ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT” – SAI VIETNAM

ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT” – SAI VIETNAM


  1. Summary / Introduction

 

About the Program: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted at the 70th session of United Nations General Assembly, and Sustainable Development has become the global development strategy. In that context, each country should choose appropriate development strategies in line with the principle “Think globally, act locally”. The agenda consists of 17 goals, focusing on three pillars: Economy – Society – Environment, five of which (Goals no. 6, 13, 14, 15) are directly related to the environment, and the remaining goals are indirectly related to the environment. This shows that environment plays an important role in sustainable development process. The Agenda brings people, planet and prosperity to action, specifically:

People: We are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfill their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.

Planet: We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.

Prosperity: We are determined to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.

Actions and achievements of Viet Nam: Recognizing the importance of the Program to the socio-economic development, Vietnamese Government has mobilized all resources needed to successfully implement sustainable development goals (SDGs), with a clear focus on environmental protection. On 10 May 2017, the Prime Minister signed the National Action Plan for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which outlines concrete objectives for each phase and assigns tasks to involved ministries and agencies in synchronous coordination and implementation to ensure the success of the program. The results show that both the high growth rate and the balances of the economy are maintained, the budget deficit and national debt are controlled within the safety limit. The government are gradually solving successfully the social problems (hunger and poverty elimination, education development, health care etc.), implementing socio-economic development associated with environmental protection, integrating SDGs into strategies, planning, and socio-economic development program in general and in particular sectors.

The State Audit of Vietnam (SAV), with the task of auditing the management and use of public finance and public assets, has always accompanied the National Assembly and the Government in monitoring and supervising the implementation of the SDGs. In recent years, in addition to its responsibility of verifying the financial situation and contributing to improving the transparency of the national financial system, the SAV always actively does research and learn from the Supreme Audit Institution (SAIs) with considerable experience in environmental auditing in the world through activities such as joining the working group on environmental auditing of INTOSSAI, ASOSAI, training courses, seminars on environmental auditing; establishing environmental auditing department; building targets, strategies, procedures and guidelines on environmental auditing, and implementing audits related to the environmental field in all three types of audit (financial audit, compliance audit and performance audit) with environmental issues of prime concern to the Government and society. The auditing has promptly detected violations in the management and use of natural resources and proposed remedies for the shortcomings and limitations in environmental management, thus protecting the environment. Besides, the SAV also proposed to amend the management documents that are no longer applicable in reality, thereby, creating favorable conditions in the process of implementing environmental protection.

  1. Government’s action towards environmental protection for sustainable development

2.1. Issue plans and strategies for environmental protection and sustainable development.

Since the commitment to achieve SDGs, focusing on environmental protection, the Government has made on-going efforts to develop and integrate environmental protection into socio-economic development plans and strategies. Fully grasping the views and guidelines of the Resolution No. 24-NQ/TW on pro-active adaptation to climate change, strengthening the management of natural resources and environmental protection; on the basis of the Law on Environmental Protection 2014, the Government has issued many relevant documents, remarkably including the 2020 National Environmental Protection Strategy with a vision to 2030 and The National Action Plan for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development; Resolution No. 35/NQ-CP on urgent issues in environmental protection. In addition, Vietnam has established a system of state agencies responsible for environmental management from the central to local level and increased budget spending for environmental protection to ensure sustainable development. Specifically:

National Action Plan for the Implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda: focus on improving the system of criteria and legal documents on environmental protection and sustainable development, further communication and education activities to raise environmental awareness of the whole society, leverage human resources, improve the database system and research, and transfer advanced technology for environmental protection. At the same time, further the monitoring and evaluation of progress of individuals and organizations in environmental protection.

The National Strategy on Environment Protection to 2020, with visions to 2030 of Vietnam, focus on defining specific groups of tasks as the basis for ministries, branches and localities to develop and implement annual environmental protection plans. Specific task groups include: (i) Improvement of the legal documents system for environmental protection and mobilization of environmental protection resources; (ii) Pollution prevention, control and remediation; raising public awareness on environmental protection; (iii) Strengthening biodiversity conservation and adaptation, mitigating climate change; and (iv) International partnerships, scientific research and the transfer of new technologies in environmental protection.

