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Early steps for SAIs to face SDG challenges – some OLACEFS ideas

Jul 12, 2017

Supreme Audit Institutions have faced a number of challenges in efforts to improve internal and/or audit management. Currently, focus is on the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the challenges of which encompass and exceed everything we have done so far.

I do not know if it was a conscious action or a very interesting coincidence, but recent[1] work has put OLACEFS SAIs (being best known to me thanks to my position at its Secretariat – but we are aware that other regions are experiencing the same) on a good footing for the challenges of auditing the realisation of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). As part of OLACEFS’ work over recent years, the organisation has taken in the need to evaluate SAI performance, connect with citizens, foster accountability and be a key player in the fight against corruption, which has allowed OLACEFS members to become aware of their role in good governance. This is undoubtedly central to playing their part in regard to SDGs, given their cross-cutting nature and the joint effort they require.

As SAIs we are accustomed to carrying out our work with a specific and well-defined focus (logically given the size of the subject of our review, the governmental apparatus), but also relatively isolated (even recognizing the progress different SAIs have made in their relationship with the environment). The challenge now is to leave our comfort zone and think with a new, broader and more integrated outlook. It is no longer enough to analyse the efficiency, effectiveness and economics of a specific entity or program, but we must also consider the impact they have on social and environmental matters. For example, the analysis of education issues (SDG4) should consider the linkage/impacts they have on ending poverty (SDG1), gender equality (SDG5), decent work (SDG8) and the reduction of inequalities (SDG10).

Aware of the changes to the traditional management model that SDGs bring with them, OLACEFS has been working since 2016 with regional and national initiatives in support of the implementation of the SDGs, currently in an early implementation stage, evaluating their effectiveness and analysing the possibility of sharing them with other stakeholders.

As an example, OLACEFS incorporated SDGs into its 2017-2022 strategic planning, conducted a study on the role of SAIs and is currently developing two coordinated audits.

In its new strategic planning, OLACEFS has chosen a different approach than INTOSAI on how to face SDG-related challenges. We have defined a strategy (and not a crosscutting priority) to disseminate SDGs at the regional level and to promote the role of SAIs in achieving the 2030 Agenda. This appears to be a good alternative – for us – for two main reasons. Firstly, our SAIs are being recognized by governments, civil society organisations and other stakeholders as key actors, contributing to good governance. Since this is a new approach, it is better to strengthen it step by step, showing our possible contributions with actions. Secondly, we know our environment and our culture, and in this context, we are aware of the importance of reinforcing the implementation of SDG at the beginning, not just within our SAIs, but also at a national level.

Following this path, we can see some examples at a SAI level. Paraguay’s SAI created an office dedicated to supporting and following up on SDGs, to obtain a cross-cutting view; Chile’s SAI has been a driving force behind the work the country is carrying out to support and follow up on the Agenda, as well as incorporating the matter into the execution of all its audits and graphically identifying which goals are linked to audit work presented.

OLACEFS is also currently carrying out two coordinated audits focused on SDGs, where we have chosen two similar, but different, audit models. The first one, prepared by SAI Brazil, will focus the audit work on evaluation of the preparedness of central governments (of the OLACEFS countries that are participating in the audit) to face the challenges of the 2030 Agenda, as a whole. After that, the audits will evaluate if, in the implementation of the Goal 2, target 4[2], there is duplication, overlapping or fragmentation among the various public policies focused on that target.

The second audit model that we will use, was prepared by the IDI, with the support of different institutions and adapted to OLACEFS requirements. In this case our regional group will use a whole-of-government audit approach, focusing on SDG 5. What is interesting about the use of these two models is, that at the end of next year we will have good practices and lessons learned to compare both approaches, before continuing auditing government’s preparation to face SDGs.

The challenges are multiple and multiple initiatives will arise, the point is to not be afraid of innovation, or of trying ideas that may seem “excessively” novel, since the challenges are greater than those we were accustomed to. To the extent that we are creative and share the results of these tests, as the INTOSAI motto says, we will be able to move forward and make improvements to audit work, this time to identify ways to improve the chance of successfully achieving the SDGs, an initiative on a truly global scale.

Osvaldo Cristian Rudloff Pulgar

Jefe de Unidad Unidad de Cooperación y Relaciones Internacionales

Contraloría General de la República de Chile (SAI Chile)


[1]Enough, for example, to see the technical issues dealt with at the last OLACEFS’ Assembly.

[2] By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality