From June 22-24, 2021, more than 100 people from locations around the world attended the first virtual Congress held by the Pacific Association of Supreme Audit Institutions (PASAI).
COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented Palau from hosting the Congress in 2020, as originally planned. So this year, PASAI members agreed the New Zealand Office of the Auditor-General would host it virtually from Wellington.
SAI New Zealand rose to the challenge of hosting PASAI’s 23rd Congress in an online format. The platform allowed for live video crosses to presenters in North America and Australasia, pre-recorded videos submitted by eminent speakers from Africa and the Pacific, break-out discussion sessions, and even short networking sessions.
The hosts were still able to create a sense of place for participants, with heartfelt opening and closing ceremonies filmed from the Maori Affairs Committee Room in New Zealand’s Parliament House.
The online format enabled an exceptional array of distinguished guests and keynote speakers to participate:
- Trevor Mallard, Speaker of the House of Representatives, New Zealand
- Aupito William Sio, Minister for Pacific Peoples and Associate Minister for Foreign Affairs, New Zealand
- Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and former Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
- Ed Olowo-Okere, Global Director, Governance Global Practice, World Bank, Washington, D.C.
- Dr Siouxsie Wiles, Associate Professor at the University of Auckland and New Zealander of the Year
- Current and former SAI heads from South Africa, Guam, New Zealand, and Tonga
With half of the speakers presenting live, Congress attendees enjoyed the active discussions with John Ryan, PASAI Secretary-General and Auditor-General of New Zealand, as well as being able to engage with the speakers by submitting their own questions through the platform.
“COVID is a reset—it’s not going to be ‘back to normal.’ Despite all our challenges, we have a really strong past that we’re standing on and we’re extremely well positioned to take ourselves forward,” Mr Ryan said, reflecting on the support conveyed by SAI heads, development partners, and regional partners throughout the Congress.
The theme of the three-day Congress was “Impact through Leadership,” which enabled SAI heads to discuss leadership opportunities and challenges they have experienced during the pandemic. SAI heads emphasized the importance of regional cooperation and maintaining audit quality, even in difficult times. They also heard about effective communication strategies for creating audit impact with key stakeholders like the public. PASAI released a communiqué after the event and looks forward to the next Congress hosted by SAI Palau.