Technical Articles

International Journal of Government Auditing – October 2010


Insights on INTOSAI: Perspectives from INTOSAI’s Goal Chairs

To implement INTOSAI’s Strategic Plan, the chairs for the plan’s four goals coordinate the efforts of the committees, task forces, and working groups under their respective goals and also coordinate with the General Secretariat. The Journal asked the goal chairs to share their perspectives on work in their areas and their vision for the future.

Goal 1: Accountability and Professional Standards—Measures of Success for the International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI)

The true success of the International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI) cannot be measured by merely looking at the extent to which SAIs and other public sector auditors are using them. It is equally important to recognize that in the ISSAIs, INTOSAI now clearly states to its members and other external partners its views on the essence of public sector auditing—what it can offer, how it should be conducted, and what it requires. Therefore, the challenge ahead of us is to raise awareness of the ISSAIs so that the INTOSAI family and other public sector auditors relate to them.

Following the XX INCOSAI in November 2010, where many new ISSAIs are to be endorsed, INTOSAI will have a comprehensive range of standards and guidelines at its disposal. The next obvious step—and indeed one of the main objectives set for INTOSAI’s work with the ISSAIs—is to ensure that SAIs are using them.

However, to me it is equally important for INTOSAI to communicate to colleagues and external partners from around the world that the ISSAIs reflect INTOSAI’s position on auditing in the public sector. With the ISSAIs, INTOSAI is offering individual or groups of SAIs and other public sector auditors the opportunity to discuss and measure their own performance and auditing guidance against INTOSAI’s general standards. As chairman of the INTOSAI Professional Standards Committee (PSC), I have no intention of understating the importance of the worldwide use of ISSAIs, but I believe it is an equally important measure of success for the ISSAIs that the members of INTOSAI and other public sector auditors actively relate to the ISSAIs not only during the XX INCOSAI but also in their daily work.

The ISSAIs are formulated in a way that allows public sector auditors to use them in their general tasks. If SAIs are to do this, the ISSAIs must be “translated” into relevant national settings. I came across an excellent example of such a translation last year when I attended the annual AFROSAI-E technical update meeting in South Africa. Participants in the meeting convincingly demonstrated how AFROSAI-E has translated the ISSAIs into national and regional handbooks to guide the work of SAIs on the African continent. Some SAIs cannot use the ISSAIs directly due to national legislation or national standard-setting boards. However, these SAIs now have the opportunity to compare their guidance and standards with the guidelines and standards developed by INTOSAI.

In the coming years, the PSC will focus on increasing awareness of the ISSAIs. We are currently establishing an awareness-raising task force whose first task will be to translate the PSC awareness-raising strategy into concrete action plans. We are planning to cooperate closely with other INTOSAI bodies—such as the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI), regional working groups and the General Secretariat—to increase awareness of the ISSAIs in all regions. IDI will also have a major role to play in the actual implementation and use of the standards once an SAI’s management decides to use the INTOSAI standards and guidance. While the PSC can make colleagues aware of the ISSAIs, IDI can assist individual SAIs in taking a step further toward actually using the ISSAIs.

I believe that the broad range of auditing standards and guidance that now make up the ISSAI framework offers concrete evidence of the increased professionalism of the work performed under the auspices of INTOSAI—and I look forward to continuing the dialogue and cooperation with our colleagues along this path.

For more information on the ISSAIs and the PSC’s awareness-raising strategy, please visit www.issai.org and http://psc.rigsrevisionen.dk.

 

Goal 2: Institutional Capacity Building

In an environment characterized by increasing complexity, constant change, and higher expectations about establishing best practices in public governance and management, nation states, societies, and, consequently, supreme audit institutions (SAI) face new challenges.

Professional and accountable public auditing has an important role to play in this context. It is becoming a core function that contributes to the consolidation of democratic values, the rule of law, and the establishment of ethical standards. It also helps to strengthen a fair and balanced public management and governance system that seeks to achieve permanent cohesion and progress among all stakeholders and segments of society.

To meet the challenges of this context, SAIs need to strengthen the organizational, operational, and financial aspects of their independence. Through an ongoing openness and adaptation to their environment, SAIs also need to develop their professional skills and increase their scientific and technical knowledge and analytical and evaluation skills at the micro- and macro-economic, sectoral, and global levels.

