A SAI Mentor’s Commitment to help build SAI Capacity

Jan 23, 2017

 

It is said that to whom much is given, much is expected. This usually comes to mind, whenever I get to think of the opportunities that Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) have given to their personnel like sending them to training programs, knowledge sharing workshops, conferences and the like. This effort of a SAI can be likened to a person planting a seed that needs to be nurtured till the seed becomes a tree where birds can build their nests, provide food, offers shade and comfort to passers-by and such other benefits that only a full-grown tree that has reached maturity can provide.

Like the seed that needs to be nurtured and watered, a SAI mentor needs the support of the SAI’s senior management to be able to put to good use the knowledge that he has acquired. He cannot do it alone. He needs a support system at the different levels of the SAI, especially at the level of top management. At most, he can share his advocacies. However, to create a following that would implement in the work place, say the ISSAIs, he needs the authority from the SAI leadership.  Otherwise, the seed will not grow to its fullest potential, no matter how committed and dedicated the SAI mentor is.

I’m sure there are a number of good practices in the SAIs that can inspire other SAIs to replicate in their own local setting. One of these is the support given by the top management of SAI Philippines to its designated Mentors/Resource Persons who have been trained by the IDI (INTOSAI Development Initiative), and the ASOSAI (Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions) and ASEANSAI regions (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) on capacity-building. These mentors formed into a group to study the ISSAIs, among other topics; develop training materials; and act as Resource Persons in our training programs.  A portion of our local budget is allocated for the purpose. So whatever we learn from capacity building interventions, local and international, we plough it back to our SAI by capacitating our own personnel using the knowledge and methodology that we gained from these activities.

The most difficult part in a mentor’s life is when he goes back to his SAI and packages his newly acquired knowledge so the SAI personnel listening to him in the classroom will be able to understand and implement the same in his work place.  It tests the mentor’s mettle and creativity to develop strategies, tools, materials, exercises etc., to reinforce the application of the concepts discussed in the classroom. This makes mentoring a very challenging job, especially if this is met by an attitude that resists change.  However, with the support of the other mentors in the group, and that of the SAI’s top management, challenges may be easier to handle.

What incentivizes the Mentors Group is how the group discussions and debates have enriched and broadened our understanding of a particular topic. The disagreements that we have successfully resolved became an opportunity for us to strengthen our knowledge base and allowed us to develop training materials that address the issue that triggered the disagreements.  It allowed us to discover our strengths, our wrong perceptions and interpretations, and correct ourselves in the process.

Not to be forgotten is what we have learned from the experts of SAI Sweden. The technical support that we generously received during our ASEANSAI workshops was overwhelming. Our questions were addressed with very practical answers that we can relate to our environment. Working with our SNAO experts makes me feel that if they are that devoted in helping our SAI and ASEANSAI, the more we should do the same to our SAI auditors. This is tantamount to giving back or sharing the opportunities given us by our SAIs. Thus, to reinvent the words of Spider Man, I say, “with great opportunities, come great responsibilities”. Indeed, our respective SAIs are our responsibilities.

I would also like to borrow a favorite line from Mr. Kimi Makwetu, CBC Chair and Auditor General of South Africa: “Global Profession, Local Solution”.   Verily, solutions can be had locally with the presence of devoted Mentors and a SAI that commits itself to support these Mentors.

Ms Luz Loreto-Tolentino

Assistant Commissioner, Professional and Institutional Development Sector , Commission on Audit, Republic of the Philippines