By Toma Donchev –                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Bulgarian National Audit Office, Director of Audit Activity Development Directorate, FIPP Member (2019-2021)

 

In my final year at university (a few decades ago…) I became interested in the work of our national audit office. It had just been re-established after decades of communism and was on the first pages. How would it be possible for one institution to scrutinize all public sector organizations and policies? I didn’t find a straight answer and I have been on a long journey since then…

After graduation, I gained experience in private sector financial audit. In the meantime, I wrote a PhD thesis about audit. I remember how enthusiastic and inspired I was when I first read the Lima Declaration. I also took my first steps in teaching financial audit to students, which brought challenges such as how to transfer my knowledge to students and how to evaluate their knowledge and skills. As a certified financial auditor, I became aware of IFAC (International Federation of Accountants) requirements for continuous professional development, besides ISAs (International Standards on Auditing). And still, I was not sure about how public sector auditors succeed in conducting all three audit types.

Then, within an academic research, I found a valuable source of information – INTOSAI-CBC publications! Introducing professional qualifications for Audit Staff (2010) improved my understanding for auditors’ competence in the public sector. Also, the Human Resource Management Guide for SAIs (2012) seemed to be a very interesting document. However, that became very valuable for me a little bit later.

Becoming a board member of the Bulgarian SAI in 2014, one of the main challenges was severe competition from private audit companies as well as from some public sector organisations when it came to recruitment of both experienced auditors and young talents. At this moment, I realized the true merits of the CBC HR Management Guide for SAIs. The guide summarizes the best HR management practices worldwide and adapts them to the SAI-specific mission, goals, expectations. The concepts are explained in a very understandable way, supported by dozens of helpful annexes. This allowed our SAI to identify gaps – and initiate actions to overcome them. Some people may argue that HR management practices evolve constantly or say that this guide is incomplete. But I would then like to ask, how many other publications successfully adapt HR best practices into public sector audit language? If any authors of this HR Management Guide for SAIs are reading this, please accept my gratitude!

Since 2016, I have been head of the methodology department, which made me go further into detail. It appeared that not only an overall HR management maturity level was important but also the auditor’s competence to apply the ISSAI principles and requirements that I was promoting. Fortunately, I have had CBC on my side!

The Competency framework for public sector audit professionals at SAIs (2016) arrived just in time to support internal discussions, to give shape to some expectations from auditors to improve efficiency of continuous professional education. We also tried to start a certification program, but we failed due to misjudgements about the resources needed. The updated version of Competency framework and Guide on professionalisation pathways (2019) is even more useful for SAIs, by providing more detailed guidance.

I was delighted when I heard about the CBC project Development of INTOSAI professional pronouncements on auditor competence. It offers an entirely new level of promotion of auditor competence by proposing 3 new pronouncements – an ISSAI and two GUIDs. The project is based on an elaborate research report and analysis. As a FIPP member (since 2019), I feel part of this project. FIPP as a permanent INTOSAI body is responsible for ensuring that INTOSAI provides a clear and consistent set of professional pronouncements. For this purpose, FIPP is working closely with CBC and PSC on the project. As of the second half of 2021, the project proposal is approved and the draft pronouncements are to be discussed for exposure. Being a FIPP member is my way to contribute to the INTOSAI community, in return of the inspiration and benefits I have received from INTOSAI products.

Auditor competence should be, and remain, in focus for SAIs, so that we can meet high expectations from the society in a constantly changing environment. CBC publications are of great help in this regard.