COVID-19 Blog

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Lourdes Sanchez
Senior Financial Management Specialist
Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)

The development of a region, country or institution is closely related to technology. Technological advances have had a fundamental impact on the prosperity of societies in many areas, mainly the economic one. For this reason, the IDB, whose mission is to promote development in Latin America and the Caribbean, is also advancing its own transformation at an accelerated pace and with objectively successful results as an organization.

The Bank provides and supports the development of advanced technological solutions in the region through the financing of projects with the ultimate goal of improving lives. At the corporate level, the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution have also knocked on our door and, as in any organization, it is a process that requires time to develop and adopt. This transformation adventure has challenged the usual way of doing things with a direct effect on how we fulfill our institutional responsibility to 48 member countries, borrowers and investors.

To begin this path of innovation and transformation, high-impact internal tasks and processes were identified that could be automated through the application of modern and disruptive technologies, with the aim of generating efficiencies, savings and data that would increase the quality of decision-making for the better fulfillment of our functions.

Through disruptive technology we have transformed one of the central processes of the multilateral banking business, project accountability. What was the result of this transformation? The addition of a new member to the IDB team: someone, or something, called Luca. The IDB has developed a bot to do the job that, historically, only humans have done: the review of Audited Financial Statements (AFS), automating it as a relevant part of the external audit management of projects.

In 2018, the IDB approved the Evaluation Policy Framework through a set of documents that outline the quality requirements and principles of preparation, presentation and review of the AFSs, the highest level of accountability of the 600 active projects per year. This framework assigns responsibilities to the Bank, Executing Agencies or Borrowers, and Independent Audit Firms or Supreme Audit Institutions for the issuance of financial reports attaching the opinion of an independent third party in order to comply with the annual contractual commitment that borrowers acquire for each loan transaction.

This is not simply a transition to new and better systems. Much more than that, it is an innovative transformation process. The use of cognitive technology as artificial intelligence in fiduciary processes shows a journey from the digitization of processes to the era of Big Data. It has led to the proliferation and substantial diversification in obtaining and managing previously unavailable data. In this transformation process, not only is artificial intelligence promoted, but also human intelligence. A perfect combination of both.

The most important characteristics of the processes Luca is in charge of:

  • The initial source of information for this review. The AFS, a document of 45 pages on average, divided into four sections: i) the auditor’s opinion, ii) the financial statements, iii) the notes to the financial statements and iv) the internal control report. Remember that this is unstructured data (PDF or scanned documents).
  • Luca uploads the document from the Bank’s official repositories or from the user’s or reviewer’s device to later analyze it. At this stage, Luca also estimates the time it will take to complete the analysis since it incorporates control mechanisms of its own performance in terms of time and percentage of automation.
  • The previously linear process was transformed into an exponential one. Luca reads the document through OCR technology. It automatically converts the images of text in the document into text capable of being analyzed by Luca. This technology allows Luca to “learn” when identifying, extracting and converting key text for analysis and acceptance according to minimum quality aspects.
  • In a matter of minutes, the first display of Luca’s analysis results is produced. The results of the review are shown through 56 tests of the existence and consistency of the information contained in the document versus: transaction information in the Bank’s systems, International Auditing Standards and the Bank’s Guides in that regard. The first three sections where these tests are applied are highly standardized.
  • How do Luca’s built-in tests work? Based on an analysis of approximately 300 audit reports corresponding to previous years, a Data Modeling process was carried out in order to identify the best artificial intelligence techniques to adopt and in relation to a cost analysis (time and resources). Some techniques incorporated are the Leveshtein distance – character chain similarity, identification of patterns not perceptible to the human eye, but possible for this type of technology. Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms provide Luca with capabilities to not only make its review more accurate, but also to generate higher quality data.
  • The second part of the analysis is the review of the Internal Control Report, the most challenging one. This section is prepared with few standardized elements. The ambition is great in terms of the type of information or analysis that Luca develops. Luca allows the reduction of human intervention in the process of manual review of internal control findings, assigns a level of risk and classifies them into categories of findings relevant to IDB project supervision. In this last section, the algorithms have homogeneous rules by which Luca analyzes the different paragraphs of this section and through feedback (use of the tool) will allow the training of the data model built for this section and that will improve its accuracy in the intelligent classification process more and more.
  • Luca also has an administrative module that allows it to improve its capabilities and efficiencies achieved, as well as a dashboard that makes data available that was previously not accessible and therefore not consumable.
  • Due to the above mentioned features, Luca is not yet an off-the-shelf model solution.

Some lessons learned:

  • As we move forward in this transformation process, focusing on data and its quality as a reason to continue innovating and optimizing the introduction of technologies is highly positive. There are more costly technology options in terms of time and resources that could delay or sacrifice the efficiencies you want to achieve.
  • Innovative projects that will incorporate disruptive technology must be started small so that they make small mistakes. Luca was initially developed in a proof of concept that was validated in 11 countries before developing the scalable version with current capabilities.
  • Cultural change – understanding and appropriation of the use of these technologies. For the IDB, it was to bring clarity to a traditional dilemma: human and machine and not human versus machine. At the IDB, we undertook manual processes supported by basic technology, introduced advanced automation: relational databases or structured data up to cognitive technology and advancing to Data Analytics or Big Data. Cultural change is a strategy to be developed in parallel, involving the user in critical stages, assimilating feedback and sharing the resulting benefits and challenges. Also, discovering together what processes can be done differently.

I do not claim that the shared points are definitive or mandatory, but they are steps that the IDB has been following organically. Without being a startup, it took the path towards a new generation of more flexible and agile organization through digital transformation and artificial intelligence systems. By having that added agility and intelligence, we can transform even more processes where the human and the machine (robots) work side by side for the fulfillment of responsibilities.

In short, the digital transformation does not aim at the adoption of technology itself, but at a solution that generates efficiency in the execution of processes and, fundamentally, the obtaining and analysis of data in the shortest time possible without compromising its precision and quality. Data analysis is no longer a luxury technique that exists in very few organizations and is becoming a requirement for an organization’s survival. Therefore, it is totally relevant where we are in this journey and how we are taking advantage of machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques.

We can certainly conclude that “the future is not what it used to be,” not only because of the evolution of technology, but also because of the way we interact with it.

About the Author:

Lourdes Sánchez is a Senior Financial Management Specialist at the IDB. Her experience in the field of external control and auditing began in Bolivia, in the public sector, forming part of the country’s most important modernization process in financial management and control systems. Later, this experience was widely enriched by the management of development projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America as part of the project teams from different international organizations. Currently, within the processes of innovation and projects that incorporate disruptive technologies at the IDB, Lourdes led the development of a bot – robot for the review of audited financial statements, a technological solution that incorporates “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR), “Natural Language Processing,” “Text Analytics,” Sentiment Analysis, and machine learning.

Lourdes has an MBA in International Finance and an MS in Financial Information Systems Management from the State University of New York, other studies include Harvard University Business School and she recently obtained a certification in Digital Transformation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

SUSANNE FRIEDRICH
Global Program Director Alliance for Integrity
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Companies, in a context of increasingly demanding national and international anti-corruption standards, have an obligation to prevent corruption within their own organization and among their business partners along the supply chain. Therefore, it is often assumed that the main reason that companies adopt anti-corruption compliance measures is fear of the application of the law and the consequent deterioration of the company‘s reputation.

A recent OECD study, which aims to better understand why companies choose to devote time and resources to developing anti-corruption programs, shows that this is not the case. The motivations are multiple, both external (fear of prosecution, demands from investors or business partners, among others) and internal (values of the company‘s leaders, for example). They often work together and have cumulative effects on a company (p.14). Strengthening anti-corruption legislation is a necessary tool for preventing corruption, but it should not be the only one.