2.2. The achievements of the Government

– A system of viewpoints, guidelines, policies, laws and technical regulations has been amended, improved, and able to meet the requirements of environmental protection; the State organizational apparatus on environment protection has been consolidated from the central to local level; and state management capacity of cadres and civil servants has also increased. Also, the government has mobilized financial, scientific, technological and internationally cooperative resources as well as called for the participation of organizations and communities to environmental protection.

– A sense of responsibility and compliance with legislation on environmental protection at managerial and community levels is enhanced, especially in jointly participating in the environmental assessment of strategic projects, planning projects and development investment programs; inspecting and verifying environmental impacts before the projects are put into operation; reviewing, evaluating and classifying polluting sources or sources of adverse impacts to the environment; thoroughly handling bodies that induces  serious environmental pollution; monitoring the import of scraps; supervising the source, storage, transportation and hazardous waste treatment; inspecting and handling violations of the law on environmental protection; fighting against environmental crime; monitoring areas with many polluting points, (river basins, craft villages, urban areas, industrial zones); implementing programs and projects on the collection and treatment of urban waste water; collecting, recycling and treating household solid waste; mitigating pollution, renovating and restoring the environment; providing clean water and ensuring environmental sanitation; protecting forest and reforesting, implementing nature and biodiversity conservation; responding to global environmental issues, cross-border environmental impacts; monitoring and reporting on the current situation of the environment;

– Reducing the number and impacts of currently polluting sources or sources of adverse impacts to the environment; reduce scrap imports as an excuse for importing waste; increase the portion of domestic waste water collected and treated; increased the portion of household solid waste collected and recycled; reduce the portion of buried solid waste; better manage hazardous waste through the monitoring of disposal sources, and waste collection, storage, transport and treatment; some contaminated areas have been remedied, rehabilitated and restored; increase ratio of people having access to clean water and sanitation; increase forest coverage and improved biodiversity.

  1. The role of the State Audit of Vietnam in environmental protection for sustainable development

3.1 Roles and responsibilities of SAV

 

The position, function and role of the SAV are laid down in Article No.118 of the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on an independent principle, only complying with the law, with the function of auditing the management, use of public finance, and public assets. Through the environmental audit, the SAV plays the evaluating and supervising role, promptly detecting shortcomings, limitations, and proposing solutions to rectify shortcomings, ensure disciplines and transparency, improve frugality, effectiveness and efficiency in environmental resources management and environmental protection to ensure sustainable development, specifically:

 First: Assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of the legal document system on environmental protection promulgated by state agencies. On that basis, the SAV indicates shortcomings and makes appropriate audit recommendations for the National Assembly, the Government to timely amend legal documents on environmental management to meet the requirements of actual situations. One of the relevant issues that the SAV can prioritize to present in the auditing plan in the coming time is the review and assessment of the Government’s regulations and policies in taking on international commitments that Vietnam Nam has signed such as Paris Agreement at United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) – This is also the goal no.13 in 17 SDGs.

Second: Assess the frugality, effectiveness and efficiency of environmental protection programs, projects and activities. In addition to affirming the accuracy and truthfulness of the program’s financial information, the SAV thoroughly analyzes the results of environmental protection project according to regulations. The SAV will make objective and accurate assessments, provide comprehensive information and propose appropriate recommendations for management agencies to promptly overcome the shortcomings, and improve frugality, effectiveness and efficiency of the implementation process, hence, meeting the environmental protection requirements.

Third: Assess violations of financial legislation and related regulations. Proposing the recovery of the State budget spending that violates rules and regulations in budget expenditures, and other taxes as prescribed by law. Proposing the handling of collective or individual responsibility according to regulations.

