Technical Articles

International Journal of Auditing – October 2007


INTOSAI’s New Professional Standards Framework

International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI) will be the new common name of all official INTOSAI documents on the role and functioning of SAIs. Documents offering guidance on the conduct of administrative authorities will be called INTOSAI Guidance for Good Governance (INTOSAI GOV). The documents will be systematically numbered according to a set of classification principles, and a new Web site ( has been launched to make INTOSAI’s standards and guidelines easily available to auditors around the world. These are the highlights of the proposal on INTOSAI’s framework of professional standards that the Professional Standards Committee (PSC) will present for endorsement at the 19th INCOSAI in Mexico in November 2007.

The new framework represents one of the main objectives outlined under goal 1 in INTOSAI’s strategic plan 2004-2010. The proposal being presented is the result of 3 years of preparation by the PSC Steering Committee and many constructive comments received from SAIs around the world. The exposure draft was sent to all INTOSAI members when the PSC conducted a survey on the need for professional standards (see “Developing International Standards and Guidelines for SAIs” in the July 2007 issue of the Journal). The Web site will provide an enhanced overview of all ISSAIs and INTOSAI GOVs currently in force and provide information about new ISSAIs in the pipeline. The new numbering system will clarify the hierarchy among the documents and make it easier to see how each document fits into the overall framework. The numbers will also assist users in making accurate references to the various documents and help to clarify whether new documents that are issued supplement or replace current ones. The proposal thus embodies the principle often stated in the foreword to INTOSAI’s documents—that auditing guidelines are living documents that are continuously being refined and elaborated and have to be read and applied in the context of all applicable guidance. All documents will be available in the five official INTOSAI languages provided by the responsible committees and working groups— ready to print and apply.


Though work still needs to be done in the next 3 years, many useful documents can already be found on the ISSAI Web site. As shown in figure 1, the Lima Declaration (which will become ISSAI 1) is at the top of the hierarchy. At level 2 in the INTOSAI framework, ISSAIs will cover the basic prerequisites for the proper functioning and professional conduct of SAIs. The first will be the new Mexico Declaration on Independence (ISSAI 10) proposed by the PSC’s Subcommittee on Independence. INTOSAI’s Code of Ethics (ISSAI 30) will also be at this level.

Figure 1: INTOSAI Professional Standards Framework

International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions
Level 1 Founding Principles
ISSAI 1 The Lima Declaration
Level 2 Prerequisites for the Functioning of SAIs
The Mexico Declaration on Independence (INCOSAI 2007)
ISSAI 11 Guidelines and Good Practices Related to SAI Independence (INCOSAI 2007)
ISSAI 20 Principles of Transparency and Accountability (planned for 2010)
ISSAI 30 Code of Ethics
ISSAI 40 Audit Quality (planned for 2010)
Level 3 Fundamental Auditing Principles
ISSAI 100 Basic Principles (INTOSAI Auditing Standards)
ISSAI 200 General Standards (INTOSAI Auditing Standards)
ISSAI 300 Field Standards (INTOSAI Auditing Standards)
ISSAI 400 Reporting Standards (INTOSAI Auditing Standards)
ISSAIs 500-900 Reserved for future principles
Level 4 Auditing Guidelines
Implementation Guidelines  
ISSAI 1000–2999

Financial Audit Guidelines (pending, including guidelines based on International Standards of Auditing)
ISSAI 3000-3999 Performance Audit Guidelines
ISSAI 4000-4999 Compliance Audit Guidelines (pending)
Specific Guidelines  
ISSAI 5000-5099 International Institutions
ISSAI 5100-5199 Environmental Audit
ISSAI 5200-5299 Privatization
ISSAI 5300-5399 IT Audit
ISSAI 5400-5499 Audit of Public Debt
INTOSAI Guidance for Good Governance
INTOSAI GOV 9100-9199
Internal Control Standards
INTOSAI GOV 9200-9299 Accounting Standards

Source: INTOSAI Professional Standards Committee

Level 3 of the hierarchy—indicated by three digit numbers—deals with fundamental auditing principles. It includes the four chapters of the existing INTOSAI Auditing Standards, which will be split into four separate documents numbered ISSAI 100–400. The PSC’s proposal includes no changes to the content of these standards.