According to the study, companies willing to fight corruption expect governments to support companies‘ efforts with appropriate incentives. Companies are also looking for more accessible learning opportunities and analytical tools. This includes possibilities for exchanging information and good practices at the local level and through online tools. Companies underscored the need for secure exchange forums where they can share best practices with other companies in their sector and affirm that awareness of corruption risks is still necessary (p.75).

The recently published B20 recommendations on integrity and compliance point in the same direction: “G20 countries should work with the private sector to implement or improve national anti-corruption plans and adopt new collective action initiatives.” (Policy Action 1.1)

Taking these demands into account, complementing legal measures with other measures arising from the interests and motivations of companies, can strengthen and broaden the impact of the legislation. How? Through collective anti-corruption action.

Collective action is a recognized and increasingly used form of dealing with corruption. Collaboration among competitors, local authorities, government agencies and civil society to address bribery risks common to market participants can be an effective way to prevent and reduce corruption. Collective actions can have different objectives, from the exchange of information and dissemination of good practices, to the development of capacities and the formulation of sectoral codes of conduct, among others. The various participating actors contribute their knowledge, experiences, contacts and other resources.

What does collective action mean for SAIs whose task is not primarily the prevention of corruption? SAIs contribute to fostering transparency in the public sector by promoting financial management systems based on reliable reports and sound control mechanisms. SAIs provide the public with information on financial management standards and thus promote a financial control system. At the same time they provide a solid framework to support the predictability of government operations. Thus, SAIs play an important role in raising awareness about the risks of corruption and promoting good governance by strengthening a culture of integrity, beyond the public sector (see U4 ). These functions make them key actors for collective anti-corruption actions.

Alliance for Integrity is a collective action of German origin. As a global, multi-stakeholder initiative promoted by the business sector, it offers support to companies committed to fighting corruption collectively and in a practical way. It provides a platform for the private and public sectors and civil society to foster global peer learning and join forces towards creating a world of business characterized by integrity. Corruption can pose particular problems for SMEs, which often lack the ability to cope with an opaque economic system and to design and implement anti-corruption strategies. For them, the Alliance for Integrity has developed a capacity building program that is collectively implemented by the initiative‘s members, currently in thirteen countries.

In Latin America, where the network of actors is very committed, the initiative has been extended to eight countries. Alliance for Integrity is currently cooperating with two SAIs in the region.

With the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Chile (CGRC), various activities are being carried out to raise awareness and disseminate good practices in the framework of national, regional and international forums. As an example, the CGRC, together with the Alliance for Integrity and with the support of the Chilean-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CAMCHAL), holds an annual International Anti-Corruption Seminar where good practices are promoted in the public and private sectors, as well as in civil society organizations.

In Paraguay, the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic is part of the Alliance for Integrity’s group of trainers for the private sector. This allows the Office of the Comptroller to design and develop, in conjunction with the Alliance for Integrity and the Paraguayan-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce, various training and awareness-raising activities for SMEs in the country.

In Brazil, the Alliance for Integrity has worked closely with the Office of the Comptroller General of the Union (CGU) to bring technology closer to internal control. TheIntegrityApp, a digital compliance program self-assessment tool designed for the private sector, was adapted for the public sector in a new version. The tool allows public officials in Brazil to anonymously assess the compliance capacity of their superiors and their entities, as well as their own knowledge of compliance. The CGU regularly receives reports with the anonymized data of the users, which allows it to have an overview of the compliance capacities of the participating organizations to direct their resources according to the real needs.

These encouraging experiences have prompted a dialogue with the OLACEFS to expand collaboration with the Alliance for Integrity in the areas of awareness and capacity building in the private sector. Given the diverse motivations of companies to prevent corruption, SAIs, in their role as promoters of good governance and a culture of integrity, can build important bridges for dialogue and the exchange of information among the main stakeholders. This will make it possible to initiate legitimate and effective debates in the fight and prevention of corruption and to promote the implementation of concrete solutions.

About the Author:

Susanne Friedrich heads the Alliance for Integrity. As an Organizational Development Specialist, Susanne has many years of experience in managing public-private initiatives and capacity building. He has implemented several projects of the German Cooperation for Development in Latin America and worldwide, working on inclusive business models and sustainable value chains, as well as SME export promotion. She directed a project on capacities for decentralization in the Andean region. Previously, she worked at Prochile and served for ten years as an independent consultant on public-private projects.

Ricardo Correa Fuenzalida
Advisor in the Area of Studies
General Internal Audit Council of the Government of Chile

The world of internal auditing is in turmoil in the face of the social and health crisis in which we find ourselves as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Various trade and professional associations, such as the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), the Association of Audit and Control of Information Systems (ISACA) and the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), as well as renowned representatives of the internal auditing discipline, warn that, despite the difficulties, this is a great opportunity to demonstrate our value to the organization and the State in the case of the government sector’s internal auditors since, in addition to ensuring that the always scarce public resources are spent and delivered in a correct and timely manner, we are called upon by our knowledge and expertise to advise the authorities so they take preventive and proactive actions to improve control processes, risk management and governance, especially in times of crisis.

Surely, all the internal auditors agree and expect the aforementioned. But, given the assertions in the first paragraph about the role that the internal auditor should assume, it is worth reflecting on how we are prepared to do so adequately. The question then is who are the internal auditors that are best prepared to seize the opportunity to become one of the most reliable and relevant pillars for the authorities in this crisis environment?

This question could have several answers. It will surely depend on, among other factors, the organizational culture and political environment of the country, the economic sector to which the organization belongs, the resources available for internal auditing, the level of professional competencies available, and the support of the authorities for internal audit work. Notwithstanding that all the previous options can be valid, the origin of the answer may be the same; in crises, opportunities are better exploited by internal auditors who are moving on the path of continuous improvement of quality and that, therefore, when crises occur, they are already recognized and validated at all levels of the organization and their environment for their vision and ability to propose, to collaborate and to act in reliable, competent and effective manner with the authorities.

On the other hand, it is very difficult that, in a crisis environment, internal auditors who, over time, have mainly developed activities associated with the evaluation of compliance with standards and the application of controls, who have not been adequately trained, who do not meet frequently with the highest authority and who also have not demonstrated to their stakeholders that their work is reliable and of quality, are required to contribute to the decision-making process in the crisis. Moreover, it is very possible that these internal audits will be asked to significantly restrict the scope of their annual plan and their work, with the explanation of not affecting the opportunity in the delivery of resources to citizens who require them, thus further protecting the organization, the occurrence of risks of misuse of resources, and the inefficiency of the operations and activities planned and developed to mitigate the effects of the crisis.

When we refer to continuous quality improvement in internal auditing, we refer to a systematic and disciplined process used to monitor and evaluate that internal auditing fulfills its responsibilities to the highest authorities and to the organization, as defined by senior management, and that the technical criteria to be maintained in the internal auditing profession are met.

At a global level, in order to demonstrate that the internal audit activity complies with the elements previously indicated, it must undergo an independent external evaluation regarding compliance with the mandatory elements of the International Framework for Professional Practice (MIPP), issued by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). This evaluation also reviews the efficiency and effectiveness of operations and identifies opportunities for improvement in the internal audit activity.

According to Standard 1300 – quality assurance and improvement program, issued by the IIA, the director of internal audit must develop and maintain a quality assurance and improvement program (PAMC) that covers all aspects of the internal audit activity. This program includes regular and ongoing external and internal quality evaluations. Each part of the PAMC should be designed to help the internal audit activity add value, improve the operations of the organization, and provide assurance that it complies with the Code of Ethics and the IIA Standards.

What is the difference, then, in a crisis situation, between an internal audit unit that is on the road to continuous quality improvement and one that has not yet started on that road? We can recognize in this difference at least four critical points carried out by the internal audit activity that has an established PAMC:

1.- It maintains closeness and gains confidence from the highest authority of the entity

This materializes through regular interaction with the highest authority through direct reporting, relevant advice, periodic and private meetings to discuss important and sensitive issues, participation in strategic committees of the entity, and direct feedback on work performance from the authority. The internal auditor who demonstrates that he or she adds value to the entity has an important space to communicate his or her opinion and advice to the highest authority.

2.- It demonstrates that its processes and activities are carried out with quality criteria at an international level

This is demonstrated by providing the highest authority and the organization as a whole with assurance and consulting services that have been externally certified for compliance with widely recognized and nationally and internationally validated professional standards and norms, such as the IIA Standards. In this process, they also identify improvement opportunities for the internal audit activity. The accreditation of the audit work under international standards strengthens the confidence in the work of the auditor and the robustness of their opinions, reviewing them with impartiality and a high technical character.

3.- It identifies what its professional competencies are and overcomes existing gaps

By comparing existing competencies in internal auditing against a competency model established as a reference, gaps are determined and training strategies are formulated to overcome them in a timely manner. This point is very relevant given that internal auditors are expected to possess a set of specific competencies to carry out their work in times of crisis, particularly in matters of information and communication technologies (ICT), which have undoubtedly affected the way processes are developed in the organization and how they are audited.

4.- It maintains and demonstrates demanding ethical conduct in its work

Demonstrating that it promotes and complies at all times with the principles of the IIA’s code of ethics and with those of the internal audit activity code itself and of the entity, which reaffirms the respect and ethical trust in its work on the part of the internal audit stakeholders, among which are the highest authority.

Source: Prepared by the author

Internal auditing is a strongly regulated discipline promoting energetic, but flexible, competent and multidisciplinary performance, objective, but embedded in an entity, of which it must know its strategic, tactical and operational aspects. The IIA Standards guide the work of the internal auditor in order to make internal auditing a key cog in the wheel of a public entity.

In short, the call for government internal auditors who hope to take advantage of the opportunity to be the authorities’ pillar of trust in times of crisis, but who have not yet incorporated quality into the development of their activities, is to start working from now on to implement a PAMC, since, in a changing world full of challenges, the next crisis will probably begin as soon as the one we are experiencing ends.

About the author

Ricardo is a public accountant and auditor and a commercial engineer from Universidad de Santiago de Chile. He has a Master’s in Accounting and Management Auditing from the same university.

He has obtained various international professional certifications in matters of internal audit, internal control, risk management and money laundering, among which those sponsored by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), CIA, CRMA, CGAP and CCSA stand out.

He has extensive experience in the governmental internal auditing practice. He currently works as an advisor in the Studies Area of the General Internal Audit Council of the Government of Chile.

Academic and instructor in subjects of his competence in both undergraduate and graduate certification programs in Chile and other Latin American countries.

Speaker at workshops, seminars and national and international conferences (CLAI). He has authored books, publications and articles.

JOSÉ OYOLA
International consultant specialized in the formulation of 3E audits

The crisis caused by the pandemic has allowed Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) to test their ability to promote good governance in conditions of high health risks and fiscal controls weakened by declarations of health emergencies.

Many SAIs have responded successfully to the pandemic, quickly identifying gaps in the healthcare supply chain. SAIs have also detected fraud in subsidy programs caused by weaknesses in their internal control system, and have promoted trust in public institutions, objectively evaluating the quality of official figures on infections and deaths from COVID-19.

Having fulfilled their functions of auditing and reporting on the pandemic, SAIs are now faced with the challenge of identifying future risks. Some SAIs have already recognized that COVID-19 is here to stay. The ability of the virus to continuously mutate will render future vaccinations in the experimental stage ineffective. As with the influenza vaccine, governments will have to increase resources to carry out regular vaccinations to a large part of the population.

Some SAIs maintain a vibrant institutional memory, allowing them to quickly identify lessons from past pandemics. These SAIs have easy access to their past audit reports, helping them identify effective responses to past pandemics. These SAIs will be able to help health authorities in assessing the permanence and severity of COVID-19, as is already the case with the AIDS virus and Influenza. These SAIs will be better positioned to collaborate in the formulation of new health and educational programs that are effective and efficient.

To meet the Sustainable Development Goal of “Leave No One Behind,” it is necessary to rethink what the priority investments are in the country. In the “new normal,” the national internet communications network will be as vital as the land and railroad infrastructure. Governments will have to financially support private sector technology companies to include all the poor and isolated communities of the country in the national internet network.

It is quite possible that national infrastructure plans will undergo significant adjustments that have not yet been clearly identified. In this debate, SAIs will be able to be effective interlocutors of the “Leave No One Behind” policy, to the extent that they are recognized as competent, objective and impeccable institutions. There will be necessary adjustments in the strategic plans and annual budgets that may be controversial because they will no longer be based on the assumptions of the past, before the arrival of COVID-19.

In the coming post-pandemic debate, SAIs will be able to succeed that have the capacity to communicate a coherent plan for building a resilient country that is capable of overcoming the risks of COVID-19 on an ongoing basis, ensuring its economic and social development, and achieving the SDGs.

About the Author

From 1990 to 2010, José Oyola served as Assistant Director in the Strategic Planning Division of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). He collaborated in multiple evaluations of the effectiveness, efficiency and economy (3E) of the United States public debt management, the international programs of the IRS, and the monitoring of budget cycles in the United States Government.

From 2011 to the present, he has been an international consultant specialized in the formulation and execution of 3E Audits and the adoption of good practices of Internal Control in government entities.

He has collaborated in bilateral projects to strengthen the capacity of the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) of Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Vietnam.

He has participated in multilateral reviews of the institutional capacity of SAIs, conducting evaluations of the value and benefit of SAIs for the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Rodolfo Herrera Bravo
Lawyer and academic specialized in Law and New Technologies
www.rodolfoherrera.cl

It came suddenly and violently. Nobody was prepared and IT showed our fragility and our masks. We still have not overcome it and we do not know its consequences, both individually and collectively.

When the world defeats the Covid-19 pandemic we will have to continue our lives, perhaps missing more than one loved one. We are likely to suffer from anguish, depression, and anxiety due to stress, grief, economic recessions, unemployment, insolvency and, of course, general precariousness.

However, there are also lessons that crises leave us, which, if used intelligently, can be a catalyst to advance in aspects that have remained neglected or that have not been given relevance. In particular, we refer to the real digital transformation of the State and, consequently, to the role of the control of government decisions on the matter. Therefore, below are 5 points that could be reviewed.

1. Flexible and secure digital public procedures.

This is one of the lessons that Chile was able to foresee for many years and it was not done well. Legally, we have recognized the value of digital actions since 2002; the State has technology, it has been concerned with extending connectivity throughout the country and the different governments to date have carried out several initiatives to automate procedures. However, many of these actions have been half-hearted, maintaining stages of presence or linked to requirements that are not obtained online. In fact, most public services still do not interoperate correctly or only implement isolated and specific projects.

It has also been unfortunate to see how some people, especially those who lack more resources and immigrants and who need more attention from the State, have had to go en masse to notaries and public offices, putting their health at risk to carry out procedures before public bodies that could have been fully implemented online for years already.

Nor have there been effective public policies to massify digital identity, as has been demonstrated with the problems of the Unique Key in pandemic times. Likewise, a model of advanced electronic signatures continues to take root, making it difficult to enter other types of electronic signatures that are more secure, accessible and intuitive for citizens, such as biometrics, for example, or with more levels of authentication.

This explains why, when we had to face social isolation so abruptly, it was necessary to devise solutions to make requirements more flexible, sign documents remotely and simplify procedures remotely.

However, while it is sensible to admit this flexibility in times of pandemic, due to fortuitous events or the force majeure that it entails, it is an exceptional situation that, if not properly justified, presents the risk of ensuring continuity at the cost of legality, as a general rule.

