Dr. Frédéric Boehm
Division of Public Integrity
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
News across the world has been revolving around COVID-19 for several weeks. The health crisis is accompanied by a socio-economic crisis that will undoubtedly occupy governments in the coming years. Basically, both the ability of governments to respond immediately to the crisis and their ability to manage socio-economic shock depend largely on the strength of the country’s institutions, the confidence that citizens have in their governments and the backbone of the state that are the officials and public administration.
Unfortunately, as well as news about COVID-19, there is also a proliferation of reports of embezzlement of funds or materials intended to overcome the crisis, fraud or political abuse of social support programs, undue influence by private interests in the design of aid programs for economic sectors, cases of corruption in public procurement governed by emergency laws, or even abuses of the state of emergency to act freely without the control of other state powers. It is true that the current situation carries a number of specific corruption risks and intensifies the usual ones.
Now, more than ever, it is important to identify integrity risks and manage them effectively. Indeed, relegating integrity to “normal” times jeopardizes the effectiveness of all measures taken to control the pandemic and mitigate its social, economic and political impacts. Cases of fraud and corruption, and even suspicion of such practices, significantly affect citizens’ trust in their governments – a trust that, now more than ever, is necessary to effectively implement measures to deal with the effects of the pandemic and the crisis.
It is in this historic context that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published the OECD Public Integrity Handbook in early July. In 2017, the OECD Council adopted the Recommendation on Public Integrity. The thirteen principles included in the Recommendation, grouped under the three dimensions of system, culture and accountability, serve as a road map for Governments. But sustainable change requires clear direction. The Handbook responds to this demand from Governments for concrete guidance on how to implement public integrity strategies. Thus, the Handbook provides information on what integrity implies in terms of public policy implementation and identifies the challenges that governments may face along this path.
For example, the Handbook provides guidance to optimize coordination and cooperation among government entities on how to design and implement integrity strategies and monitor them, and how to increase exchange and learning between national and subnational levels of government. Likewise, with the aim of building cultures of integrity across government and society, the Handbook details the basic elements of a merit-based human resources management system, and explains how ethical, responsive and trustworthy leaders are crucial to open organizational cultures through their roles as a good example and manager of integrity. It also clarifies the role of government in providing guidance to businesses, civil society and citizens in defending the values of public integrity. In turn, with a view to improving accountability, the handbook details how to use risk management processes to assess and manage integrity risks, and highlights how to use the law enforcement system to ensure genuine accountability for integrity violations. In addition, measures are discussed to strengthen the policymaking process, involving all stakeholders, managing and preventing conflicts of interest, and ensuring integrity and transparency in the lobbying and funding of political parties and electoral campaigns.
The Handbook is accompanied by a virtual tool with which any government, entity or interested party can interactively assess the level of maturity of its own integrity system with respect to international good practices and according to four incremental levels: nascent, emerging, established and leading. For Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), which are recognized as an essential part of any integrity system in principle 12 of the Recommendation which calls for strengthening the role of oversight and external control, the OECD Handbook and tools provide guidance on what should be the key elements of a functional and effective integrity system. Thus, the OECD Recommendation on Public Integrity and its Handbook can help clarify and define the criteria for potential external audits of public integrity systems and help SAIs to drive a continuous improvement of the culture of public integrity in their countries.
Finally, looking at the cases of corruption that are now emerging due to the crisis, it is worth highlighting that focusing on a mere punitive approach does not solve the root of the corruption problem. Similar to Lernaean Hydra, it seems that, for every corrupt prisoner, at least one new one appeared and that corruption, instead of being controlled, becomes increasingly sophisticated. In order to make real progress in the fight against corruption, it is imperative to promote systemic change. The OECD Council’s Recommendation on Public Integrity provides policymakers with a strategic vision of public integrity. It changes reactive, ad hoc integrity policies into proactive policies that take into account the context in which they are applied and with special emphasis on promoting a culture of integrity throughout society. Only in this way can the situation be avoided in which the discussion is reduced to punishing this or that corrupt person.
Only in this way will long-term resilience and responsiveness of Governments to crisis situations, such as the one we are experiencing, be achieved.
About the author:
Frédéric has a PhD in economics and more than 15 years of experience working and researching corruption and governance. At the OECD, he spearheads the work on Public Integrity in Latin America and leads the initiative on evidence-based integrity policies and lessons learned from behavioral sciences. Prior to joining the OECD, Frédéric worked as a professor of economics in Colombia and for the German International Cooperation (GIZ). He was also a consultant for governments and institutions such as U4, UNDP, UNODC, DFID and the GIZ and a visiting professor in Peru and Panama, teaching classes on “economics of corruption.” Frédéric is published in books and several academic journals.
Minister Augusto Nardes
Minister of the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU – Brazil)
Chairman of the OLACEFS Capacity Building Committee
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented crisis in the world and requires a collaborative effort from all areas of society to make adaptations, so that short-term impacts are as minimal as possible. In that sense, I reinforce that active and efficient action by the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) is crucial in this challenging scenario for everyone.
Therefore, in this context, it is important that the SAIs have instruments and tools at hand that can be applied efficiently and effectively in the exercise of the external control activity.
One such instrument is certainly the coordinated audits (CA), widely used in the OLACEFS since 2013. Coordinated audits are an integrated training strategy that leverages knowledge about the topics addressed and the methods used, reinforcing the contemporary paradigm of government auditing and effectively disseminating international standards and best practices in each SAI and among its auditors.
It can be said, however, that coordinated audits represent a powerful tool to audit the use of public resources in government programs and actions in the fight against COVID-19.
The OLACEFS recently released the Spanish, Portuguese and English versions of the Coordinated Audit Manual, a document prepared by the Coordinated Audit Task Force (FTAC) of the Capacity Building Committee (CCC). This manual has updating and compiling guidelines and best practices for coordinated audits as one of its main objectives, not only in our region, but also throughout INTOSAI. Through the manual, any SAI will be able to quickly and easily understand the various stages to be followed during this audit process. The clear intention of the document is to encourage the widespread use of this instrument.
The manual details the stages of a coordinated audit, namely:
- Making a decision to carry out the audit;
- Search for sponsors;
- Selection of the topic;
- Formalization of the audit;
- Execution of the audit;
- Preparation of the consolidated report;
- Disclosure of results;
The development of a coordinated audit consists of a process that begins with the decision to carry out the CA. Before choosing the specific topic and approach, the prerequisites of the work should be defined in order to start the dialogue with the other SAIs. It is also important to identify the issue, the macro approach (e.g. environment) and to develop a framework that includes the scope, objectives and focus of the CA.
In the second stage, the search for national and international sponsors begins. The capacity building and innovation potential of the CAs is of interest to multilateral initiatives and agencies. Those involved in these initiatives will be able to derive additional benefits such as scalability, comparability, cost-sharing, indicators and specific goals. This process is mutually enriching and beneficial for countries and organizations, as it provides knowledge and experiences that contribute to the follow-up of international commitments and debates around global policies.
Given the existence of technical and operational feasibility for the realization of the CA, the technical team proposes the topic for discussion in the working group and adjustments. The topic of CAs should be as specific as possible. It is recommended to select an action area (Safety, Health, Education, Environment, for example) or one that covers certain public policies of interest to all involved. The proposal of very open or broad issues prevents CAs from achieving their objectives efficiently and effectively.
In the fourth stage, the CA is formalized with the drafting and signing of a formal agreement by the heads or legal representatives of the participating institutions. The training process is then carried out. There are multiple opportunities for capacity building throughout the CA process. Through the combination of training objectives, such as online courses and face-to-face workshops, auditors keep up to date with the methodology and deepen their knowledge of the specific subject dealt with by the audit.
