Accountability matters

Any organization who wants to be successful needs to efficiently and effectively plan, execute and control its activities. Control means to follow-up on the results of the executed plans and the impact that the organization has achieved. Without any control deviations from intended plans as well as possible causes are not made transparent, thus preventing the organization from adapting successfully to a constantly changing environment. This logic holds for public finance systems and their reform path just like for any private company. Hence, audit systems are closely interlinked to all public finance subsystems. A functioning and independent audit is a major contributing factor to ensure transparency of public funds reflected in the national budget, promote accountability, and thus improve control of governments’ action.

Generally, audit systems refer to internal and external audit institutions. Internal audit ensures proper implementation of internal control mechanisms and is therefore essential in contributing to effective and orderly administration (see also GIZ support to public budgeting). Though functionally belonging to the executive dimension of public finance, internal audit has close linkages with external audit. First, a functioning internal audit provides external audit institutions with appropriate data required for their external auditing of public funds. Second, in case of dysfunctional internal audit functions external financial control institutions can monitor the appropriateness of internal control and internal audit systems and highlight needed reform paths.

As independent external financial control institutions Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) provide reliable information to the auditees, parliament and citizens regarding the government’s collection and use of public resources. This applies to the effective management of public funds as well as exposing the misappropriation of public funds. The information given by SAIs in their auditing reports and recommendations empowers stakeholders, especially parliament and citizens, to hold the government accountable. Altogether, SAIs perform a role as watchdog of financial legality, and increasingly financial performance in government. Their role is fundamental, because they can uphold the principles of good governance even in fragile and hostile environments where accountability is not a shared value and, subsequently internal control and audit systems are either not in place or dysfunctional.

What it takes

SAIs are in a difficult position in the national public financial management system. They control government’s revenues and expenditures and evaluate the performance of public administration. Though being a public institution themselves, their role as an independent professional watchdog over government`s action leaves them outside the government circle and – if stakeholders do not take up – somehow even deprived of allies in their own country. These challenges were the seed for the formation of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) in 1953 and, subsequently, its seven regional sub-groups. INTOSAI is a forum where SAIs provide mutual support to each other (mostly with in-kind contributions). INTOSAI enhances the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and experience among SAIs and forms a joint – regional or international - voice.

Within the framework of the International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI) SAI have defined what it takes for promoting accountability. In principle, SAIs need to “do a good job”. According to ISSAI 12 “doing a good job” means 3 things:

  • First, auditing, auditing, auditing! SAIs face many challenges in this regard: Often, SAIs lack the independence, the resources and technical quality to carry out audits according to INTOSAI standards.
  • Second, SAIs need to reach out to the stakeholders. In many countries, neither citizens nor parliamentarians (the two most important stakeholders of SAIs) recognize the important role of the SAI. They simply do not know that a SAI exists, or they do not understand its function and role. For an effective audit job, the audit findings need an audience! SAIs need to create their own audience and produce reports and recommendations that can be taken up. However, even in case of good and timely published reports, a lack of follow-up by parliament, citizens or even the judiciary can still inhibit effective auditing.
  • Third: Many governments face high levels of corruption and deficits in the rule of law. In order to create an audience SAIs need to lead by example. This means to consistently apply standards of public administration to their own organisation, and – thus – strive for being a model in this regard.

What GIZ offers

GIZ is a leading bilateral provider of support to SAIs worldwide. GIZ currently implements 18 projects (or components of programmes) supporting Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) around the globe both – on the bilateral and regional level. To maintain high quality support, GIZ is successfully cooperating with the German Federal Court of Audit (Bundesrechnungshof), several State Courts of Audit (Landesrechnungshöfe) as well as with INTOSAI in the implementation of these projects. GIZ’ approach combining global, regional and national support to SAI reforms is unique.

In addition to international standards and instruments provided by INTOSAI, the Good Financial Governance approach (GFG) serves as an important orientation for GIZ. One of the many specificities of the GFG approach is its integrated perspective on different stakeholders. This perspective is essential for strengthening accountability: As stated above, there is a need for functional linkages between the different actors such as SAIs, Ministries of Finance, and Parliaments; otherwise increased technical capacities of SAIs will not show the promised impact.

The cooperation with SAIs and relevant stakeholders addresses:

  • Performance Assessment of SAI (using e.g. SAI Performance Measurement Framework, SAI PMF)
  • Independence of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) in accordance with INTOSAI principles (Declarations of Lima and Mexico)
  • Organizational and change management in order to establish functional institutions – HRM, departmental structure, etc. including integrity systems and quality control
  • Strategic Guidance through Strategic Development Plans and M&E Systems
  • Strengthening audit function: Support to methodological guidance, specific audit types (financial audit of state budget, performance audit, forensic audit, audit of revenue, environmental audit, etc), reporting
  • Strengthening advisory role of SAIs vis-à-vis parliament, government, administration, society

On the agenda

Preparations for a new Strategic Plan of INTOSAI

The current strategic plan covers the period 2011-2016 ( ). The strategic plan includes four key goals and several core values to guide INTOSAI’s efforts in the future. Recognizing that INTOSAI has accomplished much since its creation in 1953, the strategic plan seeks to build on those past successes while positioning the organization to meet new challenges in the future.