Therefore, a scenario appears in which the control must be rigorous to distinguish the exceptionality of the crisis and not confuse it with the negligence or ineffectiveness that some digitalization projects have had.

2. Guarantee a fundamental right of access to quality digital networks.

Linked to the above, the State cannot transform itself digitally if it does not guarantee access to the entire population, especially those who today do not have the appropriate means. Otherwise, the social gap will maintain discrimination in the use of technology.

For years, work has been done on network connectivity and coverage. Now it is necessary to delve deeper into two more aspects: On the one hand, in the construction of quality content, regarding public utility, teaching, information, culture and entertainment, instead of what today is received by open television signal, motivated by the mediocrity of the rating. Here, control has another great challenge in dealing with the political use that governments in turn could make in facing this content construction.

And, on the other hand, everyone must have a recognized right of free access to such content, with a guaranteed minimum quality, either from private personal devices or through resources provided by the State for the population that lacks them. Precisely, the new social pact that we hope will be built in the next few years in Chile must include a fundamental right of access to digital networks for each person, putting the State as a guarantor.

3. Intensive use of teleworking in the State.

These days telecommuting has been a true privilege of the few of us who have been able to keep ourselves safe, working from home without fear of being fired or exposing the health of our families. Of course, not everyone has been able to perform correctly when the conditions in which they do so do not allow space and time to be separated for work, family and rest. However, it has passed the litmus test in many types of employment, validating itself as a legitimate, efficient and beneficial option, not only for times of crisis.

Telework has to be promoted in public organizations, for all activities and functions that can reconcile the fulfillment of objectives with this modality, although guaranteeing the attention of those procedures that still maintain presence. Therefore, the control must devise audit modalities that are compatible with this new reality so as not to become a brake or an excuse for the authorities not to massify it.

Of course, it is necessary to teach public officials to telework, because it demands an order and discipline different from the face-to-face routine. In addition, it needs the provision of private spaces or public telecentres to do so, where personal roles and scenarios are not mixed with those of the workplace.

4. Control over the transparency of official information.

In a world that is getting accustomed to post-truth and data manipulation, either by the media or by the authorities themselves, it is essential to guarantee institutional and citizen control of official information transmitted during times of crisis such as the one that we are living in. For example, there are countries that have not been clear and transparent with the community. Official figures are provided that cannot be validated by independent and specialized organizations, and decisions with a direct impact on health issues have been made without consulting doctors.

Given the risk to the population that this style of governing implies, the new social pact that is built when real normality arrives should increase control over the authorities, demanding greater transparency in cases of crisis. For example, an autonomous audit body could immediately intervene in the government working groups, as an observer, serving as a brake against possible manipulation of figures and being the guarantor of the deliberative participation of the representatives of specialized civil society. It would be a way to legitimize decisions in the face of crises as serious as a pandemic and to listen to social demand.

5. Privacy by design in applications that collect personal data.

Finally, another lesson that the pandemic leaves us, regarding the Coronapp mobile application, refers to the collection of personal data, especially if they are sensitive, as in the case of those referring to diseases. Obviously there are extraordinary circumstances in which the public interest in having health data is paramount, for example, to contain a disease as contagious as Covid-19, through traceability. In this case, the data are essential to analyze the phenomenon, plan the actions to be followed and evaluate the results.

However, the pretext of extraordinary circumstances is not enough for the State or the private sector to collect personal data without offering minimum guarantees of transparency about the correct use that they will give to the information. In this sense, I sincerely hope that, at the end of the pandemic, the development of applications for the collection and processing of personal data where privacy is guaranteed by design is normal, that is, configured by default, for example, through anonymization or pseudonymization of data.

In fact, in the case of developments carried out by the State, I consider that privacy by design and by default is even part of the principle of legality that legitimizes this action. Therefore, another issue arises here that demands an independent and specialized public control in the protection of personal data.

In short, the most effective motivator to position digital transformation as a priority issue in the State has been the health crisis. However, it should be seen not only as an exceptional response in times of contingency, but also as a general rule to be consolidated as soon as we overcome the pandemic. At that time, the public control bodies will need to intervene in different, more complex, politically uncomfortable scenarios, but where they are essential guarantors for the effectiveness of public policies and respect for the dignity and rights of all people, by the authorities on duty.

About the author

Rodolfo Herrera Bravo is a lawyer and academic specialized in Law and New Technologies at various universities in Chile. He holds a Master’s Degree in Computer Law from Universidad Complutense de Madrid and a Master’s Degree in Constitutional Law from Universidad Católica de Chile (in the degree process).

Currently, he is a founding partner at the law firm Rodolfo Herrera y Asociados Ltda. and is a lawyer in charge of Transparency, Lobbying and Data Protection at the Directorate of Public Procurement and Contracting of Chile (ChileCompras).

Previously, he was Ministerial Coordinator of Transparency at the Ministry of Education, Legal Manager at Pallavicini Consultores, Managing Partner at Pallavicini Capacitación, worked at the Legal Division of the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic and was a Scholar at the Data Protection Agency of Madrid.

His achievements include his role as Counselor of the Chilean Institute of Law and Technologies, as a founding partner of the Chilean Law and Informatics Association, he was President of the Association of Lawyers of the Office of the Comptroller General, he was Director of the Contemporary Public Law Review and Director of the Ad Libitum Law Review.

László Domokos
President of the State Audit Office of Hungary

Between 9 and 11 September 2020, with the cooperative support of the EUROSAI-OLACEFS General Secretariat and Governing Board, State Audit Office of Hungary hosted more than 200 SAI representatives from 56 countries in the framework of the IX. EUROSAI-OLACEFS Joint Conference. After a long time, the three-day event broke the professional silence caused by the coronavirus pandemic and provided an opportunity for the Supreme Audit Institutions of Europe and South America to have their voices heard, conducting value-creating professional debates and exchange of good practices on boosting their impact.

In response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s conference was held in an online format to ensure the highest possible level of safety for the SAIs of the two continents enabling them to share their mutual experience and good practices in a wider range.

The Conference kicked off with an official opening ceremony where participants could hear inspiring speeches from the President of EUROSAI, Seyit Ahmet Baş, President of OLACEFS, Nelson Eduardo Shack Yalta and the President of the State Audit Office of Hungary, László Domokos. The Presidents’ welcome speeches were followed by a series of exciting presentations.

The first round of panel discussions focused on “Enhancing Measurement Methodologies. Participants were discovering the scope of opportunities available to measure good governance and the range of possible constraints and challenges one needs to face with when dealing with this question.

The second round of panel discussions similarly addressed substantive issues such as the role of prosecutors, criminal prosecution and anti-corruption methods, entitled “Prosecution – Criminal Prosecution, Anti-Corruption – Possible Defense Methods and Approaches.”

The third round of panel discussions centered around „The role of Supreme Audit Institutions in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, while the last round of panel discussions on the second day of the Conference focused on “Digitalisation of Media and Technology in the Work of the Courts of Auditors”.

On the final day of the joint conference – during the plenary – the results of panel discussions and workshops were synthetized in forms of e-posters, of which help the conference moderator summarized the key conclusions.

Today’s virtual meetings have replaced almost all international conferences with physical presence, overshadowing their personal atmosphere. State Audit Office of Hungary with the helping hand of EUROSAI-OLACEFS, set themselves the objective with their programs to make the members of the international community of SAIs gaining strength both professionally and humanly during the three day time spent together after the difficult pandemic period.

The transition to work at home and the establishment of the digital control environment as a result of the pandemic took place from one week to the other. During this time, we quickly and extensively gained experience, managed risks and, of course, where we could, took advantage of the new opportunities. Therefore, I think the exchange of knowledge and the idea of sharing good practices gained even more emphasis.