Subsequently, in the sixth stage, the execution of the audit is initiated, which must be conducted by the participating SAIs simultaneously, as much as possible. This maximizes opportunities to exchange audit experiences and findings and makes their results more easily comparable, which is highly desirable for the preparation of the consolidated report, which is the next step.
The consolidated report is important to encourage national Governments to take preventive and corrective measures, to provide a comprehensive vision that promotes joint actions by the countries involved in the problem, as well as to increase public awareness and promote the exchange of knowledge through the presentation of best practices and experiences.
Stage 8, the communication of the results of the CA, is one of the most important stages since, through it, the audited entities and society will be aware of the reality of what is happening in the region, in their countries.
Once the disclosure has been completed, a critical evaluation is made of all the work to verify whether the objectives of the audit, defined at the beginning of the work, were actually achieved. The results of the ex-post evaluation serve as a basis for deciding on further actions and corrections of procedures that can be applied to future audits.
Finally, in the last stage, monitoring, sequential work is scheduled to verify whether the proposed audit recommendations and determinations are being implemented. This stage completes and finalizes the audit process.
I take this opportunity to record my gratitude to all the SAIs of the OLACEFS that contributed to the construction of this valuable document, especially the SAIs that are members of the FTAC: Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru and the Dominican Republic.
I invite you to learn more about this initiative!
To access the OLACEFS Coordinated Audit Manual in Spanish, English and Portuguese enter:
About the author:
Minister Joao Augusto Ribeiro Nardes holds a degree in Fundamental Business Administration (now Universidad de la Regional Integrada Alto Uruguay y Misiones), in San Angelo, and a degree in development policy and Master’s in Development Studies from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland.
In addition, he has held the position of Minister of the Federal Court of Accounts of Brazil since September 20, 2005, which has allowed him to act in the protection of the rights of individuals in Brazil.
He has been Chairman of the OLACEFS Capacity Building Committee since 2016, and was President of the OLACEFS between 2013 and 2015.
Public Systems Center
Universidad de Chile
It has become commonplace to say that the current health crisis will be a determining factor in accelerating the digital transformation of the public sector. However, there are already some voices calling into question this determinism disguised as optimism: the potential of this pandemic as a catalyst for a new digital revolution would be strongly conditioned by the technological infrastructure and the degree of maturity of each country’s digital governments.
In this vein, it should not be forgotten that the design and implementation of new technologies in the public sector is carried out within the framework of pre-established power structures. This is particularly important with regard to those technological tools such as open data, whose reuse may be key to tackling the pandemic, but, at the same time, involves giving part of the control over public information to citizens and increasing public scrutiny over decision-making (about life and death in this case!). When it comes to promoting the openness of public data, many political leaders are likely to think of the words of Tony Blair, who called himself a complete idiot for furthering a law on access to public information in the UK.
Will Covid-19 be able to change this landscape and encourage our authorities to adopt this technology in the public sector? A good starting point to try to answer this question is to explore the political circumstances that have enabled, among other factors, the adoption of open data strategies in our most recent history. This is precisely the adventure I embarked on in a recent research on the cases of Mexico, Colombia and Chile, and this is what I found:
- Mexico. Although civil society had been promoting an agenda in this area for some time, Mexico’s open data strategy took on a breathtaking pace only after the forced disappearances of Iguala and the cases of corruption involving President Peña Nieto and his wife (the “Casa Blanca” case), and his Minister of Finance in 2014. In fact, the following year, (1) Peña Nieto included open data among the 10 official measures to address this political turbulence and (2) issued the first administrative regulation of open data, (3) they were given legal recognition, (4) a national policy was published, (5) the final version of datos.gob.mx was launched, and (6) Mexico began to play a very active role in international groups interested in open data, eventually co-founding the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and the Open Data Charter. In addition, (7) it adopted the Open Contracting Data Standard in two major infrastructure projects, and (8) began working with the OECD to improve its performance on open government data.
- Colombia. The robust and gradual evolution of its open data strategy was indirectly fueled by the intention of President Santos to improve the country’s international image and be invited to join the OECD. Virtually all stages of the evolution of the Colombian strategy have a precedent in the international arena: in 2011, Colombia joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and launched its first open data portal; in 2012, these were included in its e-government strategy, as stipulated in its first OGP Action Plan; in 2015, a new version of its portal was launched, following ad hoc recommendations from the World Bank and, in 2018, it developed a Big Data policy and a new Digital Government Policy in accordance with the recommendations included in special studies of the OECD.
- Chile. The absence of an open data policy in Chile is consistent with a general degree of disinterest in this technology on the part of its political authorities. In his first presidential term (2010-2014), Sebastián Piñera (center right) issued an Open Government Directive and managed to make Chile one of the first Latin American countries to have an open data portal. However, the government quickly lost interest in this technology, so an open data policy was never formulated and the portal remained virtually unused since its launch. This situation was further exacerbated by the return to power of Michelle Bachelet (center left) in 2014. Her closest advisors saw digital government initiatives, including open data, as part of the “neoliberal,” “right-wing,” “efficiency-focused” agenda driven by Piñera and was quite skeptical about the potential of this technology to curb corruption. Since his return to the presidency in 2018, Piñera has not shown any interest in the development of an open data policy. In fact, he enacted a State Digital Transformation Act which, while undoubtedly a giant step in the right direction, only encompasses the digitization of administrative procedures.
The study of these cases leaves us with some lessons:
- The impact of Covid-19 on the adoption of open data strategies in the public sector will largely depend on the political dynamics of each national government. This is particularly evident when comparing the divergences between Chile and Mexico, two countries in which digital government is, for better or worse, highly politicized.
- The role of national and international civil society organizations is crucial to give our politicians a nudge to adopt open data strategies, as the cases of Mexico and Colombia clearly show. The pandemic can be an opportunity to accelerate digital transformation, but, for it to be exploited and to create public value (increased levels of transparency, accountability and citizen collaboration, for example), all stakeholders must intervene.
- Open data cannot be understood as a simple “portal” but as a much broader and more ambitious strategy. A data repository without legal, political, technical or financial support, as evidenced in the case of Chile, may become a merely symbolic and temporary response to the current crisis, which could ultimately even hinder the digital transformation of the public sector.
About the author
Cesar holds an LLB from the Universidad de Chile and an MSc in Public Policy and Administration from the London School of Economics. He has worked as policy advisor at the Justice Management and Modernization Directorate of Chile’s Ministry of Justice, and Legal Coordinator of the Public Sector Modernization Program funded by Chile’s Ministry of Finance and the Inter-American Development Bank. Currently, he is a civil servant out of his homeland, and contributes to the work of Universidad de Chile’s Public Systems Center.
Daniela Santana and Osvaldo Rudloff
Executive Secretariat of the OLACEFS
Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Chile
Twenty-five years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and five years after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Latin American and Caribbean Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions, OLACEFS, has taken a great step forward in implementing the gender perspective in its actions: the creation of the Working Group on Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination.
We started working on gender issues back in 2012 when we held the meeting “Gender and Transparency in Supreme Auditing” in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Within this framework, we issued the Declaration of Santo Domingo, in which we reaffirmed our commitment to the application of gender policies within entities, as well as in the audit work. That first step was reflected in subsequent efforts that, in 2014, led us to embody the idea of gender mainstreaming in supreme auditing in the Declaration of Cusco.
Since then, we have carried out two coordinated audits on the subject. These have been crucial in ensuring that the policies and strategies of the respective governments adhere to the global commitments to promote gender equality and foster practical learning around the incorporation of this vision, in line with the ISSAI 12 on the value and benefit of SAIs. The first of these audits began its process in 2014 and, in it, we evaluated the incorporation of gender issues in policies, strategies, programs and projects of the governments evaluated, considering, in particular, the subjects of education, health and employment.
