International Journal of Government Auditing – July 2011
Under the patronage of His Majesty the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the General Auditing Bureau (GAB), the SAI of Saudi Arabia, hosted the 10th Conference of the Arab Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (ARABOSAI) October 26–27, 2010. All the 22 SAIs of countries belonging to the Arab League are full members of ARABOSAI, which was founded in 1976.
Conference participants included the heads and representatives of 22 ARABOSAI members: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros Islands, Djbouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Observers included representatives of the Secretaries General of the Arab League of States and the Gulf Cooperation Council; the Auditor General of Austria, who serves as the INTOSAI Secretary General; the Auditor General of Norway and his staff, representing the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI); a representative of the World Bank; and a representative of this Journal.
At the opening session, after a reading from the Holy Quran, Osama Jafar Faquih, President of the GAB and second Vice-Chairman of the ARABOSAI Executive Council, welcomed all participants on behalf of His Majesty King Abdullah and wished them a pleasant stay in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a successful conference. He also thanked His Majesty the King for honoring the conference by his kind patronage and his fellow ARABOSAI members for attending. Mr. Faquih underscored the role of SAIs in achieving comprehensive and constructive auditing and the importance of cooperation and coordination in ensuring rational management of available financial, economic, and natural resources and increasing their value and return for the national economy.
Abdullah Abdullah Al-Sanafi, President of Yemen’s Central Organization for Control and Auditing and Chairman of the ARABOSAI Executive Council, expressed pride in ARABOSAI’s progress in designing and implementing its research and training activities and adopting its first strategic plan for 2010–2014.
Faiza Kefi, First President of Tunisia’s Court of Accounts and ARABOSAI Secretary General, highlighted the importance of ARABOSAI’s participation in the framework of INTOSAI and activities of other regional organizations to achieve greater visibility at regional and international levels. She underscored the importance of INTOSAI’s proposed communication strategy for SAIs, which was later offered for adoption at the XX INCOSAI in South Africa in November 2010. She also recognized ARABOSAI’s active participation in several INTOSAI committees and working groups, including the Finance and Administration Committee (chaired by Saudi Arabia), the Capacity Building Committee (chaired by Morocco), and the Working Group on the Fight against Corruption and Money Laundering (chaired by Egypt).
Josef Moser, the INTOSAI General Secretary, and Jørgen Kosmo, the Norwegian Auditor General and Chairman of the IDI Board, also participated in the opening ceremony. Dr. Moser thanked ARABOSAI for its contributions to the various activities of INTOSAI and recognized Mr. Faquih’s contributions to the Finance and Administration Committee and to building cooperation with donors. He also recognized the contributions of Dr. Ahmed El Midaoui, President of the Moroccan Court of Audit, as chair of the Capacity Building Committee. Dr. Moser underscored the importance of the INTOSAI strategic plan and previewed the main topics that would be discussed at the upcoming INCOSAI. Mr. Kosmo conveyed his appreciation for the current cooperation between IDI and ARABOSAI, citing in particular progress in implementing a joint program on strategic planning. He also advised the assembly of the additional missions that have been entrusted to IDI since it was selected as the General Secretariat for the INTOSAI-donor cooperation initiative.
The SAI of Iraq chaired subtheme 1, with the SAIs of Egypt as rapporteur and Saudi Arabia as subject coordinator. Eleven country papers were submitted by the SAIs of Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
The SAI of Egypt presented a summary report on SAI independence; how SAI independence can be enhanced from the legal, professional, financial, and administrative perspectives; and the experiences of 10 SAIs.
After an in-depth discussion of the topic and country papers, the members issued eight recommendations that were later approved and adopted by the ARABOSAI General Assembly. These included recommendations aimed at preserving the independence that SAIs have achieved to date and helping SAIs achieve more independence. Such measures could entail strengthening the independence of the heads of SAIs in relation to their terms of appointment, privileges, legal immunity, and dismissal, while at the same time providing legal protection for auditors and technical staff in carrying out their work. The experiences of the 10 SAIs pointed to the need for SAIs to preserve their independence without becoming overly enmeshed in the executive branch of government.
The SAI of Kuwait chaired the discussion of subtheme 2, with the SAIs of Jordan as rapporteur and Saudi Arabia as subject coordinator. Ten country papers were submitted by the SAIs of Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
The SAI of Jordan presented a summary report on the definition of corruption, including the different types and their implications; the type of environment conducive to corruption; and the role of SAIs in detecting and combating corruption, including factors that facilitate SAIs’ detection of corruption.
After an in-depth discussion and review of the country papers, the members made 12 recommendations that were later approved and adopted by the ARABOSAI General Assembly. These wide-ranging recommendations included preventive measures, such as strengthening the internal audit systems within audited entities, establishing an effective legal system in line with the requirements of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and strengthening SAI capacity. Strengthening SAIs’ institutional capacity could include measures such as recruiting and developing staff with the necessary competencies and expertise and obtaining the needed financial resources to do the work. Developing auditing guidelines, working procedures, and methodologies would also strengthen SAI institutional capacity.
Recognizing that auditors working in this area need better data and working relations with the agencies in charge of combating corruption, the members recommended promoting coordination between the SAIs and these agencies and access to automated systems that provide a real-time flow of integrated data. This would, however, need to be done in a way that would not compromise SAI independence.
Behdad M. H. Nowroozi, a Senior Financial Management Specialist at the World Bank and guest speaker at the conference, reported that the World Bank’s Department of Institutional Integrity is involved in preventing and investigating fraud and identifying weaknesses in internal controls. He stated that the World Bank has good processes for handling complaints but is concerned about the need to do more to combat corruption related to World Bank–funded projects. He told the assembly that the World Bank supports regional seminars on this subject and welcomed members to contact him should they have any questions on this or any other issue.
The SAI of Qatar chaired the discussion of subtheme 3, with the SAI of Saudi Arabia serving as both rapporteur and subject coordinator. Eleven country papers were submitted by the SAIs of Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
Saudi Arabia led the discussion on enhancing and enforcing the role of internal audit in government agencies in the Arab world. The discussion focused on various aspects of internal audit, including internal audit within an automated information technology systems environment, and the role of internal audit services in government agencies. Some members also discussed the differences in their respective systems.
After an in-depth discussion and review of the country papers, the members made seven recommendations that were later approved and adopted by the ARABOSAI General Assembly. These recommendations included a call to establish an independent professional body for internal auditors in member countries and national legislation ensuring the independence of internal audit services. The recommendations underscored the need for ARABOSAI to issue guidelines for internal audit and evaluation of internal audit systems and urged SAIs to set criteria and standards to select internal audit services staff. The recommendations also recognized the need to develop auditors’ capacity to do this work by advising the SAIs to undertake integrated training programs on evaluating and assessing internal audit systems for both financial and performance audits.
During this 10th ARABOSAI Assembly, some new members were elected to the Executive Board, where Saudi Arabia was named as the new ARABOSAI Chair. Other elected members of the Executive Council include Yemen (First Vice President), Kuwait (Second Vice President), Bahrain, Lebanon, Iraq, Morocco, Palestine, and Mauritania. Tunisia will continue to serve as the General Secretariat.
Furthermore, Sudan and Qatar were elected as the principal members of the Financial Audit Committee, with Oman and Libya as reserve members. The assembly also approved a resolution sending a cable to the King of Saudi Arabia thanking him for his support and sponsorship of the conference. The Chairman reported that the second joint meeting of ARABOSAI and EUROSAI had been held in Paris in 2009 and that the third joint ARABOSAI/EUROSAI meeting would be held in the United Arab Emirates, March 29–30, 2011.
The next ARABOSAI conference will be held in 2013 in Kuwait. Lebanon will host the upcoming Executive Board meeting in October 2011.
Throughout the conference, the President of the GAB and his staff treated participants with warmth and generous hospitality. Assembly members toured the King Abdulaziz Historical Center and enjoyed dinner and performances of traditional folklore (the Arthah) there after the tour. Assembly members also had the opportunity to visit the Shura Council, the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia that serves as the nation’s formal advisory body, and meet with the Vice-Chairman of the Council and several of its members. At the end of the ARABOSAI assembly functions, many members took the opportunity to participate in a trip organized by the GAB to Holy Mecca to perform Umrah.
For additional information, contact the General Auditing Bureau at email@example.com.
Umrah is a pilgrimage to Mecca.