WHY should a SAI be strong
Fifteen years ago, I made the journey from Barbados to the Cayman Islands and from auditing in the private sector to, for the first time, auditing in the public sector. Not only did my journey bring a new cultural perspective but also a revitalized passion for my chosen profession and a greater appreciation of how the work of Supreme Audit Intuitions (SAIs) can positively impact the livelihood of citizens within the Caribbean region.
During the past 5-7 years I have deliberately increased the level of my involvement in The Caribbean Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (CAROSAI), specifically by being a part of the IDI ISSAI certification program and as a member of the regional institutional strengthening committee. And I have noted with enthusiasm the development that is being made in enhancing the professionalism, credibility and the level of collaboration demonstrated by member SAIs. It is my view that CAROSAI is currently on one of its most fundamental evolutions as it seeks to forge stronger SAIs in a region that is pursuing social and political economic stability while faced with the inherent challenges which characterize most Caribbean islands – limited resources, slower pace of infrastructural and technological development, and the vulnerability to changes in the global market.
To aide in this goal of strengthening SAIs, one key element that I’ve observed needs to be continuously emphasized is WHY should a SAI be strong, and what difference can or will a strong SAI make within its respective jurisdiction and ultimately the region? I’ve come to appreciate that the answer to this question is embodied in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and specifically in SDG#16 which places a responsibility on SAIs to ensure that public institutions that citizens rely on are effective, transparent and accountable. Having a greater understanding of the SDGs has allowed me to appreciate that the quality of the work done by a SAI can impact the manner in which public resources are allocated by Governments, and without robust oversight there is a heightened risk of mismanagement which could result in citizens not having access to basic services such as good health care, and quality education.
Although significant strides have been made in charting a strategic path for the strengthening of SAIs in the Caribbean, this objective cannot be limited to only SAIs but must be all-encompassing and focused towards the entire public sector in order to promote open and accountable governments and ensuring that public finances are managed prudently.
In this regard I have taken on an advocacy role within the region and shared the experience of SAI Cayman Islands in its financial management initiative, the core elements of which consisted of implementing a fiscal responsibility legislation, developing a financial reporting framework compliant with internationally recognized standards, and the enhanced usage of information technology as a tool in the delivery of public services and financial management.
I believe that with strong SAIs, a strong public sector and a common goal of sustainable development the work that I and my fellow members of CAROSAI conduct will continue to make a difference in the lives Caribbean citizens.
Patrick O. Smith