Business continuity during crisis
As we reflect on the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic on our citizens and our staff, the impact on economies around the globe has been dire with organisations having to close as they are unable to continue delivering on their business objectives, taking away many jobs and livelihoods. This is the situation that many organisations must face during these extraordinary times and our SAIs are not immune to these challenges. It is our duty as leaders to ensure that we minimise these hardships on our SAIs and our people by ensuring that business continuity is maintained.
I was recently reminded of the INTOSAI CBC’s “Business Continuity Planning”-guide (https://www.intosaicbc.org/download/business-continuity-planning-2/) that was developed by CAROSAI and PASAI and I must commend these two regions for taking their painful experiences and producing this wonderful framework for us all to use; remaining true to INTOSAI motto, “Mutual experience benefits all”.
While reading this guide, I began reflecting on how Auditor-General South Africa is managing the current crisis while ensuring that we protect our people, we deliver on our audits and ensure that business continues. There is definitely great value in developing business analysis and risk assessment strategies as they allow for deeper considerations into critical activities, business risks and mitigations to manage the potential disaster impact.
Our key Covid-19 priorities have mainly focused on the health and wellness of our staff and their productivity. And so our business continuity plans are centred around these critical activities: addressing cash-flow challenges to sustain the organisation while there is a slowdown in operations; accelerating our digital transformation journey; equipping our staff to work from home; and appropriately responding to the easing of our national lockdown. Having strong senior leadership from key business units to undertake the development and monitoring of our Covid-19 strategies, ensures that the organisation has a well-considered and well-coordinated action plan to tackle the task ahead.
Open and regular communication has also provided the necessary comfort to our staff that the organisation is fully committed to their health and safety and that we are walking this journey with them during these trying times. Engagements with our stakeholders have ensured that they are made aware of the required working adjustments. For our audit clients, it is auditing remotely with limited interaction; for our service providers, it is adapting to our changing needs; and for government, it is obtaining guidance on compliance of new prescripts.
This Covid-19 crisis has definitely taught us that it is critical to plan for uncertainties, with due cognisance of your unique circumstances such as enabling legislation and funding model, and so I implore the INTOSAI community to use this guide while navigating through these difficult times. This guide is a key instrument for us all as it provides a proven framework on how to cushion against this severe disaster.