International Journal of Government Auditing – January 2012
The members of the Pacific Association of Supreme Audit Institutions (PASAI) celebrated 25 years of progress when they met August 2–5, 2011, in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, for their 14th congress, whose theme was the value and benefits of SAIs. The delegates formally adopted INTOSAI’s Johannesburg Accords, shared their recent experiences and accomplishments, endorsed the ongoing capacity-development activities of the Pacific Regional Audit Initiative (PRAI), and discussed next steps toward implementing PRAI programs and products across the region.
This year’s congress, one of the largest ever held in the Pacific region, brought together the heads of 21 national and state audit offices as well as representatives of development partners and other key stakeholders. Audit office delegates came from American Samoa; the Australian National Audit Office and the Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria; the Cook Islands; Fiji; the Federated States of Micronesia: Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap; Guam; Kiribati; the Marshall Islands; Nauru; New Caledonia; New Zealand; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Samoa; the Solomon Islands; Tonga; and Tuvalu. Donors and stakeholders attended from the Australia Agency for International Development, the New Zealand Aid Program, the Asian Development Bank, the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, and the Pacific Financial and Technical Assistance Centre.
During the opening ceremony, the chairmanship of PASAI was formally transferred from Raimon Taake, Auditor General of Kiribati, to Pohiva Tu’I’onetoa, Auditor General of Tonga.
Lord Tu’I’afitu, Deputy/Acting Speaker of Tonga’s Legislative Assembly, delivered an opening address noting the close working relationship between SAIs and the legislatures they serve and the part SAIs play in bringing about change and improvements. He underscored the SAIs’ important role in assuring the people that their governments are working economically, efficiently, and effectively to meet their needs and expectations.
Lyn Provost, PASAI’s Secretary General and Auditor General of New Zealand, also welcomed the delegates and stakeholders. She shared information and observations from the XX INCOSAI in Johannesburg. Echoing Lord Tu’I’afitu’s remarks, she noted that the INCOSAI discussions had emphasized the value and benefits of SAIs as an important pillar in democratic systems. She stressed that each SAI should strive to be recognized as an institution that makes a difference to the citizens it serves and should issue reports that are clear, concise, and accessible to the public as well as to clients and stakeholders. Ms. Provost drew attention to the other Johannesburg themes on environmental auditing and implementation of the International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI), which would serve as the basis for subsequent PASAI discussions. She emphasized that PASAI’s challenge is to implement the Johannesburg Accords in the Pacific region—in the Pacific Way.
The delegates next heard special reports from stakeholders and received updates from representatives who had participated in various INTOSAI meetings.
Pacific Island Forum Secretariat
Sanjesh Naidu, the Economic Advisor to the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS), challenged the group to take a more active role in promoting economic development across the region. He pointed out that the Pacific region lagged behind other areas in terms of economic growth but that implementation of the Pacific Plan, which aims to strengthen regional integration and cooperation, aims to change this pattern. He encouraged the SAIs to become familiar with the plan’s four pillars—economic growth, good governance, security, and economic development—and to look for ways to lead efforts for change and seek new ways to support the plan. He particularly emphasized the need for improved communication and efforts to coordinate activities.
INTOSAI Committees and Programs
The presentation regarding the Working Group on Environmental Auditing (WGEA) highlighted the impact of PASAI’s cooperative performance audit on solid waste management, which had been featured at a recent WGEA meeting. PASAI’s accomplishments were also featured at the Capacity Building Committee meeting, and the Secretariat has already received requests from committee members for PASAI capacity-building manuals and training materials. At a meeting of the INTOSAI-Donor Steering Committee, donors had been receptive to a regional approach and had commended PASAI for the results it has already achieved through the PRAI.
The delegates made presentations on their SAIs’ progress and accomplishments in adopting and implementing the Johannesburg Accords. Several significant themes emerged through the presentations and subsequent discussions.
The PRAI was developed in 2007 to address the challenges posed by variable standards of public auditing in the Pacific. It provides support within the overall framework of regional cooperation under the Pacific Plan as it emphasizes that public auditing practices are central to achieving good governance outcomes, which, in turn, can contribute to improved economic performance and growth outcomes for Pacific island countries.