In the second coordinated audit, we reviewed the preparation of governments for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, with the participation of 18 SAIs (16 SAIs from Latin America and the Caribbean, the Spanish Court of Auditors and the Office of the Comptroller General of Bogotá). The focus on that occasion was to analyze the actions of the respective governments around the axes of planning, financing and monitoring of those plans, policies, actions and structures, defined to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
But it seemed to us that, in line with the principles of the 2030 Agenda, we should lead by example, which is why we carried out a survey that sought to ascertain the internal situation of gender equality in each SAI of the OLACEFS. The results of this survey were published at the XXIX General Assembly of OLACEFS, in San Salvador, El Salvador, where the findings were complemented by participatory workshops in order to enrich, under a qualitative methodology, the understanding of the perception of the gender situation within the SAIs of the OLACEFS.
The processes of quantitative and qualitative diagnosis of the gender situation within SAIs of the OLACEFS have reaffirmed the need for a comprehensive gender policy, based on concrete measures, to achieve effective equality between women and men within the entities that are a part of the Organization.
For this reason, we see that the Working Group on Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination – hereinafter the “Group” – is presented as a space where we can join forces in order to virtuously build a gender policy for the OLACEFS and its member SAIs, which we hope will contribute to promoting fairer and more egalitarian Audit Institutions in line with, among others, the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Today we are happy because the creation of the Group was approved last Tuesday, June 30 at the LXXI (online session) Board of Directors 2020. With that approval today, the Group has a defined objective, which will be to propose a gender policy that will serve as the basis to be implemented in SAIs of the OLACEFS. Likewise, it must define, together with the SAIs concerned, the implementation of the policy, its monitoring and evaluation, as well as the processes of feedback and exchange of good practices that can be generated around gender equality and non-discrimination.
Incorporating the gender perspective in the member entities of the OLACEFS must be a process present in all the areas of action of the SAIs and the Organization, not just in the design. The creation of this Working Group marks a milestone in our history that channels the real will of its members with respect, promotion and protection of human rights and with its role as an actor for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.
About the authors:
Daniela Santana and Osvaldo Rudloff, representing the interdisciplinary team of the Executive Secretariat of OLACEFS (Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Chile).
Antuan Barquet Guillen
National Coordinator of International Affairs
Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Ecuador
Chair of the Working Group Specialized in the Fight against Transnational Corruption (GTCT) of the OLACEFS
The health crisis caused by covid-19 has forced governments around the world to generate agile solutions to mitigate the economic effects of containment measures on the most vulnerable sectors of society.
In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, the implementation of this aid has been fundamental since the pandemic arises at a time of economic decline. Within this framework, the Governments of the region have mainly promoted: monetary transfers, transfers in kind, exemption from payment of basic services, tax relief, among other mechanisms (ECLAC, 2020). Although the prompt issuance of these policies is key to the survival of people living in poverty, this in turn means relaxing certain administrative controls, which is why the Supreme Audit Institutions must look even more closely at the potential vulnerabilities to the integrity of such rescue packages.
International institutions such as the Organization for Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have produced important publications emphasizing controls to ensure that economic aid programs are carried out smoothly. In the case of the OECD, the article entitled “Public Integrity for an Effective Response and Recovery of COVID-19” suggests measures of immediate application such as ensuring that external and internal audit offices have the necessary financial resources and functions to contribute to the control of expenses during the crisis (OECD, 2020). On the other hand, it is mentioned that, in the long term, SAIs could: “(…) support government centers and other public organizations, identify and interpret evidence that allows policymaking and improves current government capacity in real time in the face of various problems and risks” (OECD, 2020, p. 8).
In addition to agreeing with the relevance of monitoring these programs, UNODC (2020), in its article “Accountability and prevention of corruption in the procurement and distribution of economic rescue packages during and after COVID-19,” recommends that public institutions have clear objectives and transparency criteria to identify beneficiaries, consider risks in beneficiary segmentation, foresee channels of communication to reach beneficiaries and to use technology to facilitate disbursements. Verification of these criteria may be relevant to the audits carried out by the control bodies.
With this in mind, the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Ecuador, as Chair of the Working Group Specialized in the Fight against Transnational Corruption, has incorporated, into 2020 operational planning, a coordinated audit of economic aid programs in the region within the framework of COVID-19. This audit will, in turn, take a cross-cutting look at the 2030 Agenda, contemplating Development Goals 1 “No Poverty, and 16 “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.” This will take into account that, as has been mentioned, the resources of poverty alleviation programs could be affected by acts of fraud and corruption.
Within this framework, initiatives such as coordinated audits have previously demonstrated the added value of auditing, not only by identifying control violations, but also by presenting good practices in the management of public resources. Likewise, they allow for the exchange of experiences and methodologies, positively impacting government control.
Note: The GTCT was created in April 2019 in the OLACEFS as a way to address the transnational dimension of corruption, from the mandate of the SAIs.
About the Author
Antuan Barquet Guillen is a Graduate of Political Sciences and International Relations from Universidad Casa Grande, Guayaquil – Ecuador. Specialist in International Cooperation, Projects, Programs and Public Policies by the Ortega and Gasset Institute. Since September 2015, he has served as National Coordinator of International Affairs of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Ecuador.
Nelson Shack Yalta
Comptroller General of the Republic of Peru
President of OLACEFS
The coronavirus disease pandemic (Covid-19) countries are currently suffering from has resulted in new approaches and immediate actions by public institutions, as well as Supreme Audit Institutions. The following article will explain the Concurrent Control applied by the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Peru and its main results in contributing to the adequate use of public resources, emphasizing, as a priority, the assurance of a rapid response by the State for the benefit of citizens and opportunities for improvement in public management.
It should be noted that Concurrent Control in Peru was approved by law in 2017 and, since then, its intervention has been expanding to cover more projects that use public funds; therefore, experience shows us that its benefits are significant.
The Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Peru (CGR), in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and as a priority in the face of the new situation that devastated the country, created the Emergency Management Group, which designed a strategy of comprehensive control of the resources that Government has put in place to finance the containment and economic reactivation measures that exceed 79 billion soles (about 23 billion dollars). The strategy is called “Mega Operative Health Emergency Control 2020,” which includes the national deployment of more than 1600 auditors from different specialties and visits to more than 1400 public entities.
To ensure timely, preventive, proactive and purposeful control, the CGR, in addition to the intensive use of technologies, laid the foundations for the creation of a regulatory framework for concurrent control in the event of an emergency. In this way, coordination was quickly carried out with the Executive and Legislative Branch, exposing the need to apply this type of control in the national emergency. Thus, the Congress of the Republic adopted Law No. 31,016. From this measure, Concurrent Control actions were initiated during the health emergency for Covid-19.
With the appropriate legal framework and planning, the Supreme Audit Institution of Peru has applied Concurrent Control in the context of the pandemic. The purpose of this type of control is to ensure that public entities (and citizens in general) are aware of adverse situations previously identified by specialized teams and apply corrective measures in a timely manner to ensure the proper execution of contracts for goods and services in a health emergency.
Potential risk situations are identified through milestones, where control is crucial to make timely recommendations, and this is done through the implementation of a systematic and multidisciplinary accompaniment process by CGR personnel in order for the public entity to take corrective measures. As a result, Concurrent Control provides support and assistance to public institutions and public officials. Furthermore, this type of control includes a component of transparency and communication to the population regarding decisions, and risks and aspects to be improved in the different public interventions.
