Representatives of 27 European SAIs outlined the role of the Supreme Audit Institutions for better governance in the public sector

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15.05.2018

The High-level Conference „The Role of the Supreme Audit Institutions in Enhancing Accountability, Transparency and Integrity in the Public Sector”, organised by the Bulgarian National Audit Office under the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union took place on 15 May 2018 in Sofia.

Heads and representatives from 26 European SAIs, including 19 EU Member State SAIs, Heads of SAIs of EU candidate and potential candidate countries and the ECA President Mr. Klaus-Heiner Lehne, took part at the conference.

The Conference was officially opened by Mr. Tzvetan Tzvetkov, President of the Bulgarian National Audit Office, followed by welcome addresses from Ms. Lilyana Pavlova, Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council 2018, and Mrs. Mariya Ilieva – Chairperson of the Public Sector Accountability Subcommittee to the Budget and Finance Committee.

 Mr Tzvetkov pointed out that the aim of this forum is to exchange experience and good practices on implementing the principles of good governance, aimed at improving citizens’ lives and to justify their trust.

The stability and trust in public administration, the integrity and supremacy of the law are impossible without the audit institutions, said Ms. Lilyana Pavlova, Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Mr. Klaus – Heiner Lehne, President of the European Court of Auditors, held a keynote speech.

 „Good governance underpins our citizens’ trust in their institutions. Therefore, our role as auditors should not only be to identify weaknesses; we should also exchange and disseminate good practices for greater accountability, transparency and integrity throughout the public sector. The exchange of good practice between SAIs of the Member States and those of the candidate countries is very much the theme of this conference. We, at the European Court of Auditors are grateful to President Tzvetkov and the Bulgarian National Audit Office for providing us with this opportunity to obtain a clear perspective from the countries of the Western Balkans“, said Mr Lehne.

The Conference consisted of 4 panels. The first panel was dedicated to the institutional independence as a key factor for SAI effectiveness.

„Only independent Supreme Audit Institutions can play an important role in promoting the efficiency, accountability, effectiveness and transparency of public administration - factors, which are also conducive to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Unfortunately, the results of the global INTOSAI Survey in 2017 on the performance and capacities of SAIs revealed that there are some worrisome developments with regard to the independence of SAIs and show that the SAI independence situation is getting worse in comparison to former years. Therefore, INTOSAI and SAIs have taken as series of measures for improvement such as approaching the United Nations asking for their and their Member States' support or launching awareness raising programs regarding the importance of independent SAIs for the benefit of citizens. “, said Mr. Wolfgang Wiklicky, Director General, Austrian Court of Audit.

The second panel focused on the value-driven audits.

The President of the Supreme Audit Office of the Czech Republic, Mr. Miroslav Kala, presentеd the new approaches to audit. These are responses to the conclusions of the X. Congress of EUROSAI in Istanbul and to the social demand for the results of audit activities that emphasize efficient public administration and improve the quality of life of citizens in all areas of sustainable development. There are regional specifics why some topics are more highlighted than others. This, however, does not exclude active cooperation between the Supreme Audit Institutions, which must be based on the principles that support the efficiency of such an activity.

''Supreme Audit Institutions serve as important pillars of national democratic systems and play a key role in strengthening the public sector's performance, highlighting the principles of good governance, transparency and accountability. Taking into account the increased interest of external and internal stakeholders and the increasing scope of audit services provided by the SAI, there is an increasing challenge of showing the values and benefits of the SAIs. Responding to and reacting to a changing environment and  stakeholders' expectations is a key factor in creating a positive difference in the lives of citizens.', said Dusko Pejovic, President of the State Audit Institution and Auditor General”.

Supreme Audit Institutions are currently improving their capacity to offer relevant and timely audit information. In order to respond to the rapid changes in the operating environment new competencies are being developed. For future-proof SAIs, cooperation with peers and stakeholders is vital. National and global networks are platforms that help us build key competences and develop new practices.”, said Tytti Yli-Viikari, Auditor General of Finland.

 „Good governance can be defined as meeting needs in an order of priority considering public preferences and performing public services in an effective, economic and efficient manner in line with ethical principles and accountability. SAIs’ biggest contribution to ensuring good governance happens by strengthening transparency and accountability in fulfilling services and decision-making processes and by presenting violations to the Parliament and public. In line with those principles, the Turkish Court of Accounts (TCA), which is a constitutional entity, conducts its activities with the purposes of submitting reliable and sufficient information to the Turkish Grand National Assembly and the public concerning the activity results of public administrations, as required by the power of the purse; executing public financial management in line with laws, and safeguarding the public resources; evaluating the performance of public administrations; and establishing and extending accountability and fiscal transparency.“, said Seyit Ahmet Bas, President of the Turkish Court of Accounts.

"Kosovo National Audit Office has never had more importance than it has today. The audit institution provides strategic thinking for the future and has set policies and procedures that are designed to promote culture that recognizes good governance", said Besnik Osmani, Auditor General of Kosovo.

During the conference the two heads of the SAIs of the Republic of Turkey,  Mr Sayt Ahmet Bas and the head of  SAI of the Republic of Kosovo, Mr Besnik Osmani, signed a consortium agreement between their institutions.

The third panel of the Conference was dedicated to the administrative capacity modernization of SAIs as an example of good governance in the public sector.

„An important challenge faced by Supreme Audit Institutions is the obligation to constantly communicate with the society - to provide it with credible information on the government's work and its effects, comprehensible for the public opinion. This main objective may be achieved by focusing the planned and already conducted audits on real problems; both of the state and the society, and constantly improving the performance of the institutions that we represent “said Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, President of the Supreme Audit Office of Poland.

The Audit Management System (AMS) provides standardized audit approach and fast and easy access to audit files with online/real-time monitoring of completion of audit plan activities; AMS also offers the possibility of knowledge sharing (learning from experience) among auditors by providing access to available information from previous and current audits; and last but certainly not the least, AMS is a “green” system - it reduces the use of paper to a minimum, thus saving our resources and the environment.”, said Naser Ademi, Deputy Auditor General of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The communication with stakeholders and increasing the trust of the citizens was discussed during the fourth panel. „The importance of cooperation between the supreme audit institution and parliament is reflected above all in the fact that they together make a balanced government accountability system. Through its professional work, the supreme audit institution represents an important partner to the parliament and its contribution is irreplaceable“, said Milan Dabovic, President of the State Audit Institution of Montenegro.

On behalf of the Bulgarian National Audit Office team, I would like to give “big thank you” to everyone who contributed to the success of our conference and supported our initiative for SAIs working together towards improving the life of citizens. I hope that our forum has succeeded to highlight the European perspectives of the countries in our region, as well as to enrich our experience and exchange of audit practices, concluded Mr. Tzvetan Tzvetkov, the BNAO President, at the end of the conference.

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