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|CCAF’s May 2010 Technical Support and Mentoring Symposium|
|Wednesday, 07 July 2010 01:00|
CCAF’s May 2010 Technical Support and Mentoring Symposium developed many good ideas for enhancing the Foundation’s International Program and will in the end lead to stronger audit institutions in developing countries, according to CCAF Chair Ronald Thompson.
The symposium, held in Ottawa on May 25, 26 and 27, brought together:
What is technical support and mentoring?
Technical support and mentoring has been one of the most innovative and successful new components of CCAF’s International Legislative Audit Assistance Program. Under this component, Canadian provincial auditors general have been “twinned” with counterparts in participating national audit offices abroad.
The Canadians serve as mentors and technical advisors to the participating foreign audit offices, providing input into the scoping and planning of performance audits, step-by-step advice on the conduct of audits, assistance in the drafting of findings and recommendations, and guidance on relationships with public accounts committees.
One key goal of the symposium was to identify initiatives, on a country by country basis, that could help strengthen audit office capacity development, and then determine whether and how Canadian partners could assist in implementing these initiatives.
Preconditions to Implementing Performance Audits
Based on research he is completing for the Canadian International Development Agency, CCAF Associate and former Chair Michael McLaughlin presented his views on the necessary preconditions to implementing performance audits. The symposium participants then broke into groups to discuss the status of performance auditing in the various developing audit offices represented at the symposium.
Several key points came out of this session:
International Program benefits
The participants then discussed the impacts of various aspects of CCAF’s International Program.
Stronger relationship with oversight committees
Anthony Gatumbu, the Controller and Auditor General of Kenya, described CCAF’s impact on the relationship between his office and the Kenyan Parliament’s three oversight committees. CCAF brought the audit office staff and parliamentarians together at a workshop in 2009 – something that had never been done before. “The workshop gave me an insight into what the committees expect of my office,” Mr. Gatumbu said. It also helped build trust and confidence between the committees and the audit office. The results have included support from parliamentarians for changes to the Constitution, cooperation on scheduling, and discussions on how to improve implementation of audit report recommendations.
Mr. Gatumbu also noted that an April 2010 CCAF course on report writing, attended by 30 of his senior staff, produced immediate improvements in audit reports. “The training will mean more concise and more friendly reports, and less editing required on my part,” he said.
Sharing between jurisdictions of similar size
The Audit Office of Saint Lucia is twinned with the Office of the Auditor General of Nova Scotia. Averil James-Bonnette, Saint Lucia’s Director of Audit, said her office is similar in size to Nova Scotia’s, with a similar mandate and similar audit issues. This makes it easier for Saint Lucia to learn from the experience of Nova Scotia. Through the twinning component, Nova Scotia has been able to assist Saint Lucia to examine its mandate and improve its audit methodology. Ms. James-Bonnette also intends to develop a strategic plan for her office drawing on a plan that the Nova Scotia office developed and is implementing. The Nova Scotia audit office is now helping its Saint Lucia counterpart plan an audit in the area of social assistance.
Assessment identifies strengths, issues
CCAF now requires prospective participants in the International Program to undergo a needs assessment. The first such assessment was carried out by the Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia for the Office of the Auditor General of Barbados. Leigh Trotman, the Auditor General of Barbados, said three people from British Columbia reviewed his office’s performance audits, financial audits, and audit practices during a July 2009 visit. The resulting report pointed out some positives, such as the office’s independence, legal framework, and resources. One issue was in the area of recruitment – the office is required to go through the government’s public service commission to hire staff. The Public Accounts Committee has since recommended that staffing authority be delegated to the audit office.
Other issues identified in the report dealt with audit methods and quality assurance. The office has now introduced audit manuals and a standardizing audit reporting framework, and provided guidance to staff.
Based on the needs assessment, CCAF, the Office of the Auditor General of Barbados and the Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia are developing an action plan with priorities and time frames.
In-country workshops a prelude to initial performance audits
Hoang Hong Lac is the Deputy Auditor General of Vietnam. He described how the State Audit Office of Vietnam is preparing to conduct its first performance audits, with assistance from CCAF’s International Program. Four Vietnamese auditors have completed the Fellowship component of the program over the past two years at the Office of the Auditor General of Alberta. In April 2010, 20 senior Vietnamese auditors participated in two CCAF workshops led by Alberta audit staff – one on performance auditing, and one on forensic auditing. To manage the language challenge, the workshop documents were provided in advance.
One result from the workshops is that Alberta auditors and two of the Vietnamese Fellows have been incorporated into the teams carrying out the office’s initial pilot audits.
Canadians mentor twinning partner throughout audit process
CCAF Fellow and current Auditor General of Guyana Deodat Sharma described the assistance his office received from the Office of the Auditor General of Newfoundland and Labrador as it carried out its first performance audit ever. Newfoundland’s Auditor General, John Noseworthy, and a senior member of his staff travelled to Guyana to offer advice on such matters as the audit manual, audit criteria, lines of enquiry and report writing.
The first audit report, on a government-owned and operated geriatric