INTOSAI, which encompasses more than 180 SAIs worldwide, has played and will continue to play an important role through the support it provides to SAIs. This support is delivered by providing training; developing methodologies, guidelines, standards and other tools specific to the public sector; and promoting the adoption of those tools within SAIs through training and sharing of knowledge and experiences among SAIs.

INTOSAI has received international recognition for its role in bringing SAIs and public auditing before the international community. It has also served as an organ for reflecting upon and making proposals regarding current issues related to public finance and management (such as the environment, public debt, and public/private partnerships).

INTOSAI’s first strategic plan, which covered 2005–2010, marked an important historic turning point in the life of the organization. It has contributed to mobilizing substantial energy worldwide to establish the need for professional and competent national level public auditing that legitimately aspires to better serve the public interest and meet citizens’ expectations.

On a related note, we should mention that the implementation of the recently signed memorandum of understanding between INTOSAI and international donors will help mobilize more resources and energy to consolidate, expand, and develop the capacities of SAIs worldwide.

It is important that INTOSAI seek to implement actions designed to equip SAIs with the means they need to practically establish the professional capacities required to help understand and meet the requirements and conditions imposed by the challenges of an effective and efficient audit.

To accomplish this aim, SAIs may find it useful to adopt a progressive approach that involves the gradual implementation of a baseline audit and then moves continuously and steadily to more sophisticated audits, depending on the SAI’s needs and actual capacities. It is vital to build solid and reliable financial and compliance audits first. But it is also essential to move toward more extensive audits (such as performance, risk management, and strategic audits) to (1) evaluate and measure responses and performance related to expenditures and revenue and (2) ensure conformity with established objectives and the principles of economy, efficiency, and effectiveness to ensure greater transparency and risk management.

This progressive approach relates to SAIs at all development levels (whether advanced, emerging, or developing). It should be implemented rationally and at a reasonable pace—first, through a clear and consistent definition of objectives related to the specific situation of each SAI. Secondly, it can be achieved by taking into account the human resources and means available to SAIs, as well as those that can be mobilized in the framework of international cooperation.

Finally, the importance of the following actions—which relate to achieving the strategic goals that have been incorporated into INTOSAI’s strategic plan—cannot be overemphasized:

  • An SAI’s audit and investigation methods and tools should be developed progressively in light of the continuing evolution of techniques and management systems of public institutions.
  • Internal and external communication should be strengthened to promote the role of public auditing, INTOSAI, and individual SAIs in developing good governance in society.
  • Reflection and knowledge sharing on important issues related to public management (such as the financial crisis, debt management, and the environment) should continue to be developed.
  • Partnerships with international organizations and other donors should continue to be developed to implement joint actions that benefit SAIs.

In conclusion, we should acknowledge the progress that INTOSAI and SAIs have made in developing public auditing. We should also emphasize the importance of facing the challenges lying ahead so that public auditing can occupy an appropriate role in establishing good public management systems that serve the interests of citizens, the economy, and society at large.

For additional information, please visit the Web site of the CBC at http://cbc.courdescomptes.ma or contact the CBC at ccomptes@courdescomptes.ma.


Goal 3: Knowledge Sharing and Knowledge Services

The Knowledge Sharing Committee (KSC) was created at the XIX INCOSAI in November 2007 to organize goal 3 (Knowledge Sharing and Knowledge Services) of INTOSAI’s strategic plan for 2005–2010 in line with the plan’s other three goals

According to the strategic plan, the goal 3 mandate is to “encourage SAl cooperation, collaboration, and continuous improvement through knowledge sharing, including providing benchmarks, conducting best practice studies and performing research on issues of mutual interest and concern.” In the proposed strategic plan for 2011–2016, this mandate has been expanded to include “producing audit guidance material.”

Thus, the KSC’s goal is to enhance communication and knowledge sharing among its members and other partners through knowledge management—sharing, creating, and applying knowledge or developing a systematic way of getting the right information to the right people at the right time. The KSC contributes to knowledge sharing by creating new and maintaining existing working groups and task forces; facilitating best practice studies; encouraging effective INTOSAI communication; and promoting partnerships with academic institutions and professional associations.

