by Vladimir Matus, Manager of International Relations, SAO Slovakia
The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) of Slovakia, the Chair of the INTOSAI Capacity Building Committee’s (CBC) Subcommittee on Peer Reviews, organized a virtual seminar on “Getting Ready for Peer Review” on November 10, 2021. Nine speakers from seven SAIs and the European Court of Auditors (ECA) shared their insights into peer review procedures, as well as concrete experiences from recent peer reviews of selected Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs).
In accordance with best practices, the INTOSAI community applies the instrument of peer review to continually improve the operations of member SAIs. Through independent professional assessments by experienced teams from peer institutions, the SAIs under review gain valuable insights that help them adapt their operations to meet higher standards and achieve better results.
During the period of 2019 to 2020, 18 SAIs underwent peer reviews, many of which examined how the SAIs were coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. The peer reviews showed that remote work and the virtual environment were an efficient and appropriate alternative to in-person interactions and staff travel. Among the benefits of operating online were significant cost savings, the ability to involve more auditors in assignments, and increased flexibility in organizing meetings and interviews as well as in reviewing and translating required materials.
The seminar elicited a rich discussion among participants about operational challenges. It also strengthened their understanding of peer review as a long-term, ongoing process involving multiple stakeholders and analyses, and requiring organizational commitment and solid project management. The elements of peer review—including cooperation among peers, report preparation, and eventual adoption of recommendations—are of mutual benefit to both the reviewers and the reviewed SAIs.
The seminar was officially opened by SAO Slovakia Vice-President Mr. Lubomir Andrassy, who emphasized the commitment of SAO Slovakia, as Subcommittee Chair, to encourage SAIs’ participation in peer review and facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experiences.
In her keynote address, Ms. Tsakani Maluleke, CBC Chair and Auditor General of South Africa, underlined the role of peer review in building the capacity of SAIs and helping SAIs deliver audits with excellence. She highlighted the importance of looking for synergies in applying the methods and principles outlined in GUID 1900 – Peer Review Guidelines and in the SAI Performance Measurement Framework, which may increase the value and impact of peer review.
The seminar’s presenters shared valuable insights for SAIs that intend to undergo peer review, including some key ingredients for success: clearly defining the purpose and subject of the peer review, carefully selecting those they wish to be involved in the process, and timely communication. Several presenters focused on two recent peer reviews—of SAO Slovakia and SAI Romania—which were largely conducted remotely due to the pandemic.
The Subcommittee on Peer Reviews would like to express its sincere thanks to all presenters and participants for making the event a success. The seminar`s agenda and all presentations are accessible on the CBC’s website, and a recording of the event can be found here. In the next year, the Subcommittee plans to gauge the interest of SAIs in being trained on planning and undergoing peer review.
As mentioned during the seminar, the Subcommittee kindly invites colleagues interested in specific issues related to peer review, or in need of assistance with interpretation of GUID 1900 or other materials, to send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Subcommittee will publish answers in a Q&A section that will be created on the CBC website.