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.