As of June 19, 2020, the CGR has issued 5940 control reports regarding Simultaneous Control in the framework of the health emergency, of which, 2381 correspond to Concurrent Control. These reports were made in the 25 regions, 196 provinces and 1553 districts of Peru. All reports are disseminated on the CGR’s IT platform, constituting an important input for the population and public opinion regarding decisions, and risks and aspects to be improved in the different interventions.
The application of Concurrent Control has allowed for the improvement of the processes of purchase and distribution of baskets with essential goods and supplies for the poorest people; the use of adequate equipment and adaptation of spaces in hospital centers; that a regulation is generated in the supply centers; that work is done on the planning of prevention and control of covid-19 for the workers of public entities; that a better process of disinfection of public transport is carried out, contributing, in general, to the improvement of services for the citizens and to the mitigation of the effects caused by the pandemic, among others.
Finally, it is important to note that the creation of the “Monitoring of Control and Transparency ” platform corresponds to the control strategy of COVID-19, which has four objectives focused on “contributing to the strengthening of the response capacity of the health services,” supporting the mitigation of the effects of isolation and social immobilization measures,” helping to implement measures to contain the health emergency,” and “contributing to the implementation of economic reactivation measures.”
For more information, visit: https://emergenciasanitaria.controloria.gob.pe/
About the author
Mr. Shack Yalta holds a Master’s Degree in Management and Public Policy from the Universidad de Chile and a degree in Economics from the Universidad del Pacífico. He has worked as General Director of Economic and Social Affairs for the Peruvian Ministry of Economy and Finance, National Director of the State Budget of Peru, and as Director of the Banco de la Nación. He was also coordinator of the Project for the Improvement of Justice Services in Peru, a modernization project of the Justice Administration that was carried out with the technical and financial support of the World Bank.
In addition, Mr. Shack Yalta is an experienced international consultant, having carried out work for the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, the Delegation of the European Commission, and the Economic Commission for Latin America, in more than a dozen countries in the region (including Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay). His consulting expertise includes the following areas: program budgets and results, multiannual programming, participatory budgeting, strategic planning, investment scheduling, public acquisitions, performance audits and developing Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) and Public Expenditure Quality Analysis Studies in the security and justice fields.
Mr. Shack Yalta has been a member of the Advisory Board of the Presidency of Peru’s Judicial Branch and President of the Invierte Peru National Association (ANIP) – a non-profit association that brings together professionals to analyze, reflect, and take action to manage and share knowledge on the management of public investment and its relationship with planning, budgeting and public procurement systems.
Mr. Shack Yalta has been Comptroller General of the Republic of Peru as of July 20th, 2017.
by Marie-Hélène Bérubé,
Program Officer, Gender Equality and Ethics, Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation, and
Manager, Strategic Support Unit, INTOSAI Development Initiative
Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic affect everyone around the world. Due to long-standing inequalities, many impacts, including those on health, the economy and the social sphere, are afflicting women, girls and marginalized populations hardest. Early evidence shows the crisis is deepening existing inequalities and undermining hard-earned progress on gender equality and women’s rights.
Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) can help reverse this trend. As SAIs hold governments accountable for national pandemic responses, applying a gender lens to audits can help determine how women, girls and marginalized populations are affected and can lead to informed recommendations to help improve government programs.
This article examines how SAIs can play a positive role during this crisis and make a difference to the lives of all citizens.
Why Gender Matters in Times of Crisis
During a pandemic, several health, economic and social impacts on citizens are observed, particularly on women, girls and marginalized populations, such as people with disabilities, racial minorities and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex community.
Since the COVID-19 Pandemic began, governments have observed escalated gender-based violence and child abuse during lockdown; intensified levels of anxiety and stress experienced by frontline workers (who are predominantly women); and increased unemployment levels (women are particularly at risk, as they hold the majority of informal and lower-paying positions that lack job security).
In many countries, impacts of the pandemic add to the context of poverty and insecurity and will further harm women and girls already experiencing different forms of inequalities and discrimination.
To counterbalance the risk of increased gender inequalities, social protection and support is vital. Research indicates that in times of crisis the likelihood of girls dropping out of school to perform unpaid work to support families increases, as do pregnancies and cases of sexual abuse. Studies also show school and daycare closures will disproportionately impact women, as the burden of unpaid work and family care largely falls on women and girls in many societies.
Governments can effectively respond by conducting gender-based analyses, using gender budgeting tools and ensuring the voices of women, girls and marginalized groups are included in decision-making processes. Such actions, which help prevent reinforcing existing gender norms and stereotypes and worsening inequalities, can turn pandemic responses into opportunities that challenge and transform gender inequities.
How SAIs Can Make a Difference
As governments rush to implement large-scale responses to the crisis, SAIs, more than ever, are strongholds of accountability (see “Accountability in a Time of Crisis” published by the INTOSAI Development Initiative). Over the last few months, SAIs around the world have worked toward remaining resilient and flexible, and many have refined or refocused audit priorities and approaches under difficult circumstances (noting particular importance to employing a risk-based auditing approach). By integrating a gender dimension to audit work, SAIs can assist governments in ensuring national responses reflect the needs and voices of women, girls and marginalized groups.
Numerous SAIs have recently applied a gender lens in audits, especially in auditing preparedness for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) implementation. Gender equality and inclusiveness is enshrined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which considers all segments of society irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity and identity.
As SAIs embark on auditing national COVID-19 Pandemic responses, it is equally important to mainstream gender equality and inclusiveness throughout the audit process. This enhances audit impact, helps determine whether citizens are being assisted equally, and assists SAIs in providing informed recommendations for improvement. Key considerations for SAIs include:
Planning and Analysis—Examining whether governments have conducted gender analyses in designing pandemic responses and whether they have investigated varying impacts engagements may have on women, girls and marginalized groups.
Decision-making—Understanding how government decisions are made, who participates in decision-making processes, and what mechanisms are in place to ensure women, girls and marginalized groups are well represented.
Legal and Regulatory Compliance—Assessing the extent to which new government measures and programs adhere to human and women’s rights and comply with existing gender equality laws and regulations, which include many areas, such as domestic and gender-based violence, sexual harassment, labor standards and health care.
Monitoring and Evaluation—Determining if (and how well) governments are collecting disaggregated data on citizen accessibility to support programs and whether data is used to monitor different outcomes for different groups.
These key considerations allow SAIs to formulate questions when auditing national COVID-19 Pandemic responses, such as:
Social Protection and Economic Stimulus Packages
- Are cash transfers, other social protection measures and economic stimulus packages efficiently and effectively reaching target groups?
- Do governments provide financial support to marginalized groups working in sectors having no provisions for health insurance and social protection?
- How do governments support parents—mainly women and single parents—whose work is largely unpaid?
Health Systems and Programs
- As World Health Organization reports indicate men are more likely to die from the COVID-19 virus and women represent about 70% of global health care and social workers, how are governments responding to each gender’s unique needs?
- How are governments supporting other critical services, such as access to maternal and mental health care?
- Recognizing raised levels of domestic and gender-based violence during lockdown, how do governments address prevention as well as implementing and supporting risk management measures?
- Do governments provide services (help lines, shelters, mental health programs) that address all citizen needs?
Conducting audits that incorporate gender provides access to disaggregated data by sex, age, location and other categories. This information assists in addressing data gaps and prompting governments to gather more statistics to better inform future work.
SAI outreach to relevant stakeholders (such as governments, development partners, civil society organizations and groups working on gender, women’s rights and inclusiveness issues) is essential to applying a gender lens in any audit. Active dialogue aids in understanding overall responses, assessing primary risks, and conducting audit work that adds the most value possible.
