An independent SAI is a key pillar of national integrity and governance systems. The independence of an SAI from the executive bodies it audits is fundamental to its role in public accountability and in building trust between the organs of the state and society. Yet evidence shows that levels of financial and operational independence are low, and declining, in many regions of the world. SAI Heads face reduced protection from unjust removal; SAIs face increased interference in their budgets from the executive; and many SAIs face restrictions in deciding the scope and publishing the results of their work.
The principles of SAI independence are laid down in the INTOSAI Lima and Mexico declarations. This work stream will support INTOSAI’s efforts in “advocating for and supporting the Independence of SAIs” as a cross-cutting priority in its 2017-2022 Strategic Plan. Under its 2014-18 strategic plan, IDI began to pilot support for SAI independence. Under the current strategic plan, support will be scaled-up, to combine both global support and advocacy with enhanced support to more SAIs to strengthen their independence.
Independent SAIs Work Stream Components
GLOBAL ADVOCACY AND SUPPORT FOR INDEPENDENT SAIs
Raising awareness of the importance of and challenges to SAI independence are pivotal in creating an environment for change. Adoption of the UN Resolutions A/66/209 and A/66/228 have provided IDI and the INTOSAI Community with a tool to put SAI independence on the global agenda. In addition, shortcomings in the status of independence have been highlighted in the 2014 and 2017 Global SAI Stocktaking Reports. IDI’s advocacy for SAI independence will focus on:
a. Demonstrating the Value and Benefits of independent SAIs in strengthening accountability, transparency and integrity.
IDI will work globally with key partners including INTOSAI, the UN, donors, parliamentary bodies, and civil society organisations (CSOs) to raise the topic of SAI independence on the global agenda. IDI will seek to ensure decision makers and influencers at the global, regional and country-levels understand the importance of SAI independence as an enabler of improved public accountability.
b. Establishing a knowledge function on SAI independence to analyse global and regional trends and learn lessons.
IDI is in a unique position to systematically collect, analyse and disseminate data on the status of SAI Independence over time. IDI will seek to maintain and strengthen information sharing regarding the development of SAI Independence, to enable a more informed and effective approach to strengthening SAI independence worldwide.
c. Mobilising rapid advocacy support to SAIs facing threats or challenges to their independence.
Once secured, SAI independence needs to be sustained. The political and institutional landscapes in all countries are in a constant state of flux, often posing new threats to SAI independence. These threats can manifest quickly through changes to a country’s constitution, budget or audit laws, or through attempts to remove the Head(s) of the SAI or proposals to abolish the SAI itself. IDI will therefore develop its capacity to assist SAIs experiencing threats to their independence. This will include establishing and maintaining information channels to keep alert to threats to SAI independence, and developing a support service able to rapidly mobilise advocacy support to SAIs. Such advocacy support would involve bringing together global, regional and country actors to ensure a coordinated and coherent response to threats to SAI independence.
PROVIDE TARGETED SAI-LEVEL SUPPORT FOR INDEPENDENCE
Building on the lessons learned from its pilot programme on SAI independence, IDI will support an increased number of SAIs in strengthening their independence through the following efforts:
a. Provide and Coordinate Support
This may include mapping the current state of SAI legal and defacto independence (against ISSAI 1 and 10, or using tools such as SAI PMF), developing a strategy for enhancing SAI independence, supporting the drafting of appropriate legislation, reviewing draft Acts, and helping the SAI respond to emerging threats to independence.
b. Facilitate stakeholder engagement at the country level in support of SAI independence.
IDI will assist SAIs in engaging with key stakeholders to mobilise support for greater independence. This may include parliaments, donors, PFM actors and CSOs, to raise their awareness of the SAI and its benefits, and to garner support for independence. Measures may include SAI engagement in policy dialogue, establishing an accountability working group of key stakeholders, or supporting the development and implementation of a joint strategy for the SAI’s institutional strengthening.
c. Managing expectations related to independence.
Enhanced SAI independence will also raise the expectations that stakeholders have of the SAI as well as the expectations of SAI staff. IDI will support SAIs to manage expectations and plan for improved organisational and professional staff capacity to ensure that greater independence improves SAI performance.
FACILITATE EFFECTIVE PARTNERSHIPS AND STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT IN SUPPORT OF SAI INDEPENDENCE
This supports effective delivery of components one and two, by forming partnerships and strengthening partners for SAI independence at the global, regional and country levels, as follows:
a. INTOSAI Regional bodies
This offers a platform to engage with SAIs within each region that often face similar challenges, and to bring in other regional accountability organisations. While the format will vary according to each region, partnerships could include working together on mapping independence status and challenges across SAIs in a region and creating and utilising regional platforms to advocate for SAI independence. IDI will in addition seek to ensure that the regional platforms can be used for SAIs to share experiences and learn from each other in terms of effective measures to strengthen independence.
b. Global and Regional Accountability Organisations
To maximise the impact of IDI’s advocacy initiatives, it will be important to bring in relevant stakeholder groups capable of enhancing IDI’s messaging and reaching wider stakeholder groups. This may include global and regional organisations of Legislative Committees (e.g. Public Accounts Committees), and relevant international CSOs focused on accountability and transparency.
c. The Development Community
At the global level, IDI will engage with the development community to advocate for SAI independence, better understand the institutional challenges involved in strengthening SAI independence and how to overcome these, develop joint global strategies to strengthen SAI independence, and promote greater use of SAIs’ audit reports. At the country-level, SAI independence is often part of wider policy dialogue covering governance and PFM reforms, in which the development community may play a key role. IDI will therefore seek to partner with donors to develop a common, coordinated position and message on SAI independence, and put their combined weight behind efforts to strengthen SAI independence.