Opportunities for interregional cooperation
In my work with the Organization of Latin American and Caribbean Supreme Audit Institutions (OLACEFS) over the past five years, it has been gratifying to see oversight bodies cooperate more closely. In particular, eLearning courses and coordinated audits involving hundreds of auditors in the region have markedly strengthened institutional and professional capacities. For example, performance auditing functions that were nascent or nonexistent in some SAIs developed rapidly as a result of these initiatives.
As Brazil’s Supreme Audit Institution (SAI)—which has promoted and consolidated this strong technical cooperation in the region—transitioned from chairing OLACEFS to leading its Capacity
Building Committee (Comité de Creación de Capacidades, or CCC), I reflected on the way forward, on how to expand our horizons. Undoubtedly, other INTOSAI regions had valuable initiatives that could benefit our region, while we could share some of our best eLearning courses, among other products, with the international community.
The current, broader context in which the international auditing community operates is highly favorable for expanded interregional cooperation. Technological and pedagogical innovations have allowed for tremendous gains in the scale of capacity-building and other cooperative programs. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have provided a common language and perspective for SAIs to collaborate in tackling a broad series of auditing topics. Meanwhile, the framework of International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAIs) has become more comprehensive and provides an increasingly solid bedrock for professionalization. Finally, as evidenced in the 22nd INTOSAI Congress recently held in Abu Dhabi, INTOSAI regional organizations, committees, and working groups are more active than ever, striving for more results-oriented approaches to shared challenges.
I believe we should seize this opportunity to break new ground in cooperating across regions. While many services and solutions will continue to be local and address regional specificities, interregional initiatives can coexist with and complement them. For example, when OLACEFS’ CCC creates a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on auditing the SDGs this year, it should collaborate with the CBC in planning to develop it for a global audience, with versions not only in Spanish, but also in Portuguese and English.
Existing eLearning courses, in a traditional format, can also be adapted and translated for offering across regions. Ideally, SAIs in different regions could provide tutors, allowing these courses to reach a large number of students internationally. Shared tutoring has worked successfully in the CCC, which plans to intensify this type of horizontal cooperation in OLACEFS. The INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI) has also used it successfully in many of its global programs.
Even cooperative audits, which have become increasingly common in various regions, may provide an opportunity for interregional cooperation. In OLACEFS, Brazil’s SAI has developed a high-impact capacity-building strategy for conducting coordinated audits that involves a combination of methodological and thematic eLearning courses, hands-on workshops with the participation of outside specialists, and joint planning and consolidation seminars. SAIs and their staff strengthen capacities, while the consolidated audit findings provide the basis for papers that present unique regional perspectives on common problems.
With SDGs and a consolidated ISSAI framework supplying common international goals and methods, it seems plausible—and exciting—to imagine that audits could be coordinated across regions, functioning as an innovative mechanism to strengthen SAIs and, in turn, help countries better tackle pressing global challenges.Victor Lahiri Hart, OLACEFS