GAO Launched First-Ever Virtual International Fellowship Program in 2022

After 40 years of conducting its International Auditor Fellowship Program (fellows program) in-person, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) launched its first ever virtual fellowship program—Pathways—in 2022!

GAO initiated its fellows program in 1979 and this flagship capacity-development program has over 630 graduates from over 100 countries, many of whom have gone on to leadership positions in their Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) and within their respective governments. As a result of the pandemic and prevailing public-health concerns, GAO cancelled the in-person fellows program in 2020 and 2021. 

Recognizing the importance of capacity-building and SAI collaboration during these critical times, GAO launched its innovative remote Pathways Program in 2022. Due to the logistical challenges with time-zone differences, the 2022 program was open to SAIs in the Caribbean Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (CAROSAI) and the Organization of Latin American and Caribbean Supreme Audit Institutions (OLACEFS) regions of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions.

The inaugural Pathways, A Virtual International Auditor Fellowship Program, was held from June 6 – September 16, 2022. The cohort of 10 fellows hailed from 10 countries from the SAIs of Argentina, Aruba, Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, and Peru. After the program kicked-off with spirited team-building and getting-to-know-GAO events, the fellows participated in live virtual training where they learned about GAO auditing methods, leadership skills, and change management, among other topics. Additionally, fellows eagerly shared auditing practices and experiences from one another’s SAI during the interactive sessions. While the fellows “zoomed” through their courses, discussions, and activities, they also developed strategies to implement change within their SAIs.

Picture 1. Pathways graduating class of 2022

As a program prerequisite, fellows worked directly with the Head of their SAI and other leadership to identify a specific topic of change or area of interest for advancing capacities in a capstone strategy paper. Upon graduation, the fellows would then introduce and champion this topic within their SAI. Throughout the virtual program, fellows worked with a GAO mentor and other GAO experts to develop their capstone papers. For the first time, GAO introduced the role of a SAI sponsor—a senior leader at the fellow’s home SAI selected by the Head of their SAI to provide guidance and serve as another resource to the fellow. In addition, SAI sponsors are assisting the fellows in the implementation of the recommended changes identified in their papers.

The fellows took advantage of opportunities to learn from key external stakeholders in the INTOSAI community, such as engaging on the topic of SAI independence with the World Bank. They also attended an engaging panel discussion with the CAROSAI and OLACEFS General Secretariats on their resources for SAIs and discussed key topics and initiatives for their regions. The program also offered networking opportunities, such as engaging with alumni of GAO’s International Auditor Fellowship Program. Fellows listened to alumni reflections on their experience developing their strategy papers and the positive impact of the program on their careers. In addition, the fellows met with GAO’s executive leadership to learn about their career pathways and discuss key challenges and opportunities for SAIs as they adapt to a rapidly-changing global context. GAO’s mission teams also shared lessons learned from recent key efforts that reinforced innovation, collaboration, and transparency.

Picture 2. IAFP Alumni Panel: Alicia Garcia (2006, SAI Spain), Nabil Larhmam (2011, SAI Morocco) & Tashi Lhamo (2019, SAI Bhutan)

In keeping with GAO’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, the fellows participated in cultural exchanges to learn about the culture of the United States and share information about their cultures. The fellows also held a well-received Cross-Cultural Fair, where fellows shared their country’s culture with GAO staff, with a focus on geography, people, music, food, crafts, and more. The fellows also learned about the dimensions of diversity and ways to support inclusion and equity in their workplaces. These activities strengthened the connection among the fellows and GAO staff.

The Pathways virtual graduation ceremony was held September 15, 2022 with U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro providing the keynote address. Per Mark Keenan, SPEL International Auditor Fellowship Program Manager, and Brenda Fernandez, SPEL International Auditor Fellowship Program Analyst, “We are proud of the great work completed by our first class of virtual fellows.” With the success of the 2022 program, GAO plans to expand Pathways to additional INTOSAI regions in the future.

Picture 3. Country flags of participating SAIs.
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