The influence of climate change and the challenges created for small islands SAIs
When Tropical Cyclone Winston hovered around the Pacific south-seas in late February 2016, it reaffirmed the reality of impact that natural disasters have and the destructive effect of climate change that will continue to affect the Pacific region. As a Category 5 cyclone, Winston hit the Fiji Islands at an unprecedented scale. Two more cyclones followed in the same region.
In the Pacific, climate change is a matter of survival. The complex process of recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction poses real threats and challenges to governments, institutions, communities, families, individuals, businesses and donors. The economic systems and social structures of these nations are tested; integrity, reliability and resilience within these systems are needed.
As much as natural disasters can create immediate infrastructure needs, government and non-government agencies are required to immediately galvanize to manage aid and financial assistance from various countries, donors, international institutions, and individuals. Strong in-country systems are needed to manage the use of emergency budgetary allocations and the distribution of aid — cash and in-kind –— honestly and fairly to those most affected and truly in need of assistance. A responsive emergency strategy facilitates effective coordination, timely action, targeted programs, and improved public accountability (see INTOSAI’s standards for auditing disaster related aid (http://www.issai.org/media/79452/issai-5520-e.pdf).
In April 2015, PASAI reported its findings from a cooperative performance audit on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Strategies and Management. I learned that these threats and challenges require strong individual commitment, collective stakeholder efforts, and robust institutional systems to prepare a country for the impact of natural disasters that are occurring as a direct result climate change. All of us in small islands need to be mindful of the risks we face and make sure that we have robust plans in place to deal with disasters. With this in mind we in the Pacific collaborated with colleagues in the Caribbean to produce the CBC Guide Business Continuity Planning.(www.intosaicbc.org/business continuity planning).
Equally important is the demand for a strong Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) to carry out its audit functions with accountability and transparency to ensure that allocated resources are used wisely and properly accounted for and reported. For these audit functions to be effectively carried out, SAIs need to be adequately resourced with both human and physical capital, with a clear strategic direction. Citizens of all countries should be entitled to quality audit services.
The small islands Pacific SAIs face ongoing challenges that could potentially impair delivery of a quality audit service. These challenges include a lack of audit capacity, lack of staff with professional accounting qualifications, high staff turnover, frequent staff absences due to communal or cultural imperatives, lack of strategic direction, and inadequate opportunities for professional development. Despite these challenges, significant efforts are being made by these small island SAIs to effectively carry out their mandates and to fulfil the accountability role given to them by their citizens. These efforts are supported by financial assistance from related institutions, donors and development partners. PASAI is working with our SAIs with the ultimate goal of reassuring citizens of small island countries that, despite the devastating effects of natural disasters, their SAI is watching to make sure assistance is shared and distributed fairly, leaving no one behind.