“When you walk into an organisation on your first day and are greeted happily you know your tenure will be a pleasant one. About seven years ago, I was warmly welcomed at the PASAI Secretariat office in Auckland and immediately felt at home with my co-staff and as a member of the PASAI community.
This is not your usual blog post on a technical audit topic to garner interest from members and the public audit community. Rather, it is a sharing of fond memories to express how much I have enjoyed the opportunities and challenges of working in PASAI, the partnerships we have forged among our member SAIs, and, most of all, the camaraderie of our dedicated, hard-working team in the PASAI Secretariat. All this could be perceived as trite, but the feelings are absolutely genuine – as I am now finding.
After prudent consideration, I concluded that although it would still be delightful to work in PASAI, the value I take from the worlds of public finance and global development would also make a humble contribution to Tonga and the region. So, I have resigned.
Memories of the work I have engaged in and the opportunities afforded to me over the last seven years at PASAI will remain with me forever.
Since I became a PASAI staff member, I have enjoyed working for an organisation that is continuously empowering SAI staff and endeavouring to make a difference in the lives of people in the Pacific.I remember Eli Lopati and Matereta Raiman, the former heads of SAI Tuvalu and SAI Kiribati, who were persistent in reforming their respective audit legislation to strengthen their SAIs’ independence. It is encouraging to see other SAIs also pursuing their SAI independence ‘journey’. Having a will at the top, a clear independence strategy and an effective advocacy program with key stakeholders is vital to bolstering SAI independence. I remember parliamentarians in Fiji, FSM Pohnpei, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga appreciating the integral external oversight roles of SAIs and Public Accounts Committees (PACs). They are vital in the effective follow-up of the implementation of audit recommendations by the Executive and in holding the government accountable in its use of public resources. This is why we persistently promote SAIs as a critical component of a robust public finance management (PFM) system and advocate they have effective communication with parliament.
I remember the thrill of seeing SAI Nauru addressing its 15-year backlog of Financial Statements of Government (FSG) audits and continuing with the determination to get the subsequent years’ FSG audits up to date. Seeing the staff support from SAIs Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga of SAI Nauru on the Financial Audit Secondment Technical Support (FASTS) initiative bear success was most pleasing. This is a good approach to help reducing audit backlogs and ensure the timeliness and quality of FSG audits.
I remember working with SAI staff on various INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI) cooperative audits and other programmes. The SAI-level support to eight SAIs on their FSG audits to be ISSAI compliant presents a useful model for audit quality and building the capacity of SAIs. I remember working with a fine bunch of PASAI audit professionals over the years in conducting the SAI Performance Measurement Framework assessments of member SAIs. The results of these assessments have provided PASAI with a wealth of evidence-based information on the status of SAI operations and performance but more importantly, have identified areas where SAIs need support to become more professional and independent.
I remember sharing knowledge, revealing experiences and absorbing discussions with SAI staff in various training, workshops and SAI-level support programmes.
I remember working with Sarah Markley (aka the Deputy Secretary-General) to secure funding to implement the second half (last five years) of the PASAI Strategic Plan 2014–2024. The wise guidance of the Secretary-General and the great support of the Governing Board was vital to obtaining agreement with our development partners on building SAIs’ capacity through our programmes.
I remember the ongoing delivery of PASAI programmes with SAIs adapting to the changing global context despite the unfavourable impact of COVID-19. We still supported SAIs to respond to emerging issues and remain relevant. It also revealed that in times of adversity we have the resilience to adapt and achieve our purpose.
I remember the wise ideas and creative approaches shared and discussed by heads of SAIs, staff and colleagues, in numerous congresses, governing board meetings, and other regional and international forums. These vital interventions contributed to improving SAI systems and enhancing audit processes to ensure audit quality towards making an impact on the lives of people.
I remember uniting with development partners and engaging with regional partners who have been a great support to PASAI in funding and technical assistance. They have worked with us at the Secretariat and the member SAIs to create an environment for more inclusive dialogues on regional and global issues. Engaging constructively in regional public audit and PFM strengthening processes is of continuing significance.
I remember the countless cups of coffee in the Secretariat office to plan, set up, strategise, discuss, agree and celebrate with fellow staff and good friends.
And so, so much more.
I want to acknowledge and thank our member SAIs and officials for what we have achieved together. I have been very inspired by the incredible work of our SAIs across the Pacific – a work that I will continue to follow as I move on to my new role. I am very proud of the work that PASAI does and glad I could be part of it. As I conclude my term, I have never felt more strongly about the need for the PASAI Secretariat. It remains the only regional organisation for government (public) auditors that provide us with the space to determine our own strategic direction, free from external influence.
Much has been achieved, but there is still much to do.
All Pacific countries and their people must feel valued and derive value from SAIs. At the same time, and particularly at these uncertain times, I sincerely hope that all 27 members continue to recall why PASAI is a necessary institution.
It has been a great privilege to serve the region as part of the Secretariat. Over the past seven years, I have had the pleasure to work with a Secretariat team of passionate, dedicated and highly competent colleagues who manage important PASAI projects and learn from their diverse experiences. I am very proud of the staff who ensure we deliver on our priorities. I know you are well placed to meet the challenges ahead under the leadership of the Chief Executive, Esther Lameko-Poutoa. I cannot wait to see what PASAI will achieve in the years to come!
I am awed by the prospect of starting my new role but I have worked at the Tonga Ministry of Finance for eight years before I joined PASAI. The new role will be rich, exciting and immensely challenging – working with local, regional and global partners in exceptional public finance landscapes, and helping to build capacity, economic resilience and global development.
When I walk out of the Secretariat’s office at the end of today and hand in my key card and other resources belonging to the Secretariat, part of me will be deeply sad. I started as a colleague of a PASAI community, I will leave as a member of the PASAI family. I still feel the warmth and welcome since my first day at the office. I’ve had a pleasant time indeed.
But … I am hoping to continue connecting in my new role. And to keep on advocating for SAI independence, strong PFM systems and accountable governments in the region.
So, farewell until we cross paths again, hopefully in the field where our best work is done.
Mālō ‘aupito mo e ‘ofa atu!”
By Tiofilusi Tiueti, Director – Technical Support, PASAI