Technical Articles

International Journal of Government Auditing – July 2012


Using Geospatial Technology to Enhance Environmental Auditing

In Indonesia, auditing with the environmental perspective is an interesting and challenging area, especially because environmental problems have increased in complexity. Issues relating to the environment—such as biodiversity, water and marine resources, carbon stock count, the UN-REDD Program,[1] and climate change—present unique challenges for auditors. These challenges provide opportunities for auditors to synergize technology and audit methodology to make audits more effective and efficient and produce more reliable reports. These reports are important because they are expected to encourage the government to be more accountable and more supportive of sustainable development in its natural resource management decisions. In the future, auditors will be expected to be more creative and innovative to relate technologies and methodologies to their environmental audits.

Auditors currently face challenges in developing audit methodology and techniques to encourage government accountability and sustainability in natural resources management. The Audit Board of the Republic of Indonesia (BPK) strives to overcome these challenges by using geospatial technologies such as geographical information systems (GIS), remote sensing (RS), and global positioning systems (GPS). These methods are employed during the audit planning and field work and have been shown to improve the audit report quality. To date, the BPK has applied these methods for audits of forestry, plantation, and mining.

In the planning stage, the geospatial technologies are used to define the audit sample and determine its location. They are also used to plan the location path or trajectory that will be physically examined and to locate potential problems such as deforestation spots, illegal land use, and forest fires. The use of the technology improves the accuracy of samples and audit focus, thus making the audit planning more effective and efficient.

In the field work stage, the geospatial technologies helps auditors reach the sample location as planned. Because they do not have to be concerned about finding the correct sample location, auditors can focus more on observing the location (ground checking) and collecting the audit evidence. Moreover, the technologies are beneficial for finding areas that have similar problems and estimating the extent of impacts.

In the reporting stage, using these geospatial technologies has improved audit report quality. The spatial information and photographs produced help readers to understand the substance and magnitude of the problem at hand and also help create a more attractive audit report. The photos in figure 1 demonstrate an example of audit evidence produced using geospatial technology in a forestry audit.

Figure 1: Use of Geospatial Technology in a Forestry Audit

Photo: (1) A GIS analysis of a mining area in a conservation forest was used in the planning stage. In the field work stage, ground checking at the mining location and collecting of audit evidence was carried out using (2) a GPS (coordinates) and (3) a camera (photographs).
(1) A GIS analysis of a mining area in a conservation forest was used in the planning stage. In the field work stage, ground checking at the mining location and collecting of audit evidence was carried out using (2) a GPS (coordinates) and (3) a camera (photographs).

Source: BPK report

From implementing geospatial technology as an audit method, the BPK has learned that the technology should be supported by other audit techniques and methodologies, such as interviews, data and document analysis, questionnaires, and confirmation to related entities. The audit evidence gathered can be in the form of documents, data softcopy, GIS analysis, GPS coordinates, field photos, confirmation results to competent parties, and the observation report signed by parties participating in the observation process.

For additional information, contact the BPK at asosai@bpk.go.id.

[1]The UN-REDD Program is the United Nations Collaborative Program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. It focuses on developing sustainable national approaches that promote equitable outcomes and ensure that countries use reliable methodologies to assess emission reductions.