INTOSAI Development Initiative

Supporting effective, accountable and inclusive Supreme Audit Institutions

IDI Board Vice-Chair Lara Taylor Pierce

Meet Lara Taylor-Pearce, Vice-Chair of IDI's Board and Sierra Leone's Auditor General

Mrs Lara Taylor-Pearce is the current Auditor General of the Republic of Sierra Leone. She is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants of the UK, Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sierra Leone, and holds a MBA in Leadership and Sustainability from the University of Cumbria (UK).

Her career of over thirty years spans both the private and the public sector, where she has made a positive impact in auditing and the Public Financial Management sector in Sierra Leone. She is the former Chair of the Governing Board of the African Region of Supreme Audit Institutions – English Speaking (AFROSAI-E), council member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Sierra Leone, board member of the Afro Barometer Board - a pan-African body responsible for providing data on citizens’ views on governance and other democracy measures within the African Region - and a team member of the Chandler Sessions on Integrity and Corruption at the University of Oxford School of Government.

Mrs Taylor-Pearce’s transformational leadership style, high level of integrity and courage, and passion for accountability in the use of public funds has raised the reputation of SAI Sierra Leone, both nationally and internationally.

Mrs Taylor Pearce is the holder of several national awards including, among others, the National Integrity Award, and recognition as a Grand officer of the Order of the Rokel and one of the fifty most Influential Women in Sierra Leone.


As we move into 2022, we are still grappling with the pandemic and its effects on transparency in public spending, strong governance and an increased need for oversight bodies like supreme audit institutions to have impact. In the SAI community, IDI’s Global Stocktaking Report and other indices point to democratic backsliding and a reduction in SAI independence.


Q1. At a time when governments need to be more transparent and accountable than ever over taxpayers’ money, particularly with reference to emergency spending on COVID-19 measures, how can SAIs lead by example to support citizens of their country and the world as a whole?

As Supreme Audit Institutions charged with the responsibility of ensuring the judicious use of public funds in an independent manner, the role of the SAI is becoming even more important. SAIs do not only affect Public Financial Management in various countries; their roles can be associated with national democracy which many nations now enjoy, and which has a strong link with a transparent and accountable public sector.

As SAIs, are performance measures in place within the institution? Are SAI activities being audited by independent bodies? Do SAIs allow ourselves to be quality assured by knowledgeable and experienced third parties? Are the reports emanating from such activities easily accessible? These are very important questions SAIs should be asking themselves to ensure that the test of capability to hold others to account is met.

As is currently being experienced during this COVID 19 era, SAIs are witnessing new and unplanned areas of public sector spending. The emergency and unprecedented nature of such spending within our public sectors gives room for processes, procedures and laws to be overlooked. This, in some cases, has resulted in financial malfeasance, mis-procurement and human resource issues to name a few, as reported in various countries’ Audit reports on the use of funds during Covid 19.

A similar situation was experienced during the Ebola crisis which some West African countries witnessed during 2014/2015.The sad reality is that individuals may use such situations to override nations’ Public Financial Management laws, resulting in a disadvantage to citizens.

Public Sector Auditors now have to be more alert and capable than ever. Public sector auditors must be able to carry out their responsibility from a standpoint of knowledge, the utmost due care, and integrity. Without these attributes, the role of the SAI may not be effective in supporting the expectations of citizens.

So, how do SAIs achieve this?

SAIs should have the legal mandate to carry out such audits on emergency spending. Without such a mandate, it would be difficult to give the much-needed assurance that funds were used for their intended purpose, in compliance with laws and other best practices in place internationally and within various jurisdictions. There are SAIs which only have the mandate to carry out compliance, financial statements (regularity), and performance audits. Audits of emergency funds may go beyond these audit approaches. A broad mandate for all types of audit approaches is what is required in such situations.

SAIs should have the requisite training and know-how to engage in audits of emergency spending, which in certain circumstances involve complex and rare skills. There should be quality assurance and review systems within the SAI which ensure that reports emanating from such audits are correct and will not be compromised.

In conclusion, it is of utmost importance that to achieve the kind of SAI which will stand the test of time, it must be independent from the users of public funds, have the requisite mandate and necessary skills. A strong, independent SAI will give citizens the satisfaction that audits will be done in an effective manner without interference from the Executive, for the benefit of citizens.


Q2. What more could SAIs and public auditors be focusing on to underline the critical importance for SAIs and the individuals within them to demonstrate integrity? How might they strengthen existing measures even more?

Now, more than ever, SAIs are being regarded as pillars of integrity by citizens in many jurisdictions. SAIs have become very relevant in identifying how tax- payers’ monies are being used, and citizens look up to them to provide credible information on public financial management in many developing countries. This in itself is a laudable achievement, as holding users of public funds to account is very important to the citizenry.

On the other hand, SAIs are also now becoming unfortunate targets of those they audit, especially when serious issues of misuse of public funds are identified by the SAI. In some instances, users of these public funds do not want such misdemeanours to be brought to the public’s attention, and may lead to negative repercussions for the SAI.

This complexity of highlighting serious audit issues and the sometimes unfortunate consequences of doing such audits is a huge responsibility, and requires both SAIs as an entity and individuals within the SAIs to have not only the technical competency required to deliver, but also the required level of integrity and courage to ensure that audits can be carried out in an objective, professional and unbiased manner, regardless of the situation individual auditors and the SAI may find themselves in.