Level 4 of the hierarchy will contain all the auditing guidelines developed by PSC subcommittees and the task forces and working groups under goal 3. This includes implementation guidelines on financial, performance, and compliance auditing. At present, 10 new financial auditing guidelines have been developed in cooperation with the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). (For additional information, see the Financial Audit Guidelines Subcommittee section in Inside INTOSAI.) These guidelines are based on IFAC’s International Standards of Auditing (ISA), and the ISSAI number will refer to the numbers used by IFAC. For example, ISSAI 1300, Planning an Audit of Financial Statements, will consist of ISA 300 and a practice note developed by the PSC’s Financial Audit Guidelines Subcommittee. The practice note contains guidance relevant to financial audits in the public sector in addition to that provided in the ISA. Level 4 will also include specific guidelines on the audits of international institutions, the environment, privatization, IT, and public debt. These have been developed by the task forces and working groups under goal 3 of the strategic plan and, in the future, may also include other subjects (e.g., disaster relief aid).

The INTOSAI GOVs can also be found on the new INTOSAI standards and guidelines Web site. These documents do not include information about the operations of SAIs but rather are issued by INTOSAI to provide guidance to administrative authorities. INTOSAI GOVs include guidelines on internal control standards developed by PSC’s Subcommittee on Internal Control and the existing INTOSAI accounting standards framework.

Further Development of the ISSAIs and INTOSAI GOVs

At the 19th INCOSAI in Mexico City, the PSC will request a renewed mandate for 2007–2010 that sets out an ambitious working plan for the next 3 years. The strategic plan gave the PSC the task of developing principles on SAI transparency and accountability (which are to become ISSAI 20). To complete level 2, the PSC has decided to develop a new ISSAI on audit quality control (to become ISSAI 40). Under the PSC steering committee, these documents will be developed as two projects that will be chaired by the SAIs of France and New Zealand, respectively.

Under the new mandate, PSC’s goal is to provide a comprehensive set of guidelines for financial, performance, and compliance auditing by 2010. In 3 years, the INTOSAI framework will thus include a full set of financial auditing guidelines covering all ISAs (ISSAIs 1000–2999). Additional guidelines are to be developed to provide guidance in areas that are unique to SAI financial audits and therefore not covered by ISAs. The Performance Audit Subcommittee established in 2005 under the chairmanship of the SAI of Brazil will provide new guidance on performance audit methodology that will supplement the existing guidelines on performance auditing (ISSAI 3000) from 2004.

The Compliance Audit Subcommittee will provide a general guideline outlining the basic definitions of compliance auditing (ISSAI 4000), a guideline on compliance auditing in connection with auditing financial statements drawing on the related ISA (ISSAI 4100), and guidelines on compliance auditing organized in other ways—e.g., as a separate task or in connection with performance auditing (ISSAI 4200).

In its work, the PSC will give high priority to ensuring clear and user-friendly guidance on the special role of SAIs and particular features of public sector auditing. The PSC will work to harmonize public sector audit internationally by recognizing, using, and building on standards issued by other standard-setting bodies and developing supplementary guidance in areas where SAIs have special needs. The guiding principles are that when the tasks are identical, the standards should be too, and likewise, when the tasks are different, the standards should differ. In addition to itswell established and much valued cooperation with IFAC, the PSC has entered into a new cooperation agreement with the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) for guidance on internal control. This cooperation is managed by the Subcommittee on Internal Control, which plans to develop a new electronic platform for internal control tools.

Ensuring Permanent Maintenance after 2010

In its strategic plan for 2004–2010, INTOSAI took a great leap forward in its efforts to provide operational auditing guidance for SAIs. The many SAIs from around the world that are contributing to this work are investing substantial resources to achieve this goal. When the development phase reaches its end in 2010, it will be important to ensure that this investment results in the maximum benefits. Developing and maintaining a clear and user-friendly set of professional standards for SAIs will require ongoing commitment from different kinds of SAIs in all the INTOSAI regions. It will also require experts in standard-setting for public sector auditing who can monitor the many different documents and maintain clarity and consistency in the ISSAIs. The present organization of committees and subcommittees ensures the former but not the latter. During the maintenance phase after 2010, the PSC will need to be supported by a more permanent structure. In Mexico, the PSC will therefore also ask for a mandate to look into different options for meeting this challenge. The goal is to present a proposal for both a permanent structure and a mandate for the continual updating and improvement of the ISSAIs for approval by the 20th INCOSAI. This will allow the new process of permanent maintenance to take effect after 2010.

The success of INTOSAI’s new framework will depend not only on the quality of the standards and guidelines but also on the extent to which it is used by public sector auditors around the world. The new Web site ( is already up and running. Please check it out for yourself and help the PSC by passing on the message to your colleagues and contacts: is yours—use it!

For additional information, contact the author at