Capacity Building should be an integral part of any SAI’s strategy

Nov 26, 2019

Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) rightly continue to face high expectations in their work of holding governments accountable for their stewardship of public funds, ensuring governments’ integrity and transparency, as well as providing value-adding recommendations to public sector organizations to deliver efficient and effective services to the public. Similarly, SAIs are expected to work with integrity and due care and meet the highest professional standards. To remain credible and effective, SAI employees should possess competencies and skills which exceed the standards that SAIs expect the organizations they audit to achieve.

In addition, SAIs need to continuously upgrade their staff-capacity for the following reasons:

  • Public sector organizations are constantly changing in size, scope, complexity and nature of operations depending on organizational development, demand and expectations from society.
  • Government organizations are continuously upgrading their methodologies and processes alongside technological developments in various sectors, including service delivery and financial management.
  • There has been an increasing trend of shifting the focus of information analysis from a quantitative to a qualitative approach.
  • The emergence of new types of audit services as opposed to the traditional compliance audit, inlcuding SAIs providing consulting or advisory services to public sector organizations.
  • Auditing standards and audit methodology are constantly updating.
  • Staff turnover leads to trained staff being replaced with new and fresh blood that requires capacity building.
  • SAIs are experiencing an expansion in the scope of their audit work, which requires them to recruit and train new staff.

Hence, for SAIs to fulfill their mandates as effectively as possible, they must continually re-evaluate and reassess the capacity of their staff and invest in professional development to plug existing gaps. Capacity development should therefore be one of the key components of any SAI’s strategy. In this way, staff capacity is upgraded to meet the highest required standard and ensures that a culture of continual improvement is embraced.

Based on my understanding of the SAI-Afghanistan environment, one of the most efficient and effective approaches to capacity building could be an in-house training center. The in-house training center could be established with the responsibilities to plan and deliver both short- and long-term capacity building programs. The short-term capacity building programs can be planned to use the results of annual training need assessments (TNA), including the feedback from the quality assurance (QA) department of the SAI and results of performance appraisal. The long-term capacity building programs can be designed based on the entry (recruitment) criteria of the respective SAI.

The in-house capacity development center can better appreciate what suits the SAI and can easily determine any gaps in capacity. In-house capacity building arrangements are more flexible, controllable and sustainable. However, specialist external experts can always be invited as trainers on a need-basis. This may be supplemented from other SAIs’ capacity development support. At the same time, continuous professional development (CPD) needs to be mandatory for audit staff and should be a policy requirement part of annual performance appraisal.

Staff capacity has direct impact on the quality of services and should not be compromised at any cost. Moreover, for better management of human resources, training reserves in terms of labour hours, while allocating resources and preparing the annual audit plan, is always required.

Mohammad Naiem Haqmal

Auditor General, Supreme Audit Office of Afghanistan