Message from the Chairman

Message from Chairman of ASOSAI

Message from Tan Sri Dr. Madinah Mohamad, Auditor General of Malaysia and Chairperson of ASOSAI


Dear Readers,

In accordance with the theme of the ASOSAI journal on SDGs, I would like to take this opportunity to pen some key points on the role of SAIs in SDGs. Let me first begin with the fact that we all know that the SDGs are built upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which ended in 2015. Significant achievements have been made globally on many of the MDGs targets. However, the progress has been uneven across regions and countries and there are gaps which need to be addressed. The implementation of the SDGs is expected to be a holistic and inclusive global approach focusing on every aspect of social and economic as well as environmental sustainability. In implementing and monitoring the SDGs, the crucial issues that need to be seriously considered by the respective countries relate to:
(i)    Readiness to take up challenges in achieving the set goals and targets;
(ii)    Existence of a country’s implementing and governance structure of the SDGs;
(iii)    Development of the national roadmap in terms of the prioritization of the SDGs to be implemented and;
(iv)    Existence of performance measurement on the achievement of the SDGs and the reporting mechanism.

All SAIs could indeed play a vital role in the implementation and monitoring of the 2030 UN Agenda on Sustainable Development particularly in realizing SDG 16 pertaining to peace, justice and strong institutions. SDGs represent an opportunity for rethinking the engagement of SAIs in auditing government operations and governance issues. Generally, SAIs in the region should work closely with INTOSAI and network with external stakeholders. They should collate information on countries’ baseline to implement, follow-up and review the SDGs and produce a national report. The SAIs should provide education and training activities in order to build SAIs’ capacities and potentially audit the country’s readiness for the implementation, monitoring and follow-up on the SDGs.

Performance audit will be crucial to assess the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the programmes/activities/projects pertaining to SDGs. Some SAIs have previously carried out the performance audits on programmes/activities/projects which are directly or indirectly related to the MDGs though joint/coordinated/cooperative/ parallel audits. These forms of cooperation will be continued in the audit of SDGs. Generally, SAIs should produce periodic reports on the performance audits conducted. However, it should be noted that the envisaged challenges would be concerning the SAIs’ mandates on sharing and publicizing the reports, coordinating the results as well as the resources needed to prepare the reports.

With regard to SDG 16, SAIs should further improve the Public Financial Management (PFM) including the accounting framework. This could be done through active dialogue with respective PFM players, accounting bodies and so forth as well as through exchange of information and best practices among SAIs on PFM. It is timely now for us to consider the possibility of developing a performance management measurement tool to gauge the effectiveness of the financial management of a country. SAI Malaysia for instance, has introduced an objective, quantitative assessment tool known as the Financial Management Accountability Index which has shown significant achievements in the financial management of public funds.

In line with ISSAI 12 and 20, SAIs need to be models of transparency and accountability by reporting on their own performance and operations. To become an effective accountable institution, every region recognises the importance of SAIs having sufficient legal framework and independence which is supported by appropriate resources to fulfill its role. The 2007 Mexico Declaration sets out concrete guidelines on SAI’s Independence. Apart from that, effective government auditing hinges on the adherence to the INTOSAI Code of Ethics and application of professional audit standards including ISSAIs. The importance of SAIs being model institutions raises the question of how to assure the transparency and accountability of SAIs in carrying out their operations. As such, it is important for SAIs to measure and report on their performances.

ASOSAI reaffirm its support of INTOSAI’s proposed initiatives relating to SDGs. We will continue to play an active role in advocating SAIs’ independence due to SAIs’ legal and institutional designs that vary across region. The audits and reviews of SDGs have to be integrated in the mainstream audits which of course will depend on the mandates, strategic priorities and capacities of the respective SAIs. The regions should consider leveraging on new technologies in gathering or analyzing data. Open data, Big Data and data analytics are very useful tools to manage SDGs. Big Data for example, allows for a wider scope and extensive analysis and consequently results in greater operational efficiency in terms of reduced cost and risk. The extent of SAIs’ independence is important for SAIs to contribute effectively in realising the 2030 UN Agenda on Sustainable Development. SAIs must strive for the ideal independence and assistance from INTOSAI and the regions is crucial to address the challenges that SAIs face in the pursuit of independence.

It is important for SAIs to realign their audit plans to cover SDG programmes and projects in a holistic manner. There is a need to prioritise the SDGs to be audited to determine the types of expertise required. SAIs should shift to risk-based analysis to identify high risk SDGs, thus allowing scarce personnel and time to focus on the priority areas. The SAIs should be mandated to conduct performance audits and the SAIs should carry out real time audits on the implementation of the SDGs as appropriate. A review of a country’s long-term development should incorporate SAI audit findings in real time audits in order to provide a balanced picture.

Finally, the Heads of SAIs’ commitment is key to the success of the implementation of SDGs. The Heads of SAIs must formulate strategies to steer the audit on the implementation of SDGs and align to national development goals. Without the leadership commitment, SDGs implementation may not get the priority in the allotment of funding and consequently will affect the implementation of programmes and achievement of targets.

ASOSAI has shown strong support to the achievement of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The audit on the implementation of the SDGs could be carried out in an efficient and effective manner if the fundamental issues are addressed accordingly from the initial stage of SDG implementation. It is envisaged that SDG preparedness will be the focus for much audit work in the next few years. For effective implementation and monitoring of the SDGs, regions should encourage members to engage actively with all SDG related stakeholders such as Heads of Governments, government agencies, institutions of higher learning, donors, international organisations as well as involvement in the regions and INTOSAI activities. SDGs will provide the platform for all future development plans globally until 2030. The regions could make important contributions to the achievement of the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development by promoting and strengthening good governance, transparency, accountability and reporting culture as well as fighting against corruption and fraud.

I hope this edition of ASOSAI journal will be optimized by all readers to enhance their knowledge repository for the benefit of our nations as well as the Asian region.