Working Groups and Task Forces

Working groups and task forces are established to find solutions to problems relevant to the INTOSAI community. By properly coordinating the work of these groups to achieve the objectives of the strategic plan, we try to ensure that key initiatives continue to be in harmony with the INTOSAI strategic plan and congress themes and recommendations; we also seek to prevent the activities of working groups and task forces from overlapping. To this end, we are considering developing a framework to assist working groups and task forces in assessing their scope and activities and their alignment with the strategic plan.

In today’s fast-paced and rapidly changing audit environment, the greatest challenge we face is ensuring that the activities of working groups and task forces continue to meet the knowledge needs of the SAl community. To meet this challenge, we continuously ask all goal 3 working groups and task forces to survey their scope and activities to determine whether they are still valid and whether the working groups and task forces are making progress toward meeting their objectives. As the surveys take place every 3 years, we hope to establish a global goal 3 feedback mechanism that working groups and task forces can analyze and consider in future decision making. Continuous feedback from the SAls would assist the working groups and task forces in making required adjustments to projects under development and would also motivate project leaders and member SAls.

Web site

We host a Web site (intosaiksc.cag.gov.in) to facilitate and encourage interaction among the goal 3 working groups and task forces. The Web site will be linked to all working groups and task forces and their products. It will also contain the products of working groups that have completed their work so that their legacy can be preserved after the groups have been disbanded. We believe the Web site will strengthen communication between working groups / task forces and SAls as it captures and disseminates the effect and benefits of knowledge-sharing activities. To establish productive linkages with other INTOSAI knowledge forums, the Web site will contain links to Web sites for the other INTOSAI goals, regional working groups, the International Development Initiative (IDI) and this Journal. We also propose to upload an updated list of contacts for all SAIs to create a global network of designated persons.

Collaboration Tool

The INTOSAI Collaboration Tool has been in operation for a few years now, but we have not been able to realize its full potential. Nevertheless, we hope this situation will be remedied as we address technical issues. We plan to promote the extensive use of the Collaboration Tool in line with the INTOSAI communication policy and strategy. We encourage all committees, subcommittees, working groups, and task forces functioning under the INTOSAI umbrella to undertake projects using the Collaboration Tool. The tool provides a unique opportunity for different groups to work in tandem to develop joint products relevant to the INTOSAl community, and we plan to fully exploit this opportunity.

In my opinion, the biggest challenge before the INTOSAI community is managing the knowledge pool we are creating. Creating standards, technical guidance, and manuals is not an end in itself; the bigger task is ensuring that all member SAIs have ready access to them. It is also important that we build synergies between the goals of INTOSAI and ensure mutual harmonization of their work.

To sum up, activities geared toward knowledge sharing will strive to disseminate best practices among SAIs to upgrade accountability and governance in their respective countries. Concomitantly, it will raise the level of the SAIs of developing countries, leading to their enhanced participation in the different working groups and task forces. Equality in SAl capacity will not only strengthen INTOSAI but also intensify knowledge sharing for the benefit of all.

For additional information, contact the KSC:
E-mail: cag@cag.gov.in, singhJ@cag.gov.in
Web site: www.intosaiksc.cag.gov.in

 

Goal 4: Model International Organization

In 2004, on the eve of its 50th anniversary, INTOSAI adopted its first strategic plan to organize and guide its operations and define its strategic goals for the years ahead. The adoption of this plan marked a turning point in INTOSAI’s history and a great leap forward to address the challenges of the 21st century.

The strategic plan has four major goals:

  • Goal 1: Accountability and Professional Standards,

  • Goal 2: Institutional Capacity Building,

  • Goal 3: Knowledge Sharing and Knowledge Services, and

  • Goal 4: Model International Organization, or leading by example.

Goals 1, 2, and 3 apply to specific areas of INTOSAI’s operations; goal 4 differs in nature and substance from the other three goals and is intended to align the whole of INTOSAI’S organization and operations with the other goals. Goal 4 focuses on ensuring that (1) INTOSAI’S own operations are economical, efficient, and effective and (2) the organization is operating within its budget. Goal 4 is, therefore, fundamental to achieving goals 1, 2, and 3.

The task of implementing goal 4 was given to the Finance and Administration Committee (FAC), with a specific mandate to help the Governing Board and its chairman to

“organize and govern INTOSAI in ways that promote economical, efficient and effective working practices, timely decision-making, and effective governance practices, while maintaining due regard for regional autonomy, balance and the different models and approaches of member SAIs” (INTOSAI Strategic Plan 2005–2010).

During the past 5 years, the FAC has actively pursued its mandate and accomplished many of its objectives. It has presented numerous proposals and recommendations to the INTOSAI board and congress, all of which, with minor modifications, were approved. The proposals include the following:

  • identifying and selecting SAIs to serve as strategic goal chairs and liaisons;

  • selecting and recruiting directors of strategic planning;

  • using modern technology to facilitate coordination, consultation, and decision making;

  • developing a global communication policy;

  • confirming INTOSAI’s international legal status;

  • establishing criteria for regional working group membership, as well as INTOSAI’s associate membership;

  • strengthening INTOSAI’s financial position and resources; and

  • developing an integrated strategic framework and policy for dealing with external donors.

All these initiatives have been achieved at no financial cost to INTOSAI and have significantly contributed to making INTOSAI a model international organization, thanks to the team spirit and cooperative nature of its members.

INTOSAI is fully aware of the importance of cooperation and concerted efforts to build the institutional capacities of member SAIs. Therefore, it has actively sought to establish interdependent relationships and strategic partnerships with regional and international organizations. In all these efforts, INTOSAI’s aim has been to address issues of common interest and concern within the framework of its core values and member needs.

To achieve this strategic goal, the XIX INCOSAI in Mexico City adopted the FAC proposal to establish two task forces under its umbrella—the task force on donor funding and the task force to update the strategic plan for 2011–2016. The two task forces have worked diligently to fulfill their mandates and have accomplished a great deal in a relatively short time span.

As a result of the efforts of the task force on donor funding, in October 2009, INTOSAI entered into a milestone agreement with 15 donor institutions and agencies to enhance the development capacity of SAIs around the world. This memorandum of understanding (MOU) established a framework for cooperation to strengthen the capacity of SAIs and increase their effectiveness as instruments of accountability, transparency, good governance, and anticorruption in their respective countries.

The MOU is based upon the following underlying principles:

  • SAIs will develop individual strategic and action plans that are comprehensive, realistic, and prioritized.

  • The donor community is committed to respecting each SAI’s sovereignty, independence, and autonomy in developing and implementing those plans.

  • The donor community will endeavor to mobilize additional resources to develop and implement SAI strategic and action plans.

  • The donor community is committed to delivering financial and other support for audit capacity-building programs while avoiding duplicative efforts.

The MOU will facilitate increased levels of donor support and a more coordinated and harmonized system for delivering such support to SAIs in developing countries. The MOU is well adapted to the needs of the INTOSAI members and will, therefore, be a key priority for the organization during the second strategic period.

The FAC will provide leadership to the initiative’s Steering Committee as co-chair and co–vice chair for INTOSAI and will work with the donor co-chairs as well as the Steering Committee Secretariat to successfully implement the MOU. The SAI of Norway and IDI have assumed responsibility for the Secretariat and have made significant progress to date.

At the upcoming XX INCOSAI in South Africa in November 2010, the second Strategic Plan is due to be adopted by the Governing Board and the congress. This ambitious plan will require concerted efforts and hard work to achieve its goals. The second donor Steering Committee meeting will also be held in November. These two events will offer INTOSAI and its members the opportunity to open new horizons and build new bridges of cooperation with the donor community to accelerate institutional capacity building and enhance human resource development in our SAIs. The two events will also present a challenge to all of us—to act in accordance with a well-designed strategic approach and seek to achieve realistic goals needed to implement ambitious programs.

In light of the above-mentioned efforts, it is evident that INTOSAI is entering a new phase in its professional journey and will certainly face more challenges in the years to come. I am confident that through our joint efforts and the firm commitment of all parties concerned, we will be up to this challenge.

For additional information, contact the FAC:
E-mail: gab@gab.gov.sa
Web site: www.gab.gov.sa