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The Auditor-General for the Federation, Mr. Anthony M. Ayine, has identified years of weak auditing, especially in developing countries, as the root cause of poor appreciation by citizens of the value and importance of Supreme Audit Institutions for their central role in the accountability cycle across the world. Ayine spoke when he presented a paper as one of the lead speakers at the just concluded 9th International Public Sector Conference organised by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), in Prague, Czech Republic.
“Years of weak auditing cause the average citizen to be unaware of the value and importance of the SAI as an institution that is central to the accountability cycle,” he declared. In his words, “there is a need for the citizens to participate more and become better aware of the role of the SAI.” Speaking on the principal challenges facing Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) globally, Mr. Ayine said it was regrettable that “the INTOSAI Lima Declaration of 1977 on the prerequisites for the independent and effective functioning of SAI is yet to be well applied across many developing countries.” The Declaration of Lima, adopted by the IX International Congress of INTOSAI in Lima, Peru, in 1977, is considered to be the Magna Carta of government audit and defines the prerequisites for its independent and effective functioning. The International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions is the worldwide affiliation of governmental entities whose members comprise of Chief Financial Controller, Comptroller-General, Auditor-General Offices of nations and it was founded in 1953 in Havana, Cuba, but with headquarters in Vienna, Austria. While recognising social media as “a key channel” for information dissemination, Mr. Ayine however advised Supreme Audit Institutions to be careful so as “not to get the institution involved in public debates,” says the key question remains ‘how vocal should SAI be on social media?’ Mr. Ayine also gave some pieces of advice on how SAIs can support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals. According to him, “SAIs can baseline, benchmark and track progress across the various institutions responsible for delivery of the government’s commitment under each SDG.” Similarly, he told his audience that SAIs “can also invest in their capacity to give expert recommendations to these key institutions,” while SAI reports “should be timely and the possible efficiency savings or gains should be clear.” Speaking further on the role SAIs can play in supporting SDGs implementation, Mr. Ayine, who was recently appointed onto the African Union (AU) Board of External Auditors, said: “Year-on-year audits by the SAIs will help maintain the focus on achieving the SGDs, and will help ensure that improvements that are achieved are sustained.” Speaking from his vantage position, Mr. Ayine advised SAIs on how they can take advantage of professional accountancy organisations to support the sustainable public sector. He stated: “There are significant competency gaps within the public sector finance professional cadre, especially in developing countries. IPSAS (International Public Sector Accounting Standards) implementation is a case in point. Professional accountancy organisations should continue to reach out to public institutions with these competency gaps and offer their support, especially with training and certification. “Professional accountancy organisations can also look more closely at various disciplines that intersect with accountancy, and perhaps provide more support for cross-disciplinary expertise,” he said, adding: “This will be of great value for accountants and other financial professionals working in the SDG space.” The flagship global event for finance professionals in the public sector featured leading public sector speakers at the top of the profession and brought together hundreds of public-sector finance professionals from across the globe. The stellar line-up of speakers among whom was Nigeria’s Auditor-General, Mr. Ayine, included Mr. Tomáš Vyhnánek, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Finance of the Czech Republic; Pamela Monroe-Ellis, Auditor-General, Jamaica; Stephen Walker, President, Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand; Mike Driver, Head of the Government Finance Function, UK Civil Service and Thomas Müller-Marqués Berger, Chair, Accountancy Europe Public Sector Panel. Helen Brand, chief executive at ACCA said of the “fantastic line-up of speakers” from across the world: “The public sector faces increasing financial constraints at a time when expectations about the quality of public services are growing,” and pointed out that the conference aimed to show “how professional accountants can be at the heart of driving change and improving accountability, in order to ensure the public sector can meet the demands of the future.” Iain Mansfield, Head of Public Sector at ACCA said: “ACCA creates professional accountants who build successful careers within the public sector – that’s why we have over 64,000 public-sector members and students across the globe. “I’m delighted that at this conference ACCA is continuing to set the agenda in public- financial management, to help build the public sector accountancy profession the world needs.” ACCA’s International Public Sector Conference 2019 brought together senior decision-makers from ministries of finance, national audit offices and national accounting bodies, leaders in the local government sector, representatives from the global development community and international bodies and senior private sector accountants who work with the public sector in audit, financing and consultancy.