In a major show of support, INTOSAI provided funding to Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) to help with continuity of operations during the pandemic. Under the leadership of Dr. Hussam Alangari, Auditor General of Saudi Arabia, and Mr. Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States, the “SAI Continuity during COVID-19” grant funded the purchase of information and communications technologies (ICT), such as laptops and internet connectivity, as well as personal protective equipment, to respond to needs caused by the pandemic.
The General Court of Audit of Saudi Arabia (GCA) and the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) worked closely with the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI) and the INTOSAI General Secretariat to carry out the program.
In this unique effort, INTOSAI made a total of €700,000 available, starting in October 2020 and ending in November 2021. Each selected SAI was eligible to receive a maximum of €20,000. Over the course of the program, INTOSAI awarded 52 SAIs, or more than one-quarter of INTOSAI membership, a total of about €600,000. These SAIs represented all seven INTOSAI regions.
The INTOSAI continuity grant program received positive feedback from the community and made a significant impact at a number of SAIs, as illustrated by the SAIs of Nicaragua and Madagascar, whose use of the funds is discussed below.
“It was fantastic to be a part of this unique grant program,” states Mark Keenan, Program Manager on GAO’s International Relations team and a key partner in creating and running the program. “Knowing that tangible resources were provided to assist so many of our SAI colleagues during the pandemic has been a very rewarding experience.”
The GCA and the General Secretariat of the Asian Organization of SAIs (ASOSAI) also established separate but similar successful grant programs for ASOSAI members. The GCA made $2 million USD available and awarded grants to 14 SAIs, and the ASOSAI General Secretariat made $200,000 USD available through its program.
SAI Nicaragua Shifts to Remote Work
During the pandemic, SAI Nicaragua approved a contingency plan that considerably affected how it operated, including shifting from face-to-face to remote interviews, meetings, and monitoring. However, the SAI needed additional technological capacity to effectively perform this work, and to fully comply with its mandate to provide internal control and government management training to the country’s public servants.
SAI Nicaragua reported that funding from the INTOSAI grant program helped it enhance its technological infrastructure in order to continue to carry out its operations. Specifically, SAI Nicaragua procured wireless access points, facilitating connectivity from anywhere within the institution and enabling more physical distancing. The SAI also acquired a computer, monitors, and other audiovisual equipment such as speakers, video cameras, and microphones, which it used to hold video conferences, webinars, and virtual meetings.
Dr. María José Mejía García, Head of SAI Nicaragua, offered her thanks to INTOSAI for “promoting these initiatives to support SAIs that have had technological and budgetary limitations to continue their work during the pandemic.”
SAI Madagascar Ensures Resilience of Operations
In its grant application, the Court of Accounts of Madagascar said the pandemic had significantly disrupted the SAI’s activities, with travel restrictions and compulsory social distancing posing major challenges to its ability to conduct audits. SAI Madagascar recognized that some changes resulting from the pandemic would have a lasting impact on its work culture, and that it needed to review its ICT strategy—including software applications, data networks, user devices, security, and support—to ensure resilience of operations.
With its grant, SAI Madagascar was able to acquire scanners, a camera, laptops, and videoconferencing equipment. The SAI reported that the funding would help it make progress toward fulfilling its strategic plan by supporting audits, jurisdictional activities, and internal management.
Mr. Jean de Dieu Rakotondramihamina, president of SAI Madagascar, stated: “Shifting to new working methods—remote working, online meetings, or webinars—is necessary. The INTOSAI grant has enabled the SAI to be more resilient through the investment in ICT equipment.”
INTOSAI has appreciated the opportunity to successfully collaborate with individual SAIs and will continue to look for opportunities to assist the global SAI community.