Fourth: Enhance openness and transparency in relation to accountability in management and the use of natural resources and environmental protection. Through the auditing activities, the State Audit has made specific recommendations to the audited units to timely overcome and rectify the shortcomings and weakness, ensuring order and discipline in environmental resources management activities and promoting state agencies to improve the quality of management and the use of resources in a cost-effective manner. This is also one of the basic contents of SDG 16: “Building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

Fifth: Study the instruction of INTOSAI, ASOSAI associated with the content of the audit of environmental protection objectives for sustainable development, focusing on auditing the preparation process of the Government in implementing, monitoring and reporting the implementation of natural resources and environmental protection. In particular, the State Audit focuses on reviewing and evaluating the reliability of the information presented in the progress report on the performance of environmental protection to ensure the sustainable development of the Government’s control system.

Sixth: Publicize audit results, request authorized state management agencies to sanction according to regulations, review personal liability and organizations for wrongdoings, transfer investigating auditing findings showing serious signs of environmental protection by agencies and units to the police so as to take strict measures to ensure the deterrence according to regulations.

3.3 Difficulties and challenges

Despite remarkable results achieved during delivering environmental audit, SAV is facing several challenges in reality as follows:

– Cognition and awareness to implement regulations on environmental protection by organizations and individuals as well as corporate social responsibility towards communities is not high. Legal systems and standards on environmental protection are still problematic, infeasible, and challenging for organizations and individual in the process of complying and enforcing laws.

– Environmental audit is a new area which lacks of human resources with knowledge and expertise in environment. Especially, there is no specific guiding tool for environmental auditing to support auditors with directions and methods to approach and apply environmental audits. Therefore, SAVs are gradually developing, improving and consolidating the organization and constantly exchanging lessons learned from SAIs in the community of Supreme audit institutions regionally and globally to enhance their capacity in delivering environmental audits.

– Database systems, information and guidelines materials on environmental audit of SAV are under construction. Most of the audits have been conducted mainly based on the guidance of INTOSAI, ASOSAI, and those of some countries in the world with considerable experience on environmental audits. Parts of the content do not conform to practices and legal systems of Vietnam, so it is difficult to approach, deliver and execute big audits.

– Although in recent years, social awareness of environmental protection has been improved, awareness of environmental protection, awareness and understanding of the role of environmental audit by organizations and enterprises in production business is still limited. As a result, executing audits has not received broad consensus.

3.4 Action plan of SAV

In order to promote well the role of SAV to environmental protection to ensure sustainable development in the future, SAV defines the focus on the implementation of some specific contents as follows:

First, formulate strategic auditing plans and annual auditing plans on the basis of guidelines and policies of the Party and State related to environmental protection. We also need to concentrate resources to conduct audits to evaluate the delivery of SDGs related to environmental protection of the government and localities.

Second, further promoting all three types of audits (performance audit, financial audit and compliance audit) so as to comprehensively assess the management, use of resources and the administrative responsibility towards
environmental protection of governing authorities. This aims at achieving SDGs from the process of preparation,implementation, monitoring and reporting the auditing progress.Third, train, foster and improve the capacity for the team of auditors. At the same time, we should pay attention to strengthening the quality control of
environmental protection from the planning stage of releasing auditing reports and ensuring that the audits strictly comply procedures and standards of SAVs, in line with international practices.Fourth, focus on enhancing accountability and transparency of auditing reports and evaluating and clarifying the performance of task and
responsibilities assigned to agencies and units. These organs have the mission to achieve SDGs as well as defining specific responsibility of other involved agencies
and units in case detecting the flaws and limits that decrease the frugality,effectiveness and efficiency of the audited activities.Fifth, increase international
partnerships; cooperate to participate in scientific research of INTOSAI, ASOSAI on environmental audit; carry out general audits on the topics of environmental audits with SAIs that have strength in environmental audit to learn from their experience; improve the implementing capacity for auditors and the efficiency of auditing activities.