I am convinced that performance measurement models provide directions while indicators reflect results, successes and areas for improvement. Therefore, each institution must pay special attention to measuring its own performance ensuring that the real value of work can be increased while efficiency is strengthened and maintained. Thereby, the drive for improvement, regularity and performance are essentials to the better use of public money, promoted by SAI recommendations.

Although the IX. EUROSAI-OLACEFS Joint Conference is concluded, the joint work and the newly formed cooperation between continents are only beginning. During the conference, we learned that geographical distance should not stand in the way of SAIs cooperation. EUROSAI-OLACEFS General Secretariat and Governing Board deserve special praise for their active contribution to the success of the online conference.

I strongly believe that international community of SAIs proved again that our mutual cooperation stands on a solid ground even in difficult times.

About the author

László Domokos graduated as a certified economist being member of parliament between 1998-2010. Since 2010 he is the President of the State Audit Office of Hungary, also holds the presidential position of the Drafting Committee of the Public Finance Quarterly and the Association of Hungarian Financial and Economic Auditors. Becoming member of the Fiscal Council and author of the book entitled „About the sustainable good governance” in 2017 he received his doctorate dealing with the professional topic of supporting good governance through the renewal of SAI activities. President Domokos is the honorary doctor of Miskolc University and Nanjing Audit University.

Braulio Ortiz Navarro
Executive Secretary of the COSOC-CGR
Head of Technical Secretariat COSOC and Citizen Participation Unit, CGR Chile

The world faces a period of unprecedented changes in terms of cultural and migratory phenomena, scarcity of natural resources, climate crisis, among others and, without a doubt, the fastest are occurring in information technologies and robotics, where the multiplicity of connections has become exponential and with it, the whole society has embarked on a new way of relating. (Oszlak, 2020) Thus, Supreme Audit Institutions find it necessary to adjust their work to the new times where the acceleration of these changes can cause enormous impacts on fiscal control.

These adjustments should be installed in a world that has changed, where “the normality of things” does not predominate since the uncertainty and complexity of the environment, especially in people, are producing obsolescence in certain forms of work, as well as forms of empowerment with which the current social fabric has been built and which led to a need for greater transparency in decisions and accountability in the use of fiscal resources. That is why the relationship with citizens is essential in complex environments and at chaotic times, since the information provided by society is much faster than any control process.

In this uncertainty, it is possible to identify certain ways of doing things that lead to reconfiguring the relationship between citizens and organizations, establishing themselves as natural allies to fight corruption, even though this also presents challenges. First, it must be recognized that it is not so easy to coordinate all the actors to share a single strategy and that, even when it is possible to agree, the resources to carry out consensual actions are limited. On the other hand, it would seem that corruption, through temptations and threats, is faster and manifests itself in a more versatile way than control mechanisms, which is why a joint effort is necessary to take care of everyone’s assets. Finally, it would seem that citizen participation, accountability and transparency are the best tools for enhancing the legitimacy of the institutions, provided that they produce the effects for which they are called upon.

In the case of Supreme Audit Institutions, and especially the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Chile, the need is established to rethink the relationship with its stakeholders, to lead by example and transmit the message to everyone, in a simple way, on the fundamentals of coordinating efforts to combat corruption and the misuse of public resources; therefore, the challenge is to permanently build relationships of trust and collaboration with citizens, being effective and responsible for the collective effort, to serve the whole society through an autonomous audit.

Currently, citizen participation in the Office of the Comptroller is of a strategic nature that permeates the entire organization and where initiatives are increasingly proliferating that determine the willingness of people and civil organizations to collaborate in institutional work, as well as contribute to a culture of probity, even though by law it is not required to have such mechanisms.

Thus, in accordance with this institution’s commitment to the Punta Cana Declaration, in order to achieve the highest standard, a series of measures have been implemented to cover all levels of maturity, coordinating the various initiatives for connecting with citizens, providing them with institutional rationality and strategic vision.

A reflection of this is the massive use of the online complaint form, which includes, on the one hand, the possibility of anonymous audit suggestions and, on the other, the filing of complaints with the possibility of reserving one’s identity. In a general framework, it is possible to visualize an increase in these by 28% between 2018 and 2019, and considering the entire history of the portals, since 2012, the average year-to-year variation is a 41% increase. Also, of the 4,015 audit products of varying complexity carried out last year, 71% originated from citizen complaints.

On the other hand, in terms of care mechanisms, playful strategies have been implemented in  social networks  for the creation of content tailored to various audiences in order to disseminate audit reports and support content for civic education, duties and rights of officials, among others, achieving a dissuasive effect. At the same time, spaces of Proactive transparency have been developed, providing information of interest on internal budget management in open data format, and complemented with clear language initiatives, such as the Frequently Asked Questions space that consolidates more than 250 questions from the State Administration and the functions of the Office of the Comptroller General.

As for the intermediate level, the Center for State Administration Studies provides an external training structure to collaborate with the administration and the citizenship through various types of courses, free of charge and remotely.

Finally, the existence of the Council of Civil Society Associations  and the Community of Citizen Comptrollers has collaborated in opinions and perceptions that have led to working roundtables or workshops which have allowed to improve and co-create initiatives of citizen involvement, managing to generate a new collaborative approach with other spaces for citizen advocacy, promoting an exchange with civil organizations specialized in certain matters and citizenship in general.

Naturally, there are spaces to continue advancing in the relationship with citizens and to continue contributing with the concept of safeguarding public resources. For this, the products must continue to be refined for different users and their instances of participation in the audit cycle, continuing with the commitment to actively participate in the Open Government Roundtable in Chile in its fifth action plan, and deepen coordination of efforts to audit and follow-up on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Bibliography

ISSAI 12 – The Value and Benefits of Supreme Audit Institutions – making a difference to the lives of citizens

Oszlak, O. (2020). The State in the exponential era. Buenos Aires. National Institute of Public Administration

Ramírez, A. and Barria, D. (2020). Citizen participation in the administration of the State Is participatory evaluation a viable alternative? Chilean Journal of State Administration N° 3

About the Author

Braulio Ortiz Navarro is a Master in Government and Public Management and Public Administrator from Universidad de Chile. He currently serves as COSOC Executive Secretary, head of the Citizen Participation Unit, dependent on the Cabinet of the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Chile. He has experience in public sector bodies and supreme audit institutions. In the public sector, he carried out functions in the Ministry General Secretariat of the Government, as an advisor to transparency law. In the field of supreme audit institutions, he has performed functions in the Audit Division and Cabinet of the Comptroller General, establishing the policy of citizen participation of the Office of the Comptroller and its relationship with external stakeholders.

Marcos Mendiburu
Specialist in transparency, accountability and open government

In the current situation generated by the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens have highlighted the importance of external auditing in various countries in the region. By way of illustration, in Argentina, the NGO Poder Ciudadano (chapter of Transparency International) demanded – albeit unsuccessfully – of the General Audit Office of the Nation of Argentina (AGN), that the procurement made to face the pandemic be incorporated into its current audit plan in accordance with decrees and provisions issued by the Executive Branch, while establishing a purchasing observatory associated with COVID-19. Meanwhile, the Fundación Observatorio Fiscal de Chile developed a microsite on purchases associated with COVID-19. And the meeting of the Consejo Consultivo de Asociaciones de la Sociedad Civil (COSOC), organized – for the first time in a virtual way – by the General Comptroller of the Republic of Chile last April, discussed the role of the Comptroller in the context of the pandemic. In Brazil, the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU) and Transparency International-Brazil published a guide on recommendations for emergency procurement for COVID-19.

Despite the interest of civil society (organized or not) in collaborating with Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), there is still an important road ahead in the region. In my recent analysis regarding the panorama of citizen participation in external auditing, I conclude that the incorporation of the term “citizen participation,” as an element for auditing, has advanced faster than its effective implementation.

