by Prof. Dr. Mohammad Sharif Shari, Auditor General, Afghanistan Supreme Audit Office
Afghanistan’s Supreme Audit Office (SAO) is responsible for the audit of Afghanistan’s government revenues and expenditures and oversees the way public finances are managed. Audit work promotes public sector accountability within the country by scrutinizing public financial management and reporting on whether public bodies are using public funds as directed. This, in turn, helps ensure good governance within government institutions.
SAO is committed to fighting corruption in the country and is currently employing numerous approaches to include (1) focusing audit planning on areas typified by high corruption risk, (2) working closely with other institutions, such as the Attorney General and parliament, and (3) publicizing audit report recommendations publicly on the SAO website.
Any cases of fraud or misuse of public funds discovered during the audits are always referred to the Attorney General for action. SAO is also on hand to lend support to the Attorney General acting as an expert witness when these referred cases go before courts of law.
In the fight against corruption, SAO plays an indirect role by emphasizing deterrence and prevention. Audits (financial, compliance and performance) help to identify internal control weaknesses and allow for the recommendation of ways to strengthen those weaknesses. In doing so, the SAO is promoting strong public financial management.
Audit work also underscores reviewing and reporting on the system of financial checks and controls. This helps ensure transparency in the reporting of government spending and aims to dissuade people from engaging in corrupt practices.
CRITICAL FACTORS NEEDED TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
It is important to note that all government agencies must be proactive in their roles if the SAO is to be successful in the fight against corruption.
For example, cases forwarded to the Attorney General’s office should be expeditiously handled. It is also essential that parliament establish a Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The role of PAC is fundamental to holding government agencies accountable.
With the PAC in place, SAO audit reports will be reviewed, and the concerned ministries and agencies will be notified to account for and provide action plans on improving any identified internal control weaknesses.
Without the PAC in place, the SAO will continue to see the same challenges including:
- Lack of accountability
- No action taking place on implementing proposed audit recommendations.
These hurdles enable the fostering of corruption in the various government ministries and departments
HOW AFGHANISTAN’S SAO PLANS TO CONTINUE WITH THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
The SAO goal is to remain steadfast in our actions. We aim to:
- Ensure audits focus on high-risk areas for corruption;
- Work closely with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the public on identifying and investigating alleged corruption complaints through the Citizen Engagement Mechanism;
- Continue to publish all audit findings on the SAO public website;
- Work with parliament to ensure a vibrant PAC is put in place and operating effectively and efficiently;
- Cultivate relationships with all institutions fighting corruption in Afghanistan.
The importance of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) in the fight against corruption cannot be underestimated. SAIs are an institutional pillar (alongside the legislature, executive, judiciary, ombudsman and electoral management bodies) upon which rests the strength of every country’s integrity. For SAIs to be successful in this fight, there is a need to work closely with all institutional pillars. We should also all keep in mind that any weakening in the effectiveness of one of our pillar institutions places a greater strain on the rest.
Special note: The SAO of Afghanistan is in the initial phase of developing the Citizen Engagement Process and will be sharing news on the success of the tool once implemented.