How the Coronavirus Changes Work of SAIs: Suspended Audits and Greater Transparency

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May 11, 2020
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A guideline for supreme audit institutions, the Moscow Declaration, says that "SAIs need to respond to a changing world of governance and, in doing so, respond to emerging national and global challenges." Learn below how audit agencies from around the globe adhere to this principle in the midst of the pandemic.

1. Transition to Remote Work

Public web-resources of 76 SAIs prove that the vast majority have switched to fully or partially remote work in March and April and only some continue working in offices if necessary. There are also examples of SAIs enforced to suspend their operation either completely (Jordan) or in part (Italy, Denmark, and Honduras). 

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The graph is based on data from 76 supreme audit institutions (SAIs) as of April 16, 2020

2. New Work Modalities 

New realities compel audit agencies to find the most suitable and efficient remote formats, in particular, to create some unique internal systems both for working and for developing staff skills.

Brazil's SAI held a remote meeting of the country's 32 Courts of Accounts (about 80 members) under its Integration Project (Projeto Integrar), being the result of the partnership among Brazil’s SAI, OECD, the Association of Members of the Brazilian Courts of Accounts (ATRICON), and Rui Barbosa Institute (IRB), and used an access to Microsoft Teams to hold their first online conference.

To be able to work remotely, China’s SAI has developed a Golden Audit Project that provides rapid internal communications and a conference call service, facilitates data management and minimizes the need for field inspections. 

3. Coronavirus-Related Audits

SAIs have actively joined the investigation into the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic to specifically focus on public support measures, public procurement, and healthcare spending. In addition, auditors contribute to proposals for economic recovery at the national level, but also globally. 

UK National Audit Office assesses how the government is prepared to the pandemic, conducts healthcare spending audits and examines the steps taken to protect businesses and individuals against economic consequences of the pandemic crisis. 

In March, Colombia’s SAI established a special centre for monitoring government efforts and the budget allocated for the fight against the coronavirus, with the preventive real-time continuous monitoring improving the Government’s efficiency. 

4. Greater Transparency of SAIs for Citizens 

Many audit agencies disclosed their internal contacts for citizens to be able to communicate with the staff directly; some even offer individual applications or hotlines and publish up-to-date analytics or handy tips related to the pandemic on their websites and social media.

The Supreme Audit Institution of Mexico launched a free app for smartphones and tablets, which could be used to directly contact the agency to ask questions about their work. 

Via the Fraudnet hotline, U.S. GAO examines allegations of suspected fraud with regards to the money allocated to counteract COVID-19. 

The Auditor-General of South Africa proactively informs the citizens about the situation with the COVID-19 outbreak in the country; everyday, he reposts statistics updates, publishes the lock-down rules and twits about the Government’s efforts . 

5. Audit with a Human Face

In these challenging times, SAI are trying to help both through prompt monitoring and analytics and also trough practical actions, which often doesn't come naturally to auditing authorities. 

The head of Egypt's Supreme Audit Institution has chosen to donate 20% of his salary for three months to combat the coronavirus and invited his colleagues to follow his example. 

Employees at SAI of the Czech Republic volunteer to help the Administration of State Material Reserves, which is responsible for receiving, sorting and distributing medical supplies. They also make 3D-printed face masks.

Read the full version of the digest here.