More than two decades after the first reference to citizen participation in a declaration of the OLACEFS General Assembly, questions remain: how and to what extent has progress been made in promoting citizen participation by SAIs? and what are the results to date? In other words, what is the scope and depth of said citizen participation in the audit processes.

The implementation of citizen participation practices varies significantly among SAIs. In many cases, it is still limited to a narrow exercise – generally to a single type of practice and/or promoting participation during a specific phase of the audit cycle. Furthermore, most SAIs lack a true strategy – with specific objectives, instruments and result indicators – on citizen participation linked to broader organizational and learning processes within the institution.

With respect to the scope of citizen participation in auditing regarding the audit cycle, with exceptions, there is a significant deficit in practices and experiences of participation in SAIs during the execution and follow-up phases of the findings and recommendations issued by the SAIs. This limitation is significant because it is related to the corrective actions of the institutions in response to the audit findings. Regarding the depth of citizen engagement in the audit, there is an emphasis on the use of complaint channels – although there is a lack of evaluation of their effectiveness – and the dissemination of audit reports, followed by citizen awareness or training. However, according to the maturity model on citizen participation proposed by the Declaration of the OLACEFS General Assembly of Punta Cana in 2016, the practice of citizen complaints is associated with the basic level. Furthermore, it is questionable to consider the dissemination of audit reports as a participation practice, given the passive role of citizens and their minimal involvement. On the other hand, SAIs tend to promote practices of a consultative nature rather than practices of a collaborative nature, unlike other innovative spaces for participation such as, for example, the Alliance for Open Government.

Finally, the number of SAIs employing new information and communication technologies to strengthen participation and collaboration with citizens is limited, beyond the use of online complaint reporting channels and social networks to disseminate information. The potential of these tools remains unexploited.

However, the follow-up report to the Punta Cana Declaration of the OLACEFS General Assembly of 2016, recently published by the OLACEFS Citizen Participation Commission (CPC), demonstrates opportunities for progress on this issue. Of the 18 member SAIs that responded to the questionnaire, more than half of the SAIs reported that citizen participation in their institution is associated with the basic or low level of the maturity model, while 67% (i.e., 12 SAIs) reported that they have not carried out promotion activities within the institution on the maturity model and its four levels of citizen participation.

In conclusion, documentation, research and learning are necessary to stimulate innovation and strengthen existing participation practices. The health and human crisis generated by the pandemic should not relegate the role of society in fiscal control. On the contrary, more than ever, the centrality of participation to achieve effective auditing that contributes to improving the lives of citizens in the region is evident.

The working document “Citizen Participation and Supreme Audit Institutions in Latin America: progress or impasse?” examines good practices and raises questions and areas of opportunity to strengthen participation in audit processes. The International Seminar on this topic, which will be held from September 2-4, will provide an opportunity to continue deepening the regional debate on the topic.

About the Author

Marcos Mendiburu has a Master in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh. Consultant and specialist in transparency, accountability and open government. He has worked with various civil organizations, foundations, governments and international bodies. He has various publications. In 2018 and 2019, he coordinated the training program for public servants on citizen participation in auditing, jointly offered by the Citizen Participation Commission of the OLACEFS Civil Association for Equality and Justice (ACIJ) of Argentina. Previously, Marcos worked for 16 years at the World Bank, where he served as a Senior Governance Specialist. He recently published the study Citizen participation in Supreme Audit Institutions in Latin America: Progress or Impasse?

Ms. Sumaya Abdulla Al Marzooqi
Head of Institutional Development & International Relations
Supreme Audit Institution of United Arab Emirates

There is no escape from impact of technology on our lives. While it is an enabler for productivity, it is also a truth that losing pace with technological progress can severely impact a profession. Many professions are being radically redefined by technology and new professions are emerging that have their roots firmly in new emerging technologies.

Public sector auditing is no exception to this statement. New technologies like Blockchain, machine learning and artificial intelligence are on the cusp of transforming the accounting and auditing profession, much like every other sphere of life. A 2019 Global Blockchain survey by accounting firm Deloitte found that a majority 53 percent respondents are of the view that Blockchain is of critical importance for their organization. 83 percent of the respondents consider that there are compelling use cases for Blockchain.

It was this understanding that INTOSAI community established a dedicated Working Group on Impact of Science and Technology on Auditing (WGISTA) at INCOSAI 2019. The working group is chaired by SAI UAE and vice-chaired by SAI USA with 17 members and 5 observers.

WGISTA is an expression of INTOSAI community’s resolve to keep pace with rapid technological advancement. Primarily, WGISTA has been created to ensure SAI community’s timely and appropriate response to these two challenges that disruptive technologies are producing:

  • How to audit governments’ treatment of these developments in their policies, regulations, and other relevant programs
  • How to develop and maintain relevant expertise at SAIs for audit of these developments, at the same time embedding technology at working of SAIs

Within the broad framework of these two challenges, INTOSAI framed the following strategic objectives of WGISTA:

  • Work closely within INTOSAI and with key external stakeholders,
  • Conduct environmental scanning to identify key issues in science and technology that will affect governments and their auditors,
  • Assess and share best practices in auditing governments’ response to developments in science and technology,
  • Assess and share best practices in developing and maintaining expertise within SAIs and applying science and technology in their auditing,
  • Identify competencies required by SAIs and auditors to incorporate rapid developments in science and technology,
  • Strengthen cooperation among SAIs and other relevant entities with a shared interest in this subject matter, and
  • Create a list or database of experts or consultants that can be shared and used by INTOSAI members and Regional Organizations.

WGISTA is the youngest of the working groups of INTOSAI but it has made steady progress since its inception. With membership from almost all INTOSAI regions and mainstream accounting bodies, it is well positioned to provide strategic input and advice to INTOSAI community on impact of emerging technologies on public sector auditing.

Recently we have concluded a survey among our members to understand the strategic direction that our member SAIs are headed with respect to science and technology. We are currently consolidating responses to our survey and hope to share our report in due course of time.

WGISTA has scheduled its virtual inaugural meeting for 16th September 2020. The meeting will discuss the future work plans of WGISTA within the framework of ToRs approved by INTOSAI.

We believe in knowledge sharing and cooperation for development of public sector profession. WGISTA welcomes professional engagement with public sector auditing stakeholders and other relevant professional bodies.

To know more about WGISTA, please visit us at https://wgista.saiuae.gov.ae/

María Gabriela Mesías Zambrano
María Isabel Vásquez Paredes
Chair of the Working Group Specialized in the Fight against Transnational Corruption (GTCT)
Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Ecuador

The illegal wildlife trade has become one of the global environmental crimes that puts the natural assets of many communities at risk, potentially killing off species or bringing them closer to extinction and, in turn, it becomes the heart of what concerns the sustainable development of humanity clearly addressed by the 2030 Agenda adopted within the framework of the United Nations in 2015. This crime or offense is committed by anyone who extracts, collects, transports, commercializes or possesses wildlife species through capture, hunting or collection, in contravention of national and international laws and treaties.

This type of trafficking has a much wider and increasingly global scope, which threatens both the human population and ecosystems. In regions such as Latin America and Asia, this type of activity poses a risk to the conservation of wildlife ecosystems (Nijman, 2010). In this sense, it is important to note that Latin America is a region that is home to 40% of the world’s biodiversity and about 25% of endangered species, according to the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)(Romo, 2019); biological wealth that attracts wildlife traffickers because, the rarer the species, or fewer of these that exist, the higher the price.

In recent years, the participation of organized crime in this chain has increased significantly, representing profits that subsidize other illicit activities and becoming a complex problem requiring urgent action (WWF/Dalberg, 2012). According to research, illicit trafficking has become a means of financing terrorist groups, guerrillas, civil conflicts, among others. In this regard, INTERPOL has studied how these organizations, when they are aware of the jurisdictions or lack of controls over the officials responsible, make use of this information to continue the trafficking as well as the process of money laundering, arms trafficking, among others (INTERPOL, 2020). However, as explained by WWF/Dalberg (2012, pp. 11-13), this trade becomes of greater interest due to the low risk and high profits compared to drugs, occupying fourth place in relation to organized crime. However, “drugs and human trafficking are receiving far more attention than illicit wildlife trafficking.”

