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INTOSAI determined to change the quality of life of citizens

‘The International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) firmly believes that good governance, transparency and accountability constitute an indispensable part of a democracy,’ says Mr Terence Nombembe, Auditor-General of South Africa. ‘The use of public resources needs to be closely monitored by citizens by holding responsible those elected to positions of power. But these representatives can only be held accountable if they, in turn, can hold accountable those who implement their decisions,’ says Nombembe, amplifying the views of the INTOSAI Working Group on the Value and Benefits of SAIs.
The time has come for Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) to show how they make a change in the lives of ordinary citizens and thereby set an example to the rest of the public sector. Citizens will then realise that the SAIs provide independent assurance on the adequacy of governance, transparency and accountability of public administration on their behalf. At the 20th International Congress (XX INCOSAI) of the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions, delegates from more than 150 countries will have robust discussions about the value and benefits of SAIs for their citizens. The SAI of South Africa was honoured with the task of taking the lead as chair of this theme for the past three years in preparation for its presentation and adoption at the Congress.
A working group to table a report on the first main theme of the Congress, ‘The Value and Benefits of Supreme Audit Institutions’, was convened by the SAI of South Africa in 2008 consisting of 14 countries, namely Austria, Canada, China, France, Israel, Jamaica, Namibia, New Zealand, Peru, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania and the United Kingdom. This working group has done extensive international research since 2008 on the value and benefits of SAIs for the citizens of the member countries. Thirteen fundamental requirements for SAIs were tabled in a discussion paper compiled by this working group.
‘The working group recognised that efficient, accountable, effective and transparent governance plays a key role in the implementation of policy objectives and internationally agreed treaties,’ reports Jan van Schalkwyk, one of South Africa’s technical experts in the working group. ‘SAIs must hold governments accountable for using resources legally and responsibly, for the purposes intended, in an economical, efficient and effective way. Without compromising their independence, SAIs should stay responsive to changing environments and stakeholder expectations. They should establish self-assessment systems whereby a SAI obtains feedback from key stakeholders on their responsiveness and should ensure a cycle of accountability with systematic follow-up of parliamentary recommendations, and these are further areas that INCOSAI will consider at the congress as critical to improving the quality of life of citizens,’ says Van Schalkwyk. ‘The importance of communicating clear, simple and relevant audit messages is another aspect that is amplified by the working group, as this allows SAIs to provide relevant insights to equip decision makers with foresight as they move towards improved accountability and performance,’ adds Van Schalkwyk
‘The Congress aims to increase the cooperation of SAIs across borders and ensure knowledge sharing between developed and developing economies,’ says Pramesh Bhana, South Africa’s other technical expert in the working group, who is also the Congress Organiser. Another major highlight is that the International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAIs) will be launched during the event. It will be the first time that internationally accepted independent auditing guidelines for governments will be released as part of these standards. There will also be much focus on the SAIs’ responsiveness to environmental and sustainable issues.
INCOSAI is hosted every three years. The 20th Congress (XX INCOSAI 2010) will be held from 22 – 27 November in Sandton, South Africa.

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