As the current pandemic holds a tight grip on the world with massive global social and economic impacts, accountability and oversight remain crucial.
SAIs, through timely, relevant audits and reports, can significantly influence national pandemic responses. Yet, to truly make a change in the lives of all citizens, integrating a gender lens in audit work is vital and particularly important in times of crisis, as health, economic and social challenges are intensified.
The COVID-19 Pandemic is a challenging moment for all, calling for us to contribute when and where we can in building more equal and resilient societies for the future.
Contact Marie-Hélène Bérubé at email@example.com and Petra Schirnhofer at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about this article.
Learn more about COVID-19 and the impacts on gender in the following UN Women (2020) publications:
About the authors
Marie-Hélène joined the Foundation in September 2018. She holds a master’s degree in globalization and international development from the University of Ottawa. During her studies, she had a keen interest in gender issues – specifically violence against women and girls.
As the Gender Equality and Ethics specialist, Marie-Hélène is developing training and tools and working with participants in our international programs to help them better understand gender equality issues and how they can be considered in performance audits. She is also actively involved in building networks and partnerships with key stakeholders.
Prior to joining the Foundation, she worked for more than five years abroad with NGOs in Peru, Morocco and India as a Gender Equality Advisor. She supported national organizations, developing tools, training and strategies to integrate the gender approach at both project and institutional levels.
Petra Schirnhofer is a manager in the Strategic Support Unit of the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI). Among the issues she strategically covers is the integration of a gender perspective throughout IDI’s work in its Strategic Plan period (2019-2023).
In more than 15 years of global professional experience, she has covered a broad range of expertise including public financial management, gender equality, governance issues as well as programme and project management.
She has worked in several countries for and with different institutions, including European and UN institutions, foreign affairs and CSOs. She enjoys leading and working with multicultural teams and has been passionate about addressing gender inequality throughout her career.
Petra holds a master’s degree in Political Science from Vienna University and a master’s degree in International Political Economy from the University of Kent.
She speaks several languages, including German, English, French and some Spanish. She is currently based in Brussels as a regional employee for IDI.
Minister Augusto Nardes
Minister of the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU – Brazil)
Chairman of the OLACEFS Capacity Building Committee
Dear colleagues and friends of the OLACEFS,
As Chairman of the Capacity Building Committee (CCC), I would like to share a word of solidarity with our OLACEFS community at this very difficult time when we have to cope with the challenges generated by the Covid19 pandemic. We are confident that the role of SAIs is fundamental to ensuring the effectiveness of measures taken by governments in addressing this health and economic crisis. Training, it should be noted, is certainly one of the strategic elements for generating technical cadres capable of acting efficiently in the auditing of public expenditures and policies.
It is in this context of capacity building that we would like to remind everyone about one of the most interesting global public good that the CCC and the OLACEFS offer our region and the entire INTOSAI. This is the massive open online course (MOOC) on the 2030 Agenda and the role of the SAIs in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This initiative, promoted in 2019, with the support of the German Cooperation Agency (GIZ), aims to train professionals to understand the concept and characteristics of the 2030 Agenda, as well as to provide information to assist in conducting audits within the scope of the SDG program.
We know that the current health crisis imposes many challenges on society, both personally and professionally, that we must respond to creatively and proactively. Thus, we highlight capacity building as a powerful and useful tool to stimulate the productivity of professionals, in order to positively impact on their development and in the increase of their skills and competencies.
The online course, in the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) format, has free access to anyone interested, without limitation of number of participants, and has versions in three languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese.
It should be noted that the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) format is a method of distance education that presupposes free access to anyone interested and, in addition, scalability, i.e., it is designed to support an indefinite number of participants. So that the presence of a tutor would be unnecessary, the MOOC on the SDGs and the role of the SAIs in their implementation was developed with innovative pedagogical technologies such as avatars, videos, gamification, storytelling, educational games, peer review, among others. At the end of the course, the participant will be able to identify the role of the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) by auditing the government entities responsible for implementing plans and policies for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), explain the main characteristics of the SDGs, identify the role that national governments have in this new agenda and, learn and apply elements of a performance audit to assess the preparedness of national governments to implement the SDGs.
For more information and access to the MOOC “SDGs and SAIs,” go to:
About the author:
Minister Joao Augusto Ribeiro Nardes has a degree in Business Administration from Fundames (now Universidad de la Regional Integrada Alto Uruguay y Misiones), in San Angelo, and holds a bachelor’s degree in development policy and a Master’s in Development Studies from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland.
In addition, he has served as Minister of the Court of Accounts of the Brazilian Union since September 20, 2005, which has allowed him to act in the protection of the rights of people in Brazil.
He is currently Chairman of the OLACEFS Capacity Building Committee since 2016, and was Chairman of OLACEFS between 2013 and 2015.
Jorge Bermudez Soto
Comptroller General of the Republic of Chile
Executive Secretary of OLACEFS
Crises are also moments of reflection. This pandemic should leave us with many lessons regarding the environment, life in society, and of course, the State and its functioning. On the one hand, we should revalue the people who perform public services that are indispensable, such as household garbage collection, ATMs in commerce, public attention at windows, the role of educators, among others. From our perspective, we must emphasize the importance of public control for democracy and, by extension, the care of public resources in times of a pandemic.
During this period, the Comptroller’s Office has had to harmonize three elements: how to protect the health of its officials; how to continue to carry out its work in the best possible way; and how to carry out control tasks without interfering in the work of those who are directly fighting the pandemic. To achieve this difficult balance, we have applied three concepts to our work:
Timeliness and a sense of urgency. In all of our functions, control has had to adapt to the need to give timely and urgent responses ─essential for the function of the State─ from the review of the legality of decrees and resolutions that require reasoning, opinions that enable flexible hours and teleworking, to on-site inspections and the prioritization of audits linked to the pandemic. Facing this, the exercise of external control, far from being seen as an obstacle, constitutes a guarantee that the decisions were taken legally and with the protection of public assets, which is supported by the autonomous exercise of the powers of the Comptroller General.
Intelligence and technology. The Comptroller’s Office quickly adapted to teleworking, thanks to the experience of a pilot program implemented last year, which showed that many functions could be performed remotely by taking certain security measures with the appropriate technology, which we had already been developing and adopting. We should also highlight the progress made in electronic processing, which now accounts for more than 90% of documentation, and also the work with databases, both our own and those of other public services, which has made it possible to carry out audits based on artificial intelligence. If the audit was previously on-site and based on a non-statistical sample of financial transactions, with access to databases and the use of algorithms, the sample reaches 100% of transactions and can be carried out remotely. Obviously, this is a path under construction, but we already have a head start in the use of big data.
Transparency. Beyond the legal obligation, transparency helps to build trust, which is why, shortly after the state of catastrophe was declared, we built an electronic site that gives an account of how the State, and in particular, the Comptroller’s Office, are acting to cope with this pandemic. This is in addition to the efforts of the Proactive Transparency portal that provides information of public interest about the institution.
There is no external control body in the world that has been prepared to carry out its work under the conditions imposed by the pandemic. Therefore, there is no administrative control expert in such pandemic times. Nevertheless, from our experience, it is possible to reflect on three final points.
Public control is inherent to the functioning of the democratic state and must be exercised regardless, even in times of a pandemic; however, control cannot work by paralyzing the action of public services; the end justifies only legal and democratic means, which are validated when control exists and are legitimated when they are transparent; and finally, there can be no going back for the Comptroller’s Office after this state of catastrophe is over, in the sense that our way of working must enhance flexibility and be oriented towards quality results, procedures must aim to be totally electronic and the use of big data must continue to be incorporated into all our functions.