The Task Force on Strategic Planning was established to ensure continuity in strategic planning and sound monitoring of the implementation of the strategic plan. Chaired by the United States, the Task Force is composed of the Chair of the Governing Board, Finance and Administration Committee members, the Secretary General, the 4 Goal Chairs, INTOSAI Development Initiative, INTOSAI Director of Strategic Planning, and Chair and General Secretariat of the 7 Regional Working Groups.

Contribution of SAI for achieving Sustainable Development Goals

The potential contributions and role of SAIs are currently discussed in different fora of INTOSAI. Generally, for SAIs there are two different ways to contribute to SDGs. First, SAI can assess national systems for setting, implementing and monitoring national goals and targets, including SDG, through their audits. Second, SAIs usually have a broad mandate to audit all different sectors of public administration, e.g. water, health, extractive industries, environment. Hence, the positive effect on SDGs comes automatically with good SAI`s work (e.g. directly with SDG 16 promote accountable institutions, but also e.g. auditing public infrastructure projects – SDG 9).

SAI PMF - Second SAI PMF Pilot Phase Completed

The INTOSAI-Donor Secretariat within the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI) is the coordinator for a Task Team that has developed the Performance Measurement Framework for Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI PMF) under the auspices of the INTOSAI Working Group on the Value and Benefits of SAIs (WGVBS).

The SAI PMF is designed to support SAIs in enhancing their performance through a structured, consistent and holistic approach to performance measurement. It helps SAIs assess their performance objectively against established INTOSAI good practices (including the ISSAIs, the Framework on the Value and Benefits of SAIs and other guidance material developed by the INTOSAI community). The SAI PMF consists of a set of measurable indicators and a qualitative performance report, and it can be applied using different approaches, namely self-assessments, peer reviews or external assessments.

Substantial milestones have already been accomplished in developing the Framework. The SAI PMF Pilot Version was presented (for awareness rising, not for approval) at INCOSAI XXI in Beijing in 2013. Following an extensive second phase of piloting and further global consultations during 2013-15, the framework will be revised as needed and presented for endorsement at INCOSAI XXII in Abu Dhabi in 2016.

By the end of the second phase of piloting in mid-2015, 19 SAIs had carried out assessments and prepared draft or final reports, and a further 12 had decided to conduct an assessment. The pilot assessments have been carried out in SAIs of different characteristics in terms of size, region, model and level of development, and thus the assessments provide important input to the further input of the tool.

A formal consultation on the SAI PMF Pilot Version was held from 19 December, 2014 to 31 March, 2015. Comments were received from 27 organizations and i ÖRH/GS INTOSAI in allen sieben Regionen ( )

Efforts on working on the independence of SAIs

E.g. SAI Austria / INTOSAI General Secretariat currently carries out a peer review regarding the independence of SAIs with SAIs of the 7 different regional groups.

ISSAI Implementation – roll out has started

The 20th INTOSAI Congress (South Africa, 2010) adopted a comprehensive set of International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI) that cover the core audit disciplines of financial, performance and compliance audits. The adoption of the ISSAI represents a milestone in the strengthening of the global public sector audit profession. INTOSAI called upon its members to use the ISSAI framework as a common framework of reference for public sector auditing and implement the ISSAIs in accordance with the mandate and national regulations of the respective SAIs.

The INTOSAI Strategic Plan and the ISSAI Rollout Model approved by INTOSAI Governing Board in October 2011 mandated the IDI (INTOSAI Development Initiative) to ‘support ISSAI Implementation’. In keeping with this mandate the IDI has launched a comprehensive capacity development programme called the ISSAI Implementation Initiative (3i programme).

Stakeholder engagement

Stakeholder engagement is a very prominent topic in different groups within INTOSAI (e.g. in the Capacity Building Committee of INTOSAI), but also discussed in ongoing cooperations e.g. in the Effective Institutions Platform (EIP). As part of EIP, the OECD’s Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD) e.g. is undertaking work to compare Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) approaches for engaging stakeholders as part of efforts to strengthen good governance and state-society relations. This project is undertaken in collaboration with the Supreme Audit Institutions of Chile, Costa Rica, Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand and the International Organiation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI-IDI) – all of whom have endorsed the Busan Outcome document and the Global Partnership on Effective Development Cooperation.

In 2014, EIP published a report on Supreme Audit Institutions and citizen engagement which was presented in Beijing at the International Congress of Supreme Audit Institutions. The report explored good and innovative practices for fruitful interactions between SAIs and citizens. There has since been demand and support from EIP members to undertake more in-depth work on how SAIs engage with citizens and other stakeholders in practice. This will include the development of surveys, in depth case studies the results of which will feed into a checklist for SAIs to consider as they engage with citizens. The regional organisation for Supreme Audit Institutions in Latin America, OLACEFS, will present initial results of the checklist at its annual meeting at the end of 2015.

The Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) is another source of information regarding stakeholder engagement of accountability institutions. See e.g.; and more general the GPSA Webinar - How can citizens collaborate and engage with accountability institutions to improve government performance and access to fundamental rights? ( )

Role of INTOSAI regional groups

Strengthening the role of regional groups as a much needed link between global capacity development efforts including standard settings and concrete programmes on the national level. See e.g. discussion in the annual meeting of CBC in Stockholm, Sept 2015 ( ):

  • CBC requests the secretariat to finalize a draft document on strengthening the role of regional groups for further discussion and refinement at regional level with a view of agreeing on a final discussion document during the 2016 CBC meeting
  • CBC urges regions to actively participate and be visible in the build-up to and during INCOSAI 2016