Transcript of Trust: The ACA Podcast – Season 4|Episode 1: 70 Years INTOSAI
Trust: The ACA Podcast. Much more than figures. With Margit Kraker, President of the Austrian Court of Audit (ACA).
Dear listeners, today, I would like to introduce you to INTOSAI. Why? Because the ACA hosts the headquarters of INTOSAI. INTOSAI is the umbrella organization of Audit Institutions across the globe, the umbrella organization of external government auditing. SAI stands for “Supreme Audit Institutions”. So this means that Supreme Audit Institutions all around the world are represented within INTOSAI.
INTOSAI has been in existence for 70 years. It was formed in 1953 and for 60 years the General Secretariat has been located in Austria. The ACA hosts the headquarters of INTOSAI, which means that the headquarters of this international organization are located in Vienna. This is because Austria hosted a congress in 1963 and the international community was very impressed by Vienna and Austria. But the real reason is also that one of the United Nations’ offices is located in Vienna and that therefore Austria was predestined to host the General Secretariat. This means that the acting president of the ACA also serves as INTOSAI’s Secretary General.
As the Secretary General, I am very happy that INTOSAI counts 195 full members. Additionally, INTOSAI has five associate members and two affiliate members. In other words, it represents a wide diversity of Supreme Audit Institutions. Supreme Audit Institutions can be tasked with different objectives. There are Supreme Audit Institutions with the tasks of an Office, such as the US-American Supreme Audit Institution, the GAO, or the ACA. And there are Supreme Audit Institutions with jurisdictional functions, such as many Supreme Audit Institutions in French- and Spanish-speaking countries. This means that these Supreme Audit Institutions can also impose penalties. In addition, Supreme Audit Institutions differ from one another in the kind of audits they perform. Many Supreme Audit Institutions focus on so-called financial audits, which means that they carry out end-of-year audits of the relevant public entities. Other Supreme Audit Institutions, such as the ACA, focus on performance audits and are therefore also able to assess how appropriately the funds were used. Supreme Audit Institutions differ from one another in terms of their equipment and the size of the state in question. When I think of how many members and how many employees the Supreme Audit Institution of India has, for example. And then there are very small countries and very small states where Supreme Audit Institutions are made up of a few people only. So we are facing a varied spectrum and, of course, different stages in terms of development. Supreme Audit Institutions themselves turn to the INTOSAI Development Initiative in order to receive continuing education and training, to gain know-how by means of a peer review, through different tools, with which Supreme Audit Institutions can be supported, and supported internationally, so that they can fully perform their tasks in their respective states.
Why is INTOSAI important for Supreme Audit Institutions? In their respective states, Supreme Audit Institutions are in fact very exposed institutions, and they are the institutions that have been tasked with auditing in a national state. Certainly, always in different ways. All of these Supreme Audit Institutions have different tasks and competences. But what unites us is that we act as counterparts to governments and that we assess how funds are spent in the respective state. In this context, it is very important for Supreme Audit Institutions to come together and to unite in order to foster an exchange of experience and knowledge. Also in order to mutually strengthen the position of Supreme Audit Institutions. Supreme Audit Institutions have, of course, evolved over time. We apply audit standards, we apply the international audit criteria, the so-called ISSAIs, and we attach great importance to Supreme Audit Institutions being able to exercise their control function without interferences. That is why independence plays a particularly important role for the position of Supreme Audit Institutions at large. Accordingly, I also have to regularly report to the United Nations on the status of the independence of Supreme Audit Institutions: on the current situation, on how it is evolving and on what can actually be done in order to strengthen the independence of Supreme Audit Institutions.
Independence means that the Supreme Audit Institution can publish at any time, and that the Supreme Audit Institution can also choose the topics itself. This is very, very important, but time and again, we experience setbacks in this area. Of course, this is about the appointment of the respective presidents of the Supreme Audit Institutions. The conditions are different in the individual states, also the democratic conditions are very different, but nevertheless, there is a common denominator. And this common denominator of external government auditing is called INTOSAI.
The General Secretariat is, among other things, responsible for forming a communication interface with the United Nations. We are the administrative support unit for INTOSAI’s activities, for the membership fees there are. But we are also a coordination platform, for example, for the Sustainable Development Goals and for audits in connection with the SDGs.
This is because INTOSAI has committed itself to auditing the implementation of the UN Agenda 2030. On the one hand, by auditing the preparedness of governments to implement the Agenda 2030, on the other hand, by auditing specific Sustainable Development Goals. The UN Agenda refers to the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to which the United Nations has committed itself in its resolutions.
The most important goal is SDG 16 which advocates for accountability and transparency, for peace, justice and strong institutions. That is what INTOSAI stands for. We have also developed strategic plans. The strategic plan, which covers the period until 2028, addresses, among other things, the topic of gender equality. This is also a goal that INTOSAI is working towards. The important thing is that, within INTOSAI, ideas are exchanged in different working groups. There are working groups in the environmental field, in the anti-corruption field, there is the Greening SAIs training tool, there are working groups in the fields of IT, data analytics and so on and so forth. All topics that evolve over time on a global scale and represent global challenges are dealt with by INTOSAI.
As the Secretary General, I am personally pleased that the world and the diversity of our globe are represented within the world of INTOSAI as well. A world where you can observe various developments and different stages of government auditing and where you can support their continuous evolution.
On the whole, we exchange ideas at symposia and at the congress. The congress is held every three years. It is called INCOSAI. It is prepared and administered by the Governing Board of INTOSAI. The General Secretariat prepares these Governing Board meetings accordingly. And I think it is nice that we have a participatory approach where all seven global INTOSAI regions work together. The regions, in turn, have their own General Secretariats. In Europe, it is called EUROSAI and its General Secretariat is located in Spain.
I think that, through our international collaboration and cooperation, we can always learn from each other. And this is also the motto of INTOSAI: that by sharing knowledge we can learn from each other and that this benefits all. And INTOSAI has a second goal and another motto, which is “leaving no one behind”. This means that we want to leave no one behind, no Supreme Audit Institution, and that we support one another. That is why we are holding a Festive Event in the Austrian National Council next Monday and I am very happy that this offers us the opportunity to discuss how INTOSAI and Supreme Audit Institutions can contribute to ensuring that the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals are implemented appropriately, to making them a subject of discussion and to monitoring their progress.
We are in the middle of the implementation stage of the Agenda 2030. There are only seven years left until 2030, which is not a long time, and there is a lot to do. And Supreme Audit Institutions will work vigorously to ensure that we can make an adequate contribution to global sustainability at various levels.
I would also like to thank the Austrian National Council for the opportunity to hold this event in the new Parliament building of the Austrian Parliament. This is certainly a very, very beautiful setting that our international guests are already looking forward to.
Before saying goodbye, I would like to point out to you that INTOSAI has its own website, INTOSAI.org. There, you can read up on INTOSAI, its activities and news. I would like to invite you to pay this website a visit.
You can find out more about the ACA at rechnungshof.gv.at as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.