All this with a single aim: the care and good use of public resources, even in times of a pandemic.
About the author:
As of December 17, 2015, the Comptroller General of the Republic is attorney Jorge Bermúdez Soto, who until then was an academic at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso.
The current Comptroller has a degree in Legal Sciences from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (1993), a Master’s degree in European Community Law from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (1996) and a PhD in Law from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (1998). Subsequently, he carried out post-doctoral studies in Environmental Law at the Universität Gießen (Germany) (2002-2003) and at the Universität Heidelberg, Germany (2012).
As for his academic experience, he is an undergraduate and postgraduate professor in Administrative and Environmental Law at the Law School of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (since 2003, Head since 2011).
He has worked in the public sector as an official of several institutions of the State Administration: National Forestry Corporation, State Defense Council and Legal Division of the Undersecretariat of Fisheries. In addition, he has been legal advisor to various state entities and international organizations.
The Comptroller General has participated in important forums, seminars and international conferences in his area and has written numerous books related to Administrative Law and articles in legal journals in Chile and abroad. Among them, we can highlight his authorship of the books “General Administrative Law” and “Fundamentals of Environmental Law.”
Vice-President, Products and Services
Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation. www.caaf-fcar.ca
The COVID-19 crisis is triggering unprecedented and trying times for our society. From substantial risks of overloading the health care system to catastrophic economic hardships, the reverberations of this crisis will be felt for years to come in all spheres of activity. Auditors are also affected and must take stock of how they will manage through this challenging time. We consulted material from various professional audit associations and talked with a number of senior audit professionals across Canada to find out how auditors can deal with COVID-19.
COVID-19 presents auditors with some challenges but also some opportunities. This list is in no way intended to be an exhaustive list of all the issues auditors are confronted with in this time of crisis.
Keep the health of auditors top of mind.
Human resources are audit offices’ best asset. Like for other organizations, the safety of their staff is paramount, and audit offices have acted accordingly. They have rapidly implemented work-at-home solutions with an emphasis on protecting and preserving their employees’ health. As the crisis is persisting, and employees are working remotely and implementing social distancing measures, audit organizations will also have to continue to be aware not only of their employees’ physical well-being, but also of their mental health. Employee assistance programs and proactive efforts to connect with team members to boost their morale are also essential to maintain the workforce and ensure continuity of operations.
Be flexible with auditees.
Transparent and effective communication with auditees is always a priority for auditors. In the time of COVID-19, this is truer than ever. If auditors are wrapping up their audit and validating audit findings, this can probably be done remotely. But if they are starting an audit, it may be more problematic. They may have to moderate their requests for documents and data or allow more time for auditees to respond, especially if auditees are at the frontline of fighting COVID-19. Also, conducting interviews remotely is always a possibility but will be understandably more difficult. In some instances, asking the auditees to complete a questionnaire instead of being interviewed may be less intrusive and more palatable for them. In any event, expect that audit activities will take a backseat and even, in some instances, that auditees will request that auditors stay away for a while. In a time of crisis, flexibility is the order of the day.
Know that technology is the auditors’ ally, with some caveats.
For many workers, technology has been providential in helping to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Emails, shared drives, team management applications, cloud technologies, and video conferences are allowing auditors to continue to work with auditees and co-workers. However, as the online presence of auditors intensifies, they have to remain vigilant. This increased use of technology will be accompanied by increased technological risks. From the overload of the telecommunication systems to cybersecurity concerns, auditors’ technological capacities will be more vulnerable. Ensuring that communications with auditees and between team members meet confidentiality and security requirements, for instance, could be a challenge. Also, there is an emerging risk of increased social engineering incidents. Phishing attacks masquerading as guidance about the virus are multiplying and can impact both auditors and auditees. It’s essential that you be aware of these risks and have effective communications with your IT services.
Because many entities’ activities and events are cancelled or delayed, it is only natural that the completion of audits will also be compromised. Many audit organizations have already factored this in and are recalibrating their audit plans. Depending on the flexibility of the audit mandate, the legal requirements, the constraints on resources, and access to auditees, auditors will have to be flexible and adjust. As stated above, wrapping up audits may be easier than starting new ones until things settle down. Also, as the crisis lingers, keeping audit teams busy may prove problematic. Some offices may consider assigning staff to begin performing groundwork for upcoming audits, conduct or undertake training (online of course), or form new methodology working groups.
Mitigate the risk to audit quality.
Auditors, being always mindful of audit standards, must crank up their apprehensions about their capacity to collect sufficient and appropriate evidence. This is where the above concerns about technology, auditee relations, and delays come together. Auditors must take a good hard look at what they are capable of doing in these circumstances. One opportunity that delays open up is the possibility of enhancing the quality of the audit by doing more in-depth analysis of the evidence already collected. This could be done by leveraging quantitative data analytics techniques or conducting qualitative analyses that would be too time-consuming in normal times. It is also possible that you will need to re-scope your audit to cover a more restricted span of activities. Professional judgment, as always, will have to be used.
Seize the opportunity to improve your understanding of the audited entities.
Good auditors must constantly aim to increase their knowledge of the organizations they are auditing. Times of crisis have a way of revealing hidden weaknesses and organizational fault lines. This is not to say that auditors must take advantage of audited organizations’ temporary vulnerability by playing a game of “bayonetting the wounded on the battlefield.” But you should remain alert about areas of improvement that may become more apparent when auditees are under stress. In particular, you can learn a lot by observing how risk management, the implementation of business continuity plans and disaster recovery activities, and IT operations and cybersecurity measures play out during this crisis. This may provide ideas for future audit topics.
* Articulo publicado originalmente en: https://www.caaf-fcar.ca/en/performance-audit/research-and-methodology/audit-tips/en/performance-audit/audit-tips/3594-audit-tips-10
About the author:
Yves Genest was appointed as Vice-President, Products and services, effective May 15, 2017, Mr. Genest is responsible for leading the organization’s performance audit and parliamentary oversight products and services, including training, professional development, community outreach, research, and methodology development.
Mr. Genest is an experienced audit professional, having worked in a variety of organizations and offices over the past thirty years. Prior to joining the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation, he served as Chief Audit and Evaluation Executive at Shared Services Canada, where he led the establishment of the audit and evaluation function in the newly created department. There, he implemented cutting-edge methodology for systems under development audits, provided leadership on horizontal initiatives involving IT security and disaster recovery with chief audit executives in numerous partner departments, and led on innovation within his unit in the field of audit automation.
Prior to joining Shared Services Canada, Mr. Genest served as Director General, Audit Directorate, at the Public Service Commission of Canada, where he led the establishment of a new audit function, quality management framework, and risk-based audit strategic planning process for the PSC.
Mr. Genest also has extensive experience in the legislative audit community, having worked at the Office of the Auditor General of Canada for over fifteen years, first as a Senior Auditor, then Director of Results Measurement, and finally as Principal, Practice Development. In this latter position, he was tasked to ensure that OAG professional standards, policies and guidance for performance audits met the needs of the Office.
Mr. Genest holds Masters degrees in Public Administration and Political Science.
Capacity Building Manager for OLACEFS
INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI)
I suggest to discuss the challenges for accountability posed by the current situation of COVID 19.
The starting point is the recently published document “Accountability in a time of crisis: How Supreme Audit Institutions and development partners can learn from previous crises and ensure effective responses to Covid-19 in developing countries”. This document was developed in collaboration between the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI), the Sierra Leone Audit Service (ASSL), the Liberian General Audit Commission (GAC) and the African Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions French-speaking (CREFIAF)
This document compiles findings and examples of audits related to epidemics and disasters, including the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Possible actions that SAIs and their development partners can take to mitigate the risks posed by Covid-19 are also identified. The focus is on developing countries, with some specific references to the contexts that present the greatest challenges.
