Dasho Tashi is the Auditor General of Bhutan and Chairman, Accounting & Auditing Standards of Bhutan. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Delhi University, an advanced Diploma in Management Accounting from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, UK, and several diplomas from leadership programmes.
He first joined the Royal Audit Authority (SAI Bhutan) on 1st February 1994, working until 2009 as Auditor, Senior Auditor Deputy Chief Audit Officer and Assistant Auditor General, Performance Audit Division and Thematic Audit Division, as well as a period as Head of Human Resource and International Relations Division (2003-2006). He has also served as Chairman to the Bhutan Red Cross Society, the Board Audit Committee of the Central Bank of Bhutan (Royal Monetary Authority) and the Board Audit Committee - Natural Resources Development Corporation, and as Board Director to the Central Bank of Bhutan (Royal Monetary Authority), the Royal Society for Protection of Nature, Bhutan Agro Industries Limited and the Royal Institute of Management.
As the first IDI-certified training specialist from Bhutan’s Royal Audit Authority, Tashi was involved in training, workshops and seminars to auditors from SAIs in the ASOSAI region and Australia from 2003 to 2009, and was a member of the project team who designed IDI’s ‘Learning for Impact’ guidance booklet for SAIs around the globe.
As the entire world faces an unprecedented health, humanitarian and economic crisis due to the global outbreak of COVID-19, we asked Dasho Tashi how SAIs can respond to the crisis against a background of the Sustainable Development Goals.
How do SAIs provide a relevant audit response to the pandemic in the context of SDGs?
Before being appointed as Auditor General, I worked with the National Level Covid-19 Task Force, so I know very well how things work during such pandemics.
The audit should look at the national level of preparedness for any such future pandemics. Looking at the past and the present, the audit should be able to provide appropriate recommendations to prepare for the future. Preparedness should not only focus on SDG target 3, but on an integrated approach which encompasses most of the SDG targets. Almost all the SDG goals are either directly or indirectly linked to each other, and achieving one will definitely ease in achieving the other. For instance, achieving SDG 1 and 2 would definitely provide ease in achieving SDG 3 and achieving SDG 1, 2 and 3 would definitely ease the achievement of SDG 4 and so on.
However, it is SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), which is found to very important during such pandemics. Therefore, rather than looking only at the health systems, audits should focus on all relevant sectors; look holistically at both past and present, and provide an opinion on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the use of all resources related to the pandemic. Ultimately, the audit should provide an appropriate recommendation on the best way forward.
As a leader, how can you prepare the SDG Audits in your SAIs given the nature and complexity of SDG matters?
In Bhutan, all plans and activities are prepared based on the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH). The four main pillars of GNH are Preservation of Culture, Conservation of Environment, Economic Development and Good Governance. These four pillars are further divided into 9 main Domains and 33 Indicators.
All 17 SDGs fall within the 9 Domains of GNH (E.g. Health is one of the 9 Domains and falls under Economic Development pillar). Therefore, auditing SDG should not be a problem for my SAI. Further, in the 12th Five Year Plan, the government has come out with focussed Flagship Programmes which will make it more convenient for us to audit. All such flagship programmes fall under one of the SDGs. Some examples of flagship programmes include Waste, Health Services through Cancer Screening, ICT in Schools, Organic Growth, Cottage and Small-Scale Industries, Drinking and Irrigation Water etc.
In addition, our participation in the cooperative audits on preparedness as well as implementation of SDGs have benefited us in developing competence to take up performance audits of SDGs. Meanwhile, the IDI’s SDGs Audit Model (ISAM) has been very useful in conducting such audits.
The head of our Performance Audit Division is also a member of the Taskforce for preparation of Voluntary National Review (VNR) 2021 on SDGs. The Performance Audit topics for 2021-2025 is currently in finalization stage.
From your previous SDG audits (SDG Preparedness Audit), what ‘lesson learnt’ did you take for the current SDG Audits on SDG target 3.d?
As highlighted above, one of the main lessons learnt could be incorporating audit topics related to SDGs during the selection of performance audit topics. In addition, we also found that it is important to enhance stakeholder engagement through sustained interaction with various stakeholders especially media, civil society organizations and the general public, which was a little missing in our case. Other lessons include:
- Using SDG preparedness auditors for awareness and knowledge-sharing with the current SDG implementation auditors and other auditors
- Importance of e-Learning course on SDG audits and making the auditors take it seriously
- Publishing the report and further following up on the implementation of the recommendations
- Implementing the recommendations provided in the Quality Assurance Review report on the SDG Preparedness Audit for effective SDG Implementation Audit.
How do you expect to build back better for your country related to public health resilience, from the audit on SDG 3.d?
Acceptability of our Audit Reports by the stakeholders - especially the Performance Audit - is one of the qualities of a best- practice audit report, which in turn depends on the timeliness & relevancy of the audit and competency of the auditors. Therefore, my expectation from the audit of SDG 3.d would be:
- An objective assessment on the government’s effort to tackle the issue of public health resilience in preparing, preventing and responding to public health emergency like COVID-19
- A constructive and foresight recommendation to improve the national public health resilience
- To build competencies of the auditors in conducting ISSAI compliant Performance audits in general and SDG audits in particular.