It is very important that the SAI’s many stakeholders understand the role of the auditor and public sector auditing in general. What is now being witnessed in some instances, is the seeming effort by some stakeholders to undermine not only the role of the SAI as the public financial watchdog, but even the personal integrity of the auditor. This is especially so in the current social media age where anonymous individuals may use such platforms to undercut the very basis of the SAI. SAIs are now being brought into the spotlight and in some instances are questioned, not only the executive whom it audits, but by the legislature to whom the SAIs report, especially when its audit reports bring out serious issues of mismanagement of public funds. These are just a few instances of areas of concern identified in recent times, which need serious attention.

So, what can SAIs and individuals within the SAIs do to strengthen what they already do? In many situations it is very important for SAIs and individuals within the SAI to take an inward look at themselves. Are SAIs’ internal operational systems working properly? Are all the relevant and appropriate standards being applied when doing audits? Do SAIs make themselves open and available to scrutiny by experts (Peer Reviews, performance appraisals etc.). Do auditors have the relevant capacity to do their work, and the courage to work unabated under undue pressure? These are very important factors to be considered when strengthening measures to ensure SAIs and individuals within the SAIs carry out their function with the highest level of integrity and professionalism which can stand the test of time.

In addition, SAIs and individuals within them now need to strengthen their communication skills and consider tools which will enable them to be in the position to use various channels, including social media platforms, to enlighten stakeholders on what the SAI is all about, the importance of public sector auditing, and the role a good public sector auditing outfit plays in supporting the democratic space.


Q3. What can stakeholders such as parliaments, civil society and other stakeholders in the public sphere do to support SAIs in this work of demonstrating integrity and leading by example?

This should be an easy question to answer. The reality is that in some jurisdictions, some stakeholders do not really understand the role of the SAI. There have been instances when some of these stakeholders have argued that the role of the SAI is that of giving a “mere opinion”. There are other instances when some of these stakeholders have mentioned that “making the reports of the SAI public can lead to chaos within the citizenry”. There are some who believe that the SAI’s posture should be one of being more investigative rather than auditing or giving assurance, and those who must be constantly reminded that the “burden of proof” rests with the auditee and not the auditor.

These are practical examples which clearly point to the fact that much more needs to be done in communicating with and educating these various stakeholders on what public sector auditing and the role of the SAI is all about.

The ideal situation is one where the legislature uses the auditors’ report to hold users of public funds to account in an open and transparent manner, and where they advocate for and pass laws which gives the SAI the necessary independence and powers needed to carry out its mandate. This will lend credence to the work of the SAI and make these users accountable in their use of public funds. Such measures by the parliament will also ensure that the SAI can be relied upon by this very important arm of government, and will ultimately make a positive impact on the way the SAI does its business in leading by example. In jurisdictions where parliaments have demonstrated such support, SAIs have been able to lead with integrity, resulting in laudable impact on Public Financial Management and ultimately gaining citizens’ trust.

Civil Society Organisations should be enlightening the public on the role of the SAI, getting taxpayers to understand the importance of the work of the SAI, highlighting areas of citizens’ concern to which the SAI can turn its attention, and when necessary, advocating for the SAI where there are issues of public concern.

Auditees are key stakeholders of the SAI. The effectiveness of the SAI can be demonstrated in how well auditees cooperate with the SAI during the audit process and how recommendations proffered are implemented by the auditees. Auditees should therefore make themselves open to scrutiny and be willing to implement recommendations proffered by the SAI.

The need for a clear understanding of what the SAI is all about is therefore of significant importance in making the relevant impact. Educating these public stakeholders and leading by example are therefore necessary measures that SAIs should place very high importance on to gain the support of these various stakeholders.


Q4. The INTOSAI-Donor Cooperation (IDC), with operational support from IDI, has recently appointed world leader Helen Clark to the newly created position of Goodwill Ambassador for SAI Independence. What does this appointment mean to you as an IDI Board member, and what do you hope for in terms of results?

At this point in time, when on one hand many SAIs are struggling with gaining the independence necessary to fully carry out their role, and on the other hand some SAIs who have already been enjoying the necessary operational independence to carry out their role are now seeing this independence being threatened, the appointment of a Goodwill Ambassador for SAI Independence could not have come at a better time.

As an IDI Board member, I am looking forward to gaining a better understanding of the resistance from countries’ legislature and executive in granting this independence, and why there is a lack of political will in ensuring SAIs maintain independence already achieved. It has been demonstrated time and again that where the SAI is independent from the Executive, and has the necessary support from the legislature, it can actually perform well.

Capacity issues should also not be an obstacle. The reality is that many SAIs now have the capacity to do their work, and there are ongoing capacity development initiatives where gaps exist.

I look forward to a situation where multilateral and bilateral partners working with various developing countries have continuous, sustainable conversations with governments on the importance of an independent SAI. The SAI needs to be independent in carrying out its role of holding all users of public funds to account for the benefits of the citizenry.

I also anxiously look forward to a situation where, at the highest level of world governance, the issue of the independent SAI is discussed not only as a resolution, but as a practical, legally bound initiative for all countries to be recognised as being democratic. We need action, not just words.

I look forward to meeting and working with Madam Clark on this very important issue.



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