Background of the blog suggestion:
The Covid-19 crisis is global and has massive impact on all countries in areas such as public health, employment, economic growth and social protection. The crisis requires urgent actions by governments, and it can sometimes be difficult to balance this carefully with accountability, transparency and integrity.
We know from previous pandemics and disasters that emergency situations can lead to basic control systems being suspended or bypassed, combined with weakening of accountability systems and oversight. This can cause increased levels of waste, mismanagement and corruption at a time when government resources are under pressure.
As a respected oversight institution, Supreme Audit Institutions can play a key role in the different stages of a crisis like Covid-19. In this regard, audits of past crises – such as those covered in the document in question – provide key lessons to audit in the context of the coronavirus crisis.
In general, and always within their mandate and practices, it is understood that the actions of SAIs can be grouped into the following roles:
- Implement audits adapted to the current context;
- Provide advice on critical rules and regulations;
- Conduct real-time procurement audits to verify whether funds are being used in the right way and for the right purposes;
- Make explicit the persistence of the SAI oversight responsibility over national public accounts – despite the crisis – and its consequent role of general supervision of the administration of the crisis by the Government. This can also generate a deterrent effect on those who see the crisis as an opportunity to violate regulations and controls, contributing indirectly to safeguarding government and donor funds;
- In terms of audit topics, they can audit the implementation of new regulations and programs, such as infection control or economic stimulation, and thereby contribute to effective government actions. This can help identify potential cases of fraud, waste and abuse of public funds, counter misinformation, and build greater trust between citizens and government during a national emergency; and,
- Finally, already with the proper focus of performance auditing, the SAI can evaluate the economy, efficiency, efficacy and effectiveness of the use of funds and the national response to this situation. It goes without saying, that these reports can contribute to vertical and horizontal accountability, as well as for identifying lessons for the future.
The objective of the blog is to open a space for interaction in which, based on the visibility, mandate and context of the SAIs of OLACEFS, we can reflect and exchange ideas on the possible roles of the SAIs and their challenges.
About the author:
Mg. Sebastián Gil holds Bachelor and Master’s degrees in international Relations, Master degree in Finance and Master degree in Public Policy Evaluation.
University professor and consultant specialized in Performance Auditing and Public Policies. Graduate of the International Programme of the Canadian and Accountability Audit Foundation (batch 2004/5).
He has worked at the Nation General Audit Office of Argentina between 1994 and 2017, contributing to the development and practice in Performance Auditing.
Since 2018 he is working at the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI) – based in the National Audit Office of Norway – as Manager of Capacity Development for OLACEFS, position from which he systematically works with SAIs from OLACEFS and its different bodies. In terms of specific initiatives, he coordinates the IDI – OLACEFS initiative “SAI in the Fight against Corruption”, participates in the “Strategy, Performance, Measurement and Report” initiative (SPMR) and co-coordinates the initiative “Cooperative Audit of Public Procurement Sustainable using data analysis ”(CASP), first pilot of the IDI SDG Audit Model (ISAM), having also been a member of the team that developed this model.
Director of International Relations, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)
Vice President, International Journal of Government Auditing
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears” — Nelson Mandela
““We all have an unsuspected reserve of strength inside that emerges when life puts us to the test“– Isabel Allende
I greatly appreciate this opportunity to engage with OLACEFS and announce the launch of the INTOSAI Policy, Finance, and Administration Committee’s (PFAC’s) COVID-19 Initiative website. The Comptroller General of the United States leads this initiative as PFAC Vice Chair in cooperation with the Chair and all committee members.
Before elaborating on this initiative and the website, I would like to provide some historical perspective that, like the origins of the quotations above, begins in South Africa and brings us to Chile.
Just one year ago, I represented GAO at the INTOSAI Regions Coordination Platform Meeting in Cape Town. At that time, many SAIs had already alerted their governments to the potential consequences of a global health pandemic. Still, none of us could have imagined that we would be in this situation one year later.
In Cape Town, the generosity and graciousness of our host, Auditor-General Makwetu, his staff, and the people of South Africa made a lasting impression, as did the spirit of collaboration and mutual support among INTOSAI’s global and regional bodies, and the INTOSAI Development Initiative.
During a discussion on communication within INTOSAI, my colleague Osvaldo Rudloff Pulgar of la Contraloría General de la República de Chile spoke about the need to enhance communication across INTOSAI and its regional bodies. I told Osvaldo that we would maximize GAO’s role as Vice Chair of INTOSAI’s Policy, Finance, and Administration Committee and Chair of the International Journal of Government Auditing to enhance communication across all of INTOSAI.
The PFAC has acted on that commitment by publishing the Midterm INTOSAI Performance and Accountability Report in all INTOSAI languages. The report documents progress toward INTOSAI’s Strategic Plan and includes contributions from all INTOSAI global and regional bodies. The report specifically identified recognition of the accomplishments, importance, and needs of INTOSAI Regional Organizations—especially regarding communication, resources, and technology—as a matter for consideration by the INTOSAI Governing Board.
As Chair of the International Journal of Government Auditing, GAO has also acted on that commitment by attending and covering meetings across nearly all of INTOSAI’s global and regional bodies, including those of OLACEFS, with an emphasis on using social media to share information and best practices across all of INTOSAI.
Most recently, GAO collaborated with la Contraloría General de la República de Chile and OLACEFS by sharing information on health precautions and SAI operating procedures during the pandemic, and participating in an OLACEFS webinar to discuss the PFAC COVID-19 Initiative.
And this brings us to Chile and the kind invitation to announce the launch of the PFAC COVID-19 Initiative via this blog. Like many SAIs, GAO has transitioned seamlessly to nearly 100 percent telework. We are actively conducting our work for the United States Congress and our citizens and have initiated over 30 audits on our government’s preparedness and response to the pandemic. We also understand that the pandemic poses challenges for conducting INTOSAI’s work, and that many SAIs have faced challenges operating during the pandemic.
That is why this initiative seeks to maintain continuity of operations within INTOSAI, assist SAI’s with their continuity of operations by sharing and mobilizing resources, and focus on lessons learned to prevent similar situations in the future. The initiative is predicated on our belief that (1) our governments and citizens need strong, competent, and effective SAIs in our current environment and (2) that this need will only increase in the future.
The initiative’s website has links and resources contributed from a wide range of INTOSAI members and external stakeholders and is organized around the themes of INTOSAI continuity of operations, resources for SAIs, and lessons learned. We welcome additional contributions from all interested parties and will continuously update the website as information becomes available. We are very excited about this unique opportunity to collaborate across INTOSAI and its regional bodies during these challenging circumstances and welcome your contributions.
The PFAC initiative will transition to a longer-term COVID-19 effort led by the Chairman of INTOSAI and the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation under the auspices of INTOSAI’s Supervisory Committee on Emerging Issues (SCEI). GAO has coordinated with SAI Russia on this transition and our role as Vice Chair of the SCEI will help ensure a smooth transition and our continued involvement.
In closing, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to my colleague Osvaldo, as well as to Sr Jorge Bermúdez Soto, Contralor General de la República de Chile, and Sr Nelson Shack Yalta, Contralor General de la República de Peru for their leadership of SAI Chile and OLACEFS, respectively. I wish all of you, your loved ones, and your colleagues the very best.
About the author
Michael Hix is Director of International Relations in GAO’s Office of Strategic Planning and External Liaison. He supports the Comptroller General of the United States in international engagement, manages multilateral and bilateral relations, directs GAO’s International Auditor Fellowship Program, and serves as the Vice President of the International Journal of Government Auditing. His primary areas of focus within INTOSAI include GAO’s work as Vice Chair of the INTOSAI Policy, Finance, and Administration Committee, the INTOSAI Donor Cooperation, and as a member of the INTOSAI Governing Board. He holds a M.S. in Natural Resource and Environmental Policy from the University of Michigan and a B.A. in Geology from George Mason University.
Dr. Francisco Javier Fernández
Auditor General of the Argentine Nation y President of the Commission on
Information and Communication Technologies (CTIC)
As Chairman of the OLACEFS Committee on Information and Communications Technologies (CTIC), I hope you and your loved ones are well.
We are experiencing a difficult time when the priority is to maintain health and care for each other. In this context, it is undeniable how important it is for all people to be able to work, as well as maintain networks, to pursue dreams, projects and meet the challenges that arise in a professional, responsible, reliable and technically solvent manner.
Depending on the situation, we are faced with social distancing, confinement, quarantine or other measures related to caring for our health. Whatever the case, this new reality poses new challenges to continue our daily work.
Today, technology is an indispensable and strategic tool to accompany us in this process. It will allow the Supreme Audit Institutions to face the challenges that the health crisis implies, responding to the challenges in a responsible and committed manner with the role of accountability.
The current crisis implies an abrupt change and professional challenge that technology allows us to face. That is why, at the CTIC, we set out to support this process and contribute to the development of OLACEFS’ SAI activities by making available the CTIC Toolbox of applications that facilitate teamwork.
This tool is a compilation of applications that could be useful in the workplace for meeting management, communication and teamwork, planning, task development, and for sharing knowledge or disseminating a project. This toolbox is the product of a broad analysis of different platforms, guided by a selection of those that are most useful based on accessibility, security or operability criteria.
We hope that the toolbox will facilitate the use of technologies in our organizational management. Our interest is that they be useful to you in order to maintain the quality and prestige of our reports, investigations and analysis in the face of this new challenge posed by a global pandemic.
At the CTIC, we hope that this proposal will also be an invitation to walk this path together and to maintain the bonds of brotherhood that characterize our organization.
Mariela Azofeifa Olivares,
Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Costa Rica
The Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) are, in times of crisis such as that caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, among the entities with the greatest credibility and expectation on the part of the citizens. Many actors in society turn their eyes to the extraordinary work that falls on the external control bodies of the Public Administration, almost without distinction of country and control model. The safeguarding of the Public Treasury is an enormous challenge for efficiency and agility in public procurement, for the correct and timely execution of the budget, for auditing as a relevant function against public spending, and for the generation of regulations that allow the correct investment of public funds in the state activities that have the greatest demand for action to address the health emergency.
Perhaps the list of lessons that the institutional attention to the pandemic is giving the SAIs seems enormous at this time, where the effects have not completely come to light and the citizens are in the midst of a battle where they await state aid under the vigilance of the SAIs given the critical fiscal situation of the countries of the Latin American region. Taking care of scarce public funds and speeding up spending on what is required is a double challenge for the entire state apparatus.
The demands of public control are intensified, in some cases by seeking the omnipresence of SAIs in every procurement of goods and services, in every disbursement of public resources, in every legislative decision on bills to address the emergency. It is therefore particularly important to manage adequate information flows and effective communication channels in order to make it clear, on all sides, that SAIs cannot be involved in each and every public action to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, but with an adequate substantive control strategy, we can design actions in line with the highly volatile and demanding environment.
It is against these circumstances that we must be more strategic about when to carry out more timely and relevant actions of control: in ex ante controls, we must seek to speed up the institutional activity of urgent public procurement; in concomitant controls, we must address the control priorities on the infinite agenda of issues to be audited; in ex post controls, we must plan, from now on, the areas that will require accountability and rely on other control instances such as internal audits; in sanctioning controls, we must bear in mind that, in many countries, the regulatory framework is made more flexible in the face of declared national emergencies, and this also opens doors for those who act in disregard of the legal framework and commit fraud and corruption. It is worth reminding all external stakeholders about the channels of complaint in case they are faced with the commission of any irregularities that may be occurring in some state entity in the midst of the pandemic.
Valuing the environment as changing, as a rule of principle, is fundamental. SAIs must continue their regular audit activity and must not neglect the extraordinary actions that the pandemic implies, with the same personnel, job skills, technological, financial and informational resources. This then implies an optimization of all resources, with special emphasis on the intensive use of information and communication technologies, starting with the teleworking already applied in many SAIs, going through the use of effective online communication channels, without leaving aside the very important institutional culture that permeates all the actions of the SAI. Here, the challenge is to tune civil service, competencies, priorities and resources into the same melody and achieve harmony with the environment, making what we do available to all the other control actors: political, media and social.
One lesson that can also be drawn upon at this juncture is the ancillary role that the SAI can play before the Parliament of each country in the region, given that there is no body more prepared to shed light on relevant rules and procedures in the generation of laws and regulations in public institutions than the nation’s supreme audit institution. The strategic role of the SAIs in the legislative environment has a special moment in a national emergency, when haste rules and control cannot be disregarded, seeking an ideal balance between respect for the principle of legality and the achievement of national objectives, in the shortest time and at the lowest cost possible.
Monitoring the environment and identifying the stakeholders of each SAI will also allow for the assessment of prudent and relevant control actions, expected and demanded by those who always expect the SAI to play its role to the fullest. The confidence enjoyed by the audit institutions in the region is inversely proportional to that enjoyed by some governments in the region, and this reality cannot be ignored when it comes to generating a control agenda in the midst of a global health emergency.
This monitoring of the environment, in turn, serves as a basis for, together with internal self-diagnosis, an exhaustive analysis of institutional risks under national conditions regarding the procedures for providing health solutions for the population at risk and for those affected by the disease. Enabling an efficient, effective and affordable health care system is not easy in regular times, much less so in critical times when a fellow citizen’s life may depend on access to a laboratory test, diagnosis, medicine or hospital bed. .
The unique and specific powers of SAIs make it necessary to bear in mind that expectations are high and it is time to turn our eyes to the SAIs that have developed good practices and can help those in need. The review, consultation, exchange and open space to discuss what other control bodies are doing is valid and relevant at this historic moment, knowing that everything we do must be adjusted to our own institutional and legal environments.
To conclude this limited list of unlimited lessons, I propose a virtuous triangle be practiced that citizens value which emanates from the SAIs: access to public information, accountability and transparency. When, from our institutional trenches, we can promote and develop mechanisms conducive to these three democratic principles, we will have taken on the greatest challenge in the midst of the crisis, which consists of doing our work and disseminating it to all citizens, who always expect seriousness, professionalism, engagement and solidarity in difficult times for our fellow citizens.
I leave you the task of adding entries to this blog, which undoubtedly contributes to the challenges mentioned in this brief contribution.
Welcome to the COVID blog!
We are pleased to welcome you to this initiative promoted by OLACEFS’ Executive Secretariat.
The pandemic that afflicts us is a global challenge to which SAIs in Latin America and the Caribbean and OLACEFS must respond creatively and proactively, contributing to the proper use of public resources so that we can overcome this challenge together.
Under the logic of adapting to new times, we have created the COVID Blog, where weekly – every Thursday – we will have an entry talking about the value of control and its relationship with the pandemic. In this way, we make available a tool that reinforces international cooperation, allows us to share knowledge, and promotes new forms of engagement in the public opinion. We look forward to your contributions and weekly visits.
Warm regards, take care of yourselves and stay home.
Executive Secretariat Team
Latin American and Caribbean Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions