By Sinaroseta Palamo-Iosefo, Director Practice Development, PASAI
Last month, I had the privilege of attending the INTOSAI Capacity Building Committee (CBC) Annual Meeting in Kingston, Jamaica. Other meetings held jointly with the CBC meeting were the INTOSAI Donor Cooperation (IDC) and the International Federation of Accountants’ (IFAC) MOSAIC . The overall theme of the weeklong contiguous meetings was “Partnering for Stronger SAIs and Enhanced PFM”.
The deliberations in each meeting collectively anchored on the important role that SAIs play in ensuring government accountability and strengthening effective public financial management (PFM) systems. It was acknowledged that the quality of the SAI’s work is dependent on the SAI having full autonomy to deliver its mandate without fear or favour, having appropriate systems and processes in place to govern its operations as well as having quality people. Further, it was recognised that the impact of the SAI’s work is dependent on the work of other key players who have responsibilities in the various phases of the PFM cycle, such as the legislature, the executive and government entities.
Image source: Adapted from an IFAC presentation
Smaller SAIs in developing countries often lack resources (financial, human, capital) and capability to effectively perform their mandated duties. Therefore, it’s imperative that SAIs strengthen and deepen the relationships and collaborative efforts with other “players” in the PFM system, to achieve quality outcomes and impact people’s lives in their respective jurisdictions. SAIs should build and/or strengthen alliances at the national, regional and global levels.
Image source: A presentation by SAI Kenya
Key takeaways from the meeting
There was a strong recognition of the value of INTOSAI regions in SAI capacity development. Reflected in the Kingston Agreement, the IDC Steering Committee agreed to maximise the involvement of the INTOSAI regions to facilitate country-level capacity development by leveraging on their knowledge and experience.
- SAIs need to build capacity and capability, keep up to date with emerging issues such as new ISSAIs , climate finance and sustainability reporting, and establish alliances with other players in the PFM value chain to be able to conduct the relevant audits and have an impact on society.
- Cooperation at the regional and country levels in support of the professionalisation of public sector accountants and auditors to enhance PFM systems. This premise hinged on the fact that strengthening accountability in the public sector is the responsibility of many players in the PFM system, not just the SAI (external auditing) and the Ministry of Finance (accounting and reporting). It means having the right people with the right skills and competencies across governments and public sector entities. It is not enough to have frameworks and standards alone.
- Enhancing PFM systems requires cooperation and collaboration with all players in the whole PFM ecosystem. Key players include legislature, government, judiciary, SAIs, civil society organisations (CSOs), donors, development partners and the public. This could include establishing country working groups that cooperate with the education community, including professional accounting organisations, universities and government schools, towards achieving professionalisation goals.
- CSOs can play a critical and value-adding role in the PFM value chain by lobbying for government actions to ensure audit report recommendations are implemented and SAI independence is maintained.
Attending the CBC annual meeting was an excellent opportunity to share the work of PASAI in building SAI capacity and learn from others with a common goal, shared values and similar challenges. The global forum exhibited new interventions and modalities to build SAI capability through the various CBC subcommittees and workstreams. Attendees were able to consider the perspectives of donors, development partners and the global accountancy profession on the role of the SAI in enhancing PFM.
It was also an opportunity to establish new networks with SAIs, regional organisations, international organisations and donors in the INTOSAI community who are potential partners that we may collaborate with in the future in our pursuit to build stronger SAIs and enhance PFM in the Pacific.
- Memorandum of Understanding to Strengthen Accountancy and Improve Collaboration
- For example, ISSAI 150 – Auditor Competence