4. Proposal of solutions shared in the Conference to successfully implement the environmental protection for sustainable development

4.1 At the national level – Strictly follow guidelines “Don’t trade off environment for economic development”.
– Increase the propaganda of guidelines and policies of the Party on environmental protection to the entire political system, contributing to raise the awareness of the whole population and political system through various forms such as mass media campaigns, materials, photos and seminars on environment.
– Integrate plans on environmental protection into the plan of socioeconomic development of Ministries, branches, and localities, etc. to stimulate positive changes in the delivery of environmental protection, to promote economic growth associated with environmental protection, and ensure fast and sustainable development.
60 – Build national database system on environment: The government should develop and update the national database system on environment to effectively undertake environmental protection, realizing SDGs. National database system on environment will adequately provide a faithful overview about the environmental situations in
Vietnam. Since then, SAV analyzes, monitors and reviews the progress of implementing SDGs as well as the results achieved. Since then, SAV can defines important issues concerning SDGs that need auditing.
National auditing agencies – Raise the awareness and understanding of environmental audit of organizations and individuals to ensure the best cooperation in the auditing activities; create favorable conditions for environmental auditing and assist these agencies to be aware of the meaning and contribution of environmental audit to environmental protection. Thus, strengthen the position of SAV in environmental protection, ensuring sustainable development.
– Development of strategic plan on environmental audit: to raise awareness  and enhance environmental audit, SAV must build a strategic environmental audit development plan both medium and long term to direct important environmental audit goals, as foundation for building the annual auditing plan. For auditing content that relates to SDGs,when building annual environmental audit plan, SAV should examine factors such as prioritized goals of the government among SDGs, capacity of SAV or professional requirements necessary for the audits, the feasibility of conducting auditing plan in accordance with targeted goals.
– Increase environmental audits,then timely detecting violations in time to timely sanction according to laws, establish disciplines for the mission of environmental protection. Besides, detect unreasonable features of policies related to environmental protection, to timely propose amendments and supplements to relevant content, create favorable conditions for individuals and organizations in the process of implementation,

4.2 At international level- Promote cooperation and sharing of knowledge in the ASOSAI community: Countries in the same regions often have to face similar environmental issues as well as transnational environmental issues. Therefore, organizations and 61 supreme audit institutions should enhance cooperation to promote sharing knowledge through organizations and regional communities such as EUROSAI, ASOSAI, AFROSAI, etc. Vietnam proposes an idea of creating the ASOSAI web portal as an online forum for all SAI members to take advantage of information technology to discuss common concerns. Therefore, minimize the processing time and increase the
quality and efficiency.
– Capacity development cooperation for SAI members: Together with sharing knowledge in the regions, it is necessary to strengthen and promote the capacity development for SAI members. Vietnam proposes to promote knowledge sharing and increase comprehensive capacity in 3 aspects: specialized capacity, organizational capacity; adaptation capacity to external environment. Forms of sharing can be made through multidisciplinary conferences, training courses of multi-national organizations
about environmental-related issues as well as environmental audit.
– Strengthen cooperation among SAIs through organizing joint audits among SAI in the field of environmental audit and SDGs: Another effective approach is the implementation of environmental audit in the form of parallel or general audit among State Audit. This not only contributes to reinforce the mutual understanding among State Audit Offices but also acts as the best approach to increase the competency for nascent State Audit Offices, and help them to learn from experience and practices of prior State Audit Offices in the field of environmental audit, thereby accelerating the progress of developing environmental audit.

References
1. Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,http://www.fmprc.gov.cn, January 13,2016.
2. Answers from the CNAO Responsible Person for the Provisions on the Audit on Natural Resource-Asset Off-office Auditing for Leading Cadres, http://www.gov.cn,
November 28, 2017.
3. Answers from the CNAO Departmental Responsible Person for the Audit Results on Ecological Environmental Protection of the Yangtze River Economic Belt,http://www.audit.gov.cn, June 19, 2017.
4. Announcement of the Audit Results on Ecological Environmental Protection of the Yangtze River Economic Belt,http://www.audit.gov.cn, June 19, 2017.





Leave a Reply