Editor’s note: The Journal is honored to introduce this issue commemorating INTOSAI’s 50th anniversary with an editorial by David G. Njoroge, Controller and Auditor General of Kenya. As the C&AG for 36 years, Mr. Njoroge is the dean of the INTOSAI community and offers a unique perspective on INTOSAI. Mr. Njoroge hosted the 1980 INTOSAI Congress in Nairobi and served as President of INTOSAI from 1980-1983. End editor’s note.
I feel indeed privileged to have been asked to contribute this editorial on INTOSAI as we celebrate 50 years of the organization’s existence.
This year marks the 50th year since the first gathering of 34 supreme audit institutions in Havana, Cuba, convened by the Cuban audit office in 1953, under the leadership of Dr. Emilio Fernandez Camus. The gathering of state auditors in Havana paved the way for the eventual formation of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) as an international forum for government auditors. The triennial congresses have remained an important feature of INTOSAI over the 50 years and, guided by the organization’s motto, “Mutual Experience Benefits All,” we have witnessed remarkable growth and changes that the members and all participating SAIs are proud to be associated with.
Since the Havana Congress, the SAIs have held 17 world congresses, the most recent being the 17th INCOSAI convened in Seoul, South Korea, from October 22-27, 2001, which saw the participation of 471 delegates, observers, and accompanying persons representing 139 member SAIs—out of a total membership of 176—one non- member, and 12 international organizations. This remarkable participation is clearly an indication of the importance that the SAIs attach to INTOSAI and an excellent indicator of growth. In Tokyo, Japan, in 1968, where I first participated, 169 members representing 70 SAIs attended the Congress. This was in itself a big stride from Havana in only 15 years, but far from the picture in more recent congresses. It is significant to mention that many of the features that are very central to the functioning of INTOSAI had not then been formulated. The triennial congresses were the main events while OLACEFS, formed in 1965,was the only regional group existing at that time. Presently, there are seven Regional Working Groups, including, AFROSAI, ARABOSAI, ASOSAI, CAROSAI, EUROSAI, OLACEFS, and SPASAI. These Regional Working Groups have greatly encouraged the exchange of ideas and experiences among countries sharing such common features as geographical position, similarity of audit mandate and function, or the same language, and they have contributed enormously to making INTOSAI what it is today. The establishment of a training wing, the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI), was a very important step in human capital development for the SAIs. The membership directory with full addresses that make communications possible and easy has also been of great value.
Our members have continued to take an active role in and have supported INTOSAI programs because they are aware of the special benefit from participation. For one, the forum has been a source of ideas and inspiration for individual SAIs to improve and modernize state audit institutions.
A brief look at the history on the earlier years of the INTOSAI may help us to have a clearer idea of the changes that have taken place. The first 15 years leading to the 6th INCOSAI in Tokyo, Japan, could appropriately be described as the formative years. When it was realized that the Cuban audit office could not continue to host the permanent secretariat after1960, a Governing Board that was nominated at the 5th INCOSAI in Jerusalem effectively planned for the next congress and assisted the secretariat with advice and guidance. Then at INCOSAI VI in Tokyo, the SAIs approved the body’s standing orders and resolved to make Austria the permanent headquarters, thus laying down the basic regulatory rules and establishing a secretariat office. Governing Boards have since then guided the secretariat to link the SAIs between the congresses. The Governing Board, the secretariat and the committees have played a pivotal role in developing various products that have proved invaluable to state SAIs. These products include the INTOSAI Auditing Standards, which have reflected best practice guidelines for the participating SAIs since they were compiled in 1989 and revised in 1992 to reflect those SAIs constituted as Courts of Audit. A committee established in 1984 to present recommendations and plans for developing auditing standards and guidelines continues to issue them through an exposure draft process that gives the SAIs an opportunity to participate and have their concerns incorporated. The latest guidelines, which were adopted at the Seoul congress, include Guidelines on Best Practice for the Audit of Economic Regulation, Best Practices for the Audit of Public/Private Finance and Concessions, Guidance on Planning and Conducting an Audit of Internal Controls of Public Debt, and Guidance on Conducting Audits of Activities with an Environmental Perspective.
Our membership has grown to 185 nations, and I believe that all member SAIs have benefitted enormously from these activities and programs.The triennial congresses have continued to be a major event and a forum where the SAIs gather in one place at one time to discuss and resolve common problems by sharing experiences, exchanging information, and learning from each other. In particular the innovative shift from all the business of the congresses being held at the plenary session to having the topics and subjects discussed by various groups has greatly improved participation and created more focused discussions by the members. In addition, the Governing Board, committees, working groups and task forces appointed at various congresses have organized and conducted meetings, seminars, training courses and symposia, regional congresses, and board meetings in all parts of the world. The Strategic Planning Task Force proposed 5-year strategic plan and the Auditing Standards Committee’s planned cooperation with IFAC are two current and exciting examples.Member SAIs have enormously benefited from these activities and programs.
These 50 years have seen the audit world come together to collectively search for ways and means to deal with challenges that are very similar in nature, especially the SAI’s role in oversight of government spending and the use of common or public resources. My plea to the SAIs as we celebrate this 50th anniversary is that we continue to collaborate and work together for the greater common good in enhancing accountability guided by the motto, “Mutual Experience Benefits All,” for no nation can on its own achieve as much as we can collectively through INTOSAI.