As mentioned, this activity also triggers actions that put human health at risk; the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has pointed out that 70% of new diseases that have emerged in humans in recent decades are of animal origin (FAO, 2013); the contagion of these diseases can occur through bites, scratches, contact with salivary or mucous excretions, contact with urine or feces and contact with blood fluids. Thus, the current global health crisis has rekindled concerns regarding the relationship between human health and illicit trafficking in wildlife animals. Although the host animal that transmitted the new coronavirus (SARS-COV-2) that gave rise to COVID-19 disease has not been identified with complete certainty, it has been recognized that the virus originated from a wild animal that was placed on the market in China. Therefore, the risk of illegal markets for the transmission of zoonotic diseases (any type of disease that an animal can transmit to a human being) is undeniable.

As a transnational crime operating in networks with suppliers and consumers, cooperation and collaboration is needed at both the national and international levels, between different government bodies, non-governmental organizations and citizens.

Governments in countries affected by the illicit trafficking chain should improve the rule of law, create or strengthen deterrence mechanisms, allocate resources to combat wildlife crime, specifically in strengthening environmental enforcement, trade controls and customs controls, and commit to a zero-tolerance policy on corruption. At this point, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife (CITES) becomes a reference point for how to proceed with the sustainable trade in species, subjecting this activity to certain controls depending on the type of species to be traded.

Figure 1 Wildlife trafficking Value Chain

Taken from WWF/Dalberg The Fight against Illicit Wildlife Trafficking (2012, p. 11).

Faced with this reality, Supreme Audit Institutions can collaborate in the process of strengthening the environmental governance of countries, both at the level of effective external control of public funds intended for the protection and safeguarding of endangered species, and in the provision of good practices to audited entities in the environmental field with the aim of improving their operation. Likewise, this discussion, carried out at the State level, requires the involvement of these entities in order for compliance with existing controls and so that the prevention or mitigation system can highlight corruption problems.

In this regard, within the Latin American and Caribbean Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions, the Working Group Specialized in the Fight against Transnational Corruption (GTCT) worked with the financing of the German Cooperation – GIZ, in a consultancy to visualize and strengthen the role of Supreme Audit Institutions in the prevention and/or mitigation of the effects of corruption in the commission of environmental crimes with a focus on illicit wildlife trafficking. This consultancy culminated in a webinar held on August 19, 2020, where, in addition to presenting the results, representatives of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shared their views on the role of SAIs in improving environmental control and highlighting the nexus of crimes such as illegal species trafficking with transnational acts of corruption. Furthermore, inter-institutional and international cooperation became more evident in that area as a means of combating such crimes.

Bibliography

FAO. (2013). World Livestock 2013 – Changing disease landscapes. Rome.

INTERPOL. (2020). Wildlife Crime. Retrieved from https://www.interpol.int/Crimes/Environmental-crime/Wildlife-crime

Karesh, W., Cook, R., & Newcomb, J. (2005). Wildlife Trade and Global Disease Emergence. doi:10.3201/eid1107.050194

Nijman, V. (2010). An overview of international wildlife trade from Southeast Asia Vincent Nijman. Springer. doi:10.1007/s10531-009-9758-4

Romo, V. (2019, October). Latin America recognizes wildlife trafficking as organized crime. Chinese Dialogue. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://dialogochino.net/es/sin-categorizar/30761-america-latina-reconoce-el-trafico-de-vida-silvestre-como-crimen-organizado/

WWF/Dalberg. (2012). Combating Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife: A Consultation with Governments. Retrieved from http://awsassets.wwf.es/downloads/wwffightingillicitwildlifetrafficking_spanish_lr.pdf

About the authors

María Gabriela Mesías Zambrano is an attorney with the Courts and Tribunals of the Republic of Ecuador at Universidad Católica de Santiago de Guayaquil. Master of Environment, Human Dimensions and Socioeconomics at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Diploma in Environment and Sustainable Architecture from Universidad de Salamanca. Due to her academic training and experience in Environmental and Animal Law, she has had the opportunity to provide legal advice to both the public and private sectors regarding the protection of rights of nature and urban and wildlife animals. She has been visiting professor in Environmental Law and Agrarian and Natural Resources Law at Universidad de Guayaquil (2017-2018), Ecological Law and Law of Mines and Hydrocarbons at Universidad Tecnológica ECOTEC (2016-2017), professor at the training event “Environmental Crimes” organized by the Directorate of the School of Prosecutors of the Office of the Attorney General. She currently serves as the OLACEFS liaison of the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Ecuador.

María Isabel Vásquez Paredes has a degree in Political Sciences and International Relations from Universidad Casa Grande. Master’s degree in International Relations with a specialization in Security and Human Rights from FLACSO. Fellow of the Program Management Research Trends: Nurturing Innovation of the UAM and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. Fellow of the Program for the Strengthening of the Civil Service in Latin America. Supervisory expert of the National Coordination of International Affairs of the Office of the Comptroller General of Ecuador. Within the framework of the Working Group Specialized in the Fight against Transnational Corruption, she coordinated the consultancy of illicit wildlife trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean, an activity that was financed by the German Cooperation – GIZ and executed by the environmental expert, María de los Ángeles Barrionuevo.

Marie-Hélène Bérubé
Program Officer, Gender Equality and Ethics, International Programs
Canadian Audit & Accountability Foundation (CAAF)

Kate Gertz
Communications and Reporting Officer, International Programs
Canadian Audit & Accountability Foundation (CAAF)

To hold governments accountable for the commitments they’ve made to the Sustainable Development Goals and gender equality, we’re stronger together—with legislative auditors, elected oversight bodies, and citizens and civil society organizations (CSOs) all playing a role.

Legislative auditors in many countries are considering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and beginning to conduct performance audits that examine how their governments are implementing the SDGs. (Read more about their recent findings in Are Nations Prepared for Implementation of the 2030 Agenda?). However, without the involvement of citizens and CSOs, the accountability process is missing an important voice. Particularly when it comes to the SDGs and gender equality—which are new topics for most audit institutions and oversight bodies—citizens and CSOs have important expertise to contribute.

As the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation (CAAF) has seen in some of our recent research, audit institutions are increasingly interested in engaging citizens in their work. The input of citizens and CSOs can strengthen performance audits, for instance by helping audit institutions to identify relevant topics to audit, giving them access to new perspectives and expertise, and enabling them to better understand how government programs are impacting citizens, including in vulnerable and marginalized populations. As well, citizens and CSOs have the power to increase the reach and impact of audits, by raising the visibility of audits and applying pressure on government to implement audit recommendations.

Engaging with audit institutions and elected oversight bodies also presents opportunities for citizens and CSOs to work towards their own advocacy and accountability objectives. For example, they can build upon audit findings to promote advocacy strategies aligned with their priorities, ensure auditors are aware of the issues that matter to them, and help give a voice to vulnerable and marginalized populations who may otherwise may not be heard in the accountability process.

Greater engagement of civil society in the accountability process is therefore a win-win that can improve the work of audit institutions and oversight bodies and help CSOs meet their goals. And when they work together to hold governments accountable for the SDGs and gender equality, all citizens benefit from stronger accountability.

To support this engagement, CAAF is developing a series of publications called Collaborating for Change. These publications will provide CSOs with information, strategies and tools to effectively engage with audit offices and oversight bodies to hold government accountable for the SDGs. This series will also be helpful for audit offices that are looking to collaborate with CSOs and other stakeholders.

