provoking round table discussions that, according to the symposium's technical chair, Mr. Chris Mihm from the United States Government Accountability Office, resulted in two major themes: (1) the auditing community is in the midst of change and (2) digitalization profoundly impacts government services and auditing.
Mr. Alhassane Thierno Baro, SAI Senegal, said that, in our era, requirements of democracy coupled with the interdependency of our economies increase the importance of opening up and sharing public data. Mr. Baro also pointed out that the up and coming generations will drive change.
This changing environment requires the audit community to adapt on many levels. Mr. Jesús Nieto Muñoz, European Court of Auditors, noted auditors must "take a quantum leap forward, not by just embracing new technologies, but by also adopting a digital mindset."
SAI Pakistan's presentation echoed that sentiment, pointing out that now, more than ever, auditors must keep skills updated.
Additionally, the constantly evolving surroundings means auditors must also uncover new approaches asserted Mr. Prasenjit Mukherjee from India's Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, and the United Kingdom National Audit Office's (NAO) Philip Bradburn agrees.
Bradburn noted audits should be faster, better, cheaper-they should add value while reducing costs. And, it's not just talk. "We've done stuff!" exclaimed Bradburn, who cited the use of webscraping, journal sampling and fuzzy logic as examples of recent datadriven NAO initiatives.
Many SAIs have begun capitalizing on data sourcing when performing audits. SAI South Africa has used data mining in fraud investigation; Oman's State Audit Institution has incorporated digital forensics in audits aimed at fighting corruption; Canada's Office of the Auditor General has accomplished a tremendous amount of work using population-based approaches and text analytics; and SAI Brazil has connected technical experts with line auditors in its audit efforts.
The notion of big data brings with it big opportunities, including modernization, real-time results, forecasting capabilities and interactivity. Ms. Tatiana Golikova, Chair of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, noted the ability to continuously monitor audit activities via automation, and SAI Germany cited direct information to citizens as additional benefits when using data mechanisms and methodologies in this era of digital administration.
Yet, operating in a digital environment can also lead to considerable challenges, such as data access, data quality, increased expectations, technical capacity and human resource aspects.In addition to the common challenges cited, the Austrian Court of Audit (ACA) identified specific hurdles associated with processing and presenting big data volumes. Despite the potential pitfalls with such a vast quantity of information and analytics, the ACA believes data mining and analysis in performance audits can lead to new insights, and SAIs can help "discover hidden knowledge treasures."
The discussions and engagement on data sourcing provided attendees with numerous ideas on potential ways to employ data tools and techniques to support a wide variety of audit functions, including auditing SDGs-an INTOSAI priority, as the demand for SAIs to play a more prevalent role in SDG implementation is evident given recent INTOSAI standards and the UN resolution calling for nations to foster SAI independence and capacity building. The importance of SAIs is also noted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, where SAIs are key in implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to transform the world.
Ms. Marion Barthélemy, Director, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), believes SAIs can provide unique assessments and considers INTOSAI's approach framework an opportunity to work together to advance methodologies and embed SDG implementation into processes.
INTOSAI's approach framework, comprised of four tactics, acts as a map designed to help navigate toward successful SDG implementation.
The four approaches outlined in the framework are:
A panel of representatives-SAI Canada, SAI Brazil, GIZ and the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI)-helped guide a discussion to help symposium participants better understand the approach framework.
Ms. Julie Gelfand, SAI Canada, provided short-, medium-, and long-term steps to assess preparedness during her remarks on Approach 1 and stressed that SAIs have a very big role to play in accountancy and transparency.
Approach 2 was presented by Mr. Aroldo Cedraz, SAI Brazil, who noted, "SDG implementation will only be possible through SAI commitment."
Dr. Barbara Dutzler, GIZ, who focused on Approach 3 believes SAIs must understand and strengthen Public Financial Management (PFM) as a key factor, catalyst, and driver of successful government performance. Dutzler also asserted that results are not well communicated.
Communication is crucial to success, and Einar Gørrissen, IDI's Director General, furthered (in his presentation on Approach 4) that SAIs must do more than just talk about SDG implementation. SAIs must "lead by example," Gørrissen emphasized and quoting Mr. Khalid Hamid from the United Arab Emirates State Audit Office, Gørrissen added, "We need to walk the talk!"
Earlier in the day, Mr. Hamid provided the audience with a follow-up on Theme 1 of INCOSAI XXII, which concentrated on SDGs. In his address, Mr. Hamid stressed the importance of sharing knowledge and getting involved in the dialogue at all levels. "We must find a global public voice," he pronounced.
Global indeed. Much like that of the 2030 Agenda. Much like that of the SDGs. Much like that when it comes to continued cooperation between SAIs and the UN.
Capping off the symposium's second day, representatives from UNDESA, IDI, the (IBP) and the SAIs of Columbia and Finland spearheaded a plenary discussion on the way forward.
Ms. Archana Shirsat, Deputy Director General for IDI, highlighted that focusing on programs that support outcomes (rather than solely taking an outcomes-based approach) is essential. "It's not just doing different things, it's doing things differently," she stressed.
It is evident. The digital age is changing the auditing world. Digitalization is shaping the auditing community of the future. Embracing this change is key.
"The digital age gives SAIs ample opportunities to modernize and ample opportunities to fail, but we should not be afraid." -Dr. Ellen van Schoten, Netherlands Court of Audit.