INTOSAI-Donor Cooperation (IDC) has appointed the Right Hon. Helen Clark as IDC Goodwill Ambassador for Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) Independence. As a world leader who served three terms as New Zealand’s Prime Minister and eight years as the first female head of the United Nations Development Program, and who is currently Chair of the Global Leadership Foundation, Ms. Clark brings vast experience and gravitas to this newly created role.
Sources such as INTOSAI Development Initiative’s (IDI) Global Stocktaking Report and the World Bank’s SAI Independence Index indicate the independence of SAIs around the world is declining. In her work as Goodwill Ambassador, Ms. Clark will raise awareness among governments and other stakeholders of SAIs’ critical need for independence to effectively perform their role as accountability agents. She will also mobilize support to SAIs in their efforts to gain or maintain their independence. Working alongside Ms. Clark will be IDI, which helps SAIs build and strengthen their capacity, and IDC, which coordinates multilateral and bilateral development partner support for SAIs.
Helen Clark says, “In the current context of constitutional and democratic backsliding, combined with unprecedented emergency spending and economic disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s never been a greater need for SAIs to be able to carry out their jobs without interference.” She states that if governments are to be transparent and accountable, as their citizens require them to be, this backsliding trend cannot be ignored.
“Recently the Auditor General of Sierra Leone and her deputy were suspended indefinitely by the President, very shortly before a damning audit report was about to be published. This is not an isolated case, and it’s time the world understood the extent of the problem,” she adds.
Ms. Clark’s comments on the importance of SAI independence are echoed by Mr. Ed Olowo-Okere, Director of the Governance Global Practice in the World Bank and IDC Donor Chair, who says: “It is critical for SAIs to be independent in order for them to operate effectively and to have sound public accountability in any country. Truly independent SAIs can help reduce waste and prevent misuse of public funds. This will in turn contribute to channeling savings to programs that fight poverty, a focus of the international development community and core mission of the World Bank Group.”
Ms. Clark’s appointment is effective from January 1, 2022, for an initial term of three years.