Due to prolonged conflict and prevailing unfavorable conditions in Afghanistan, there is a shortage of qualified people to perform the functions of public sector audit at the SAO. This has resulted to a heavy reliance on international consultants for support. This then raises the question: how can a SAI attract and retain professional staff to meet the requirements of its mandate in such a difficult environment?
How was the SAI able to overcome the challenge?
A capacity development and professionalization strategy 2019-22 was developed. Inter alia, the strategy focuses on the following.
- (i) regular in-house and external training as continuing professional education (CPE), (ii) setting up the SAO’s Training and Professionalization Centre and conducting a certification course for newly recruited and existing staff, (iii) encouraging staff to obtain internationally recognised professional qualifications / certifications, and (iv) recruiting already professionally qualified candidates.
- Annually, we plan to conduct a certification course. The course will involve two full-time classes in the first half of the day, followed by on-the-job-training in the second half. Based on the results of the candidates, the SAO-TPC shall provide Certified Public Sector Auditor (CPSA) certificate to successful candidates. Recognition for the certification shall be provided by the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education.
- The course design and contents of the syllabi have been peer-reviewed and discussed with the INTOSAI (IDI) and the African Organization of English-speaking SAIs (AFROSAI-E).
Main lessons learned and how this can be relevant for other SAIs in challenging situations
Although there has not been an immediate outcome of the current trainings provided, we are highly optimistic that this is a step towards becoming an exemplary institution with qualified staff.
The major challenge that we foresee is how our current employees can benefit from these trainings. To overcome this challenge, we have further opportunities for our existing auditors to obtain international professional certification which is financially supported by SAO Afghanistan.
Other challenges include limited office space and donor funds, unavailability of computer labs and systems and difficulty of finding subject matter experts to teach the syllabus as well as the need to dedicate enough time and staff to the initiative.
Other Supreme Audit Institutions should be mindful of the resource requirements before embarking on such an initiative.