At the congress, the delegates reaffirmed the PRAI’s regional basis and relationship with the Pacific Plan and received reports on the completion of several major achievements.
The first round of the Subregional Audit Support program was successfully completed in 2010. The program involves a cooperative approach to the completion of financial audits in Kiribati, Nauru, and Tuvalu. The audits have had significant benefits for in-country public financial management and governance and for the capacity development of the three SAIs and their staff. The second round of the program commenced in June 2011 in Kiribati and will be completed in early 2012.
PASAI’s first cooperative regional performance audit, on solid waste management, was completed in 2010. The project involved the participation of 10 member SAIs and resulted in individual country reports (seven of which have now been presented to the respective country legislatures) and an overarching regional report (available at www.pasai.org). Fieldwork on a second audit, involving the management of safe drinking water, had been completed and the project had moved into the reporting phase. The congress also endorsed a third audit of sustainable fisheries management across the Pacific region.
PASAI’s capacity-building program continued to show significant success. Staff from SAIs across the region had participated in working groups to develop manuals and training programs. The congress endorsed new manuals on human resource management, quality assurance, and reporting; in addition, financial and performance audit manuals were in final review. These manuals complement the skill-based comprehensive training program being piloted in the region. By early 2012, a series of training courses will provide professional development for staff from entry-level to management positions.
In another capacity-building initiative, the delegates learned more about the progress on certification. This PRAI activity aims to identify courses and on-the-job opportunities that meet the SAIs’ needs and professional bodies’ certification requirements. Where there are gaps, the committee expects to liaise with the universities to introduce new courses and explore options for establishing internships while also expanding the pool of SAIs that could serve as approved training organizations in the region.
The congress also endorsed a survey of the state of accountability and transparency in the region. The study, which is being funded by the New Zealand Aid Program, follows up on a 2009 survey and includes in-depth studies in several countries in the region.
Looking toward the future, the congress endorsed the adoption of a PASAI performance framework, which has been prepared under the oversight of PASAI’s governing board with the support of its development partners and stakeholders. By implementing the framework, PASAI can measure the PRAI’s achievements in improving governance, consistent with the Pacific Plan and other outcomes.
The congress also included workshop sessions on introducing ISSAIs and leading organizational change.
Sarah Lineham, from the Office of the Auditor General of New Zealand, provided the delegates with information about the ISSAIs, introducing them specifically to the framework dealing with the prerequisites for the functioning of SAIs. She circulated an ISSAI checklist that allowed delegates to compare their SAIs’ current position with the prerequisites outlined in the ISSAIs.
As the delegates completed and discussed their assessments, many SAIs noted constitutional or organizational challenges in meeting the ISSAI prerequisites. The delegates agreed that the heads of SAIs should place a priority on developing and sharing strategies to move their SAIs toward meeting the requirements. They also noted that the products associated with the PRAI are consistent with and linked to the ISSAIs. As the audit offices move toward integrating the PRAI products into their offices, they will be effectively moving closer to meeting the ISSAIs.
Leading Organizational Change
Chris Kelly, Tonga’s Commissioner of Police, presented a keynote address on the changes he introduced as he reformed the Tonga Police. He outlined his goals, described the challenges he faced, and described the approaches he used to improve practices within the police force. This provided an excellent introduction to the workshop presented by Lin Weeks, PASAI’s capacity-building consultant.
In the workshop sessions, delegates identified opportunities for improvements in their SAIs and explored strategies that may enable them to make changes. In these sessions, they paid particular attention to ways in which various PRAI components might be helpful in fostering change.
The delegates took the following actions in their business sessions:
Participants in the congress were most grateful for the extensive organizational work by staff of the Tonga SAI and PASAI’s Secretariat, and the leadership and hospitality provided by the Auditor-General of Tonga as the congress host. PASAI now looks forward to another year of collective and individual endeavor to improve auditing—and its contribution to improved accountability and transparency—in the Pacific.
For additional information, contact Eroni Vatuloka, PASAI Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org).