We launched this project at a side event at the 2019 Women Deliver Conference, bringing together citizens, CSOs, audit institutions and elected officials to explore opportunities for collaboration. We are working in partnership with Women Deliver to develop these publications and benefiting from the input of many organizations including OLACEFS, the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic of Chile, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, International Budget Partnership, the INTOSAI Development Initiative, and the Office of the Auditor General of Alberta.

The first publication of the series, Understanding Performance Audit, is now available. It explains the basic concepts of performance auditing for CSOs who are unfamiliar with the work of audit offices. It also describes the complementary roles of CSOs and auditors in holding governments accountable for their promises to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

We are now writing the second publication of this series, which will include strategies, tools and case studies that will help CSOs engage with audit offices. The third publication will apply the key strategies learned in the two previous publications to SDG 5: Achieving gender equality.

We’re looking forward to publishing the second and third publication of this series in 2020/21 and to sharing them with CSOs and audit offices around the world through a range of activities and tools—webinars, presentations at international events, an introductory video and more. Watch our website, and Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for all the latest on the Collaborating for Change series.

About the Authors:

Marie-Hélène Bérubé, 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.

Kate Gertz is the International Programs Communications and Reporting Officer at the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation. Her role is to inform Canadians of our international work and to update our Canadian and international stakeholders on our activities.

Erwin Alberto Ramirez G.
Director of the Project for Strengthening External Control in the Environmental Area
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Germany and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are signatories to international agreements and voluntary commitments to protect biodiversity, as well as to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change. To achieve these goals, which are included in the 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international agreements, the involvement and collaboration of complex structures within States, including public bodies, the private sector and civil society, as well as the participation of international organizations, is essential. This becomes relevant when pursuing the sometimes contradictory objectives of economic growth, environmental protection and social development.

In this sense, in recent years, the German development policy has been oriented towards improving the overall environmental, social, economic and political framework conditions to eliminate the causes of poverty and promote sustainable global development. In Latin America and the Caribbean, since 2012, the German Cooperation, through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, has forged a strategic alliance with the OLACEFS, which has favored the development of technical capacities, the exchange of experiences, and greater visibility of products and services to society by the member Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs).

Moreover, in 2016, the German Cooperation, the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU) of Brazil and the OLACEFS signed a Technical Cooperation Agreement and a Memorandum of Understanding, respectively, to contribute, through the Regional Project Strengthening External Environmental Control (video), to environmental governance and the good management of public financial resources applied in the sector. Since then, joint efforts have been made to contribute to the strengthening of processes and development of models, methodologies and tools to support environmental auditing, and also to the efficient, effective and transparent implementation of the 2030 Agenda. A particular example is the work on the role and methodologies for external control to prevent or mitigate the effects of wildlife trafficking.

This partnership has also contributed to the implementation and promotion of innovative mechanisms for cooperation and knowledge exchange among member SAIs, as well as improving the supply of their capacity building services. The efforts for distance training stand out, with the results of the massive open online courses (MOOCs) on performance auditing, as well as on the role of the SAIs in the implementation of the SDGs, in addition to the virtual courses on the design of communication strategies for audit products and on the auditing of protected areas. In addition, exchange and learning forums on sustainable development have been promoted with ECLAC, IUCN and other organizations.

The coordinated audits supported (on protected areas, renewable energy in the electric power sector, the readiness of governments in Latin America and the Caribbean to implement the 2030 Agenda, cross-border governance policies, as well as mining environmental liabilities) deserve special attention because they are based on a collaborative model of capacity development, in which – as has already been explored in another blog – the different SAIs involved participate in a training process that seeks to standardize their capacities in performance audits and on the topic to be addressed, always paying special attention to the integration of cross-cutting issues related to the SDGs.

No less relevant are other benefits of this technical cooperation which include methodological innovation, internalization and replication of acquired knowledge, capacity building and application of new tools to modernize the work of external control. Leveraging new digital technologies for improved public management by SAIs has become an issue of greater importance, as addressed at the XXIII INTOSAI Congress in September 2019. In this area, the development of a tool for (self) assessment of the level of maturity on the use of information technologies, as well as the promotion and training on the use of multicriteria spatial analysis, drones and geotechnologies, have been an innovative component in which positive progress has been made. This is exemplified in the Capacity Building Program on the use of Geotechnologies, which was conceived on the basis of a regional Training Needs Diagnosis and incorporates various activities of awareness-raising, face-to-face and virtual training (in ICTs, drone use, multicriteria spatial analysis and even artificial intelligence to assist in the large-scale audit process) and disclosure on the matter, in addition to the International Seminar on Data Analysis.

In addition, a key area of work has been the strengthening of strategic and differentiated communication of member SAIs with stakeholders (internal and external). The development of an organizational communication strategy with stakeholders in the environmental area is a special example, which has even evolved into the development of methodological guidelines for the effective use of social networks. An additional example is the development of the ODS.OLACEFS application to enhance the monitoring and disclosure of audit recommendations linked to the 2030 Agenda.

As can be seen, this fruitful collaboration with the OLACEFS reflects the contribution and potential of external control to have a favorable impact on sustainable development, with a focus on results, as well as the integration of these developments in the knowledge management and monitoring system of the OLACEFS. This collaboration, furthermore, is aligned with the recognition expressed by the United Nations General Assembly, in its Resolution A/69/228 (December 2014), which highlights the importance of SAIs by “promoting efficiency, accountability, effectiveness and transparency of public administration, which favors the achievement of national development goals and priorities, as well as internationally agreed objectives.”

Finally, I cordially invite you to learn about the portfolio of projects, and approach of cooperation and achievements of the German Cooperation by collaborating with SAIs of other regional organizations. This information is published in the article “SAIs: Important Partners for the German Development Cooperation” published in the Spring edition of the INTOSAI Journal http://intosaijournal.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/INTOSAI-Journal_Spring-2020_Interactive-Version.pdf

About the author:

Since November 2017, Erwin Alberto Ramirez G has been working at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH as Director of the regional project, Strengthening External Environmental Control, commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ) and implemented jointly with the TCU of Brazil and the OLACEFS. From 2003 to 2017, he collaborated with the Superior Audit Office of the Mexican Federation, where he held various positions, including Director of Institutional Relations (international cooperation). He has extensive experience in technical cooperation and coordination of initiatives and working groups within the scope of the INTOSAI, as well as the OLACEFS. He has a degree in International Commerce with a specialty in logistics from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, where he is studying a Master’s degree in Applied Public Management.

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:

  1. Making a decision to carry out the audit;
  2. Search for sponsors;
  3. Selection of the topic;
  4. Formalization of the audit;
  5. Training;
  6. Execution of the audit;
  7. Preparation of the consolidated report;
  8. Disclosure of results;
  9. Assessment;
  10. Monitoring.

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:

OLACEFS Coordinated Audit Manual – Spanish

OLACEFS Coordinated Audit Manual – Portuguese

OLACEFS Coordinated Audit Manual – English

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.

César Abusleme
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
Petra Schirnhofer,
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?

Gender-based Violence

  • 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.

Conclusion

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.

Contacts

Contact Marie-Hélène Bérubé at mhberube@caaf-fcar.ca and Petra Schirnhofer at petra.schirnhofer@idi.no for more information about this article.

Additional Reading

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:

https://contas.tcu.gov.br/ead/mod/page/view.php?id=32179

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12iD1kgIyB0&t=

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.”

Yves Genest
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.

Expect delays.

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.

Sebastián Gil
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:

  1. Implement audits adapted to the current context;
  2. Provide advice on critical rules and regulations;
  3. Conduct real-time procurement audits to verify whether funds are being used in the right way and for the right purposes;
  4. 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;
  5. 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,
  6. 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.

Michael Hix
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.

Enter the website COVID-19 iniciative

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.

See the CTIC Toolbox of Applications that facilitate teamwork.

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