Supreme Audit Institutions: Game Changers in the Fight Against Corruption
When SAIs perform audit duties, they act on behalf of citizens with a goal to safeguard public funds and prevent fraud and corruption.
by Dr. Harib Saeed Al Amimi, President of the Supreme Audit Institution of the United Arab Emirates
The phenomenon of corruption is no longer a concept—it is an international crime crossing borders; undermining political stability and peace; devastating social, economic and political structures; obstructing development plans; destroying trust in governments; and emboldening terrorism. Such implications necessitate addressing corruption with more concern, interest and cooperation.
As public resource waste and abuse negatively affect lives of citizens, the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) continues to keep the fight against corruption high on its agenda, particularly as Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) represent game changers.
The Lima declaration, endorsed and approved more than 40 years ago, asserts public sector auditing aims to “reveal deviations from accepted standards and violations of the principles of legality, efficiency, effectiveness and economy of financial management early enough to make it possible to take corrective action in individual cases, to make those accountable accept responsibility, to obtain compensation, or to take steps to prevent—or at least render more difficult—such breaches.” This aim has a two-fold emphasis on fighting corruption: prevention and detection.
SAIs, as oversight entities directly involved in combating fraud and corruption and maintaining integrity, accountability and transparency, can help deter public resource misuse and expose violations of laws, rules and regulations by ensuring revenues are appropriately received and spent.
Research shows more than half of INTOSAI member-SAIs are involved in fighting fraud and corruption on a national level. INTOSAI recognized the importance of combating corruption on the international stage and initiated cooperation with United Nation (UN) agencies, including the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Since 1971, INTOSAI and the UN have jointly sponsored symposia typically held biannually in Vienna. Through the exchange of subject-specific experiences and information in public sector auditing, the symposia contribute to research and methodology development in these areas.
The 1996 UN/INTOSAI symposium focused on “The Role of SAIs in Fighting Corruption and Mismanagement” and was crowned by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between INTOSAI and UNODC.
Signed in July 2019, the MOU intends to serve governance in effective public financial management, risk mitigation, and best practice exploration.
The MOU marks a new chapter of collaboration between SAIs and Anti-corruption Authorities (ACAs) designed to position public sector auditors as change agents in advancing accountability and integrity, improving operations, and establishing confidence among citizens and stakeholders.
This collaboration also enables SAIs to actively participate in global anti-corruption events, including the Conference of the State Parties (CoSP) to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). In December 2019, SAI United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosted the 8th session of the CoSP UNCAC, which endorsed the Abu Dhabi Declaration—a groundbreaking achievement calling for greater cooperation between SAIs and ACAs.
Additionally, SAI UAE leads a team of global experts responsible for researching and activating various means to execute the INTOSAI/UNODC MOU. The team aspires to globally emphasize the importance of SAIs in fighting corruption and use SAI expertise to work jointly with ACAs in implementing UNCAC initiatives, especially preventative measures.
SAIs, with specialized knowledge and experience in fighting corruption, are strategically positioned to introduce more systematic approaches to quell public fund mismanagement. When SAIs perform audit duties, they act on behalf of citizens with a goal to safeguard public funds and prevent fraud and corruption.
Combating corruption lies at the heart of SAI priorities and calls for agility, resilience and momentum in implementing anti-corruption initiatives, particularly as countries across the globe struggle to ensure government response measures effectively protect citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic and foster an environment that sustains global growth and development.