SAIs and Stakeholder engagement – Stakeholders Role in Supporting Oversight Efforts to Achieve SDGs

SAIs and Stakeholder engagement – Stakeholders Role in Supporting Oversight Efforts to Achieve SDGs

Dr. Nawar M. Muneer, Chartered Accountant
Ms. Batool H. Mohammed, Legal Consultant Assistant
Translated by, Ms. Rana Ali
Federal Board of Supreme Audit
Republic of Iraq

(To be a good auditor firstly, I must be a good and cooperative partner with everyone related to my work).

We don’t remember exactly who said this quote, but it carries deep meaning. It requires solid efforts to build trust and communication with stakeholders who have direct and indirect effect on our work.

This necessarily requires institutional communication system based on credibility, objectivity, professionalism and effective partnership in order to develop communication in oversight field, where communication represents exchange of information, thoughts, opinion to perform business in a better way and to make the ideas more understandable at the right time. Therefore, communication is considered a vital nerve and the main engine for any organization and the key element of good implementation of its strategy.

The question is who are the stakeholders that we must communicate with? How do we build an atmosphere of trust with them?

Stakeholders and their role in communication

INTOSAI ISSAI (12) defines stakeholders as (as a person, group, organization, member or system that can affect or can be affected by the actions, objectives and policies of government and public sector entities). From this definition, stakeholders of SAI can be identified more accurately as Parliament, Government, Auditee (Ministries), media, civic organizations, associated SAIs, international organizations, private sector, citizen, students and researchers.

This identification of stakeholders motivates us to conclude that communication is not an end in itself, but it’s a more comprehensive and broader too that aims primarily to achieve the following:-

  • Reporting oversight results comprehensively and transparently that enable related stakeholders to evaluate government entities.
  • Establishing good relations with stakeholders and enhancing it continuously, by assisting those in charge of government entities management to carry out their responsibilities in responding to the results of oversight and recommendations through appropriate corrective actions.
  • Using modern electronic information systems for open interaction with media and other stakeholders.

Perhaps, the major field that SAI can employ its oversight efforts and communication with stakeholders is sustainable development field. The nature of common issues among stakeholders associated with sustainable development requires not only a clear definition of responsibilities, but also a high level of coordination among them, because many issues covered by SDGs are the responsibilities of several ministries of the central government, the local government and others. The government should be well coordinated and integrated to work at all levels in order to implement the policies and achieve the desired results.

Communication fields with stakeholders through oversight process (roles and expectations)

The core of the development process is to follow a participatory approach and identify the aspect of this process and sustainable development events that requires development to achieve serious partnership and effective cooperation among all stakeholders of the state, civic organization, private sector and donors. The responsibility of the state is to realize social and economic benefits, create legislative and legal system, make structural reform and provide infrastructure services. The private sector is given the responsibility of leading the economic growth and create jobs, while the civil society organizations are required to create suitable environment to activate partnership. Finally, the role of donors is to complement these efforts through making available financial resources and technical experiences.

We will highlight the active role of the SAI in communicating with stakeholders involved in the implementation to achieve the SDGs, guided by what is stated in the International Standard No. (5130)  issued by the INTOSAI.

1. The government:  The central body that is concerned with fulfilling international commitments with external bodies, by assessing work frameworks to translate these commitments into reality during the process implementation phase by: –

– Assessing the set national Strategy on public government trends.
– Assessing the set Policies and programs to implement the goals.
The Government’s responsibility involves:

  • Analyzing the overall framework of state policy and its compatibility with the SDGs and the extent of coordination between the strategies and sectoral plans and programs with these objectives taking into consideration environmental and social influences.
  •  Assessing the financial policies to implement SDGs, adequacy of resource allocated, use of public funds, strategies to reduce the cost, rationalize spending and paying attention to social issues and the effectiveness of such policy.
  • Conducting comprehensive evaluation of the current situation in terms of the sustainability of current development patterns, and failures occurring in the policies and the reasons for it.
  •  The Ministries

Through the phase of developing a strategic plan for exercising control in the field of sustainable development, it’s important for SAIs to communicate with executing ministries in order to set general lines and detailed procedures for oversight and to determine scope of audit work by getting acquainted with the policies, programs and project related to SDGs. SAIs need to begin to develop the general outline and the detailed procedures for oversight, determine audit entities to be covered and introduce that in SAI annual strategic works plans to evaluate implementation of SDGs according to the  national programs  prepared by the government

The role of SAI is essential part of stakeholders’ hierarchy roles (government, ministries, citizen), so it becomes necessary to focus on this role and SAI must work in two parallel ways in order to play its role in  achieving SDGs through the following :-

  1. Adopting the approach of performance audit in accordance with the programs and policies when the focus is on the evaluation of projects and policies that a number of ministries are dealing with. For example, if the development objective is to eradicate  hunger and ensuring food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture, it requires cooperation among  several government entities such as the Ministries of Planning and Reconstruction, Municipalities and Health and the Environment, Water resources, Agriculture and Finance.This type of evaluation would find a good means of communication and consultation with the related ministry, the citizens who are recipients of these service, interested civil society organizations and specialists’ researchers to reach specific and effective recommendations.It can also rely on a specific assessment of indicators to measure key areas of sustainable development when the work is primarily handled by one government ministry. For example assessment of the role of the Ministry of Health in the implementation of the development objective to ensure that everyone is living a healthy life, could be carried out to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses and identify areas for improvement.

    b- Field follow-up to find out the reality of the actual implementation of projects to achieve the SDGs. These visits give a closer view of the progress made in achieving the development objective and whether it is responsive to the ambition of the citizen who is one of the major stakeholder and would be a neutral arbiter as the first beneficiary of these projects.

3. International organizations and other SAIs

Here, the focus will be on communication with other SAIs, international organizations and donors to invest human resources and capacity development as well as take advantage of the diversity of cultures and different application policies and work contexts in the audit, which would contribute in supporting expertise and exchange of experiences to get the best practices in applying the United Nations Plan for sustainable development.

Here we refer to the unique experience by a pilot application of the proposed framework  to audit the SDGs, which was developed by SAI Brazil and presented  during INCOSAI Conference in Abu Dhabi / 2016. Our SAI applied the  framework on  two reports  (1. Ministry of Health’s policy in the provision of initial health care and its impact in reducing child mortality under five years of age) and (2. Ministry of Education policy to deal with cases of leakage and the reluctance of students for study) relating to the third and fourth SDGs (health and education)

In all cases, the SAI communication with stakeholders should be credible to make a meaningful dialogue with stakeholders about the SAIs functions and to enhance the government’s performance and to contribute to providing constructive recommendations for the improvement of accountability and transparency.

The references

  • Law No. (31)  2011 of the Federal Board of Supreme Audit.
  • ISSAI 12 – The Value and Benefits of Supreme Audit Institutions – making a difference to the lives of citizens.
  • ISSAI 5130 – Sustainable Development: The Role of Supreme Audit Institutions.
  • The opportunities for the implementation of good practices of governance and accountability for tracking and auditing Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) recently published by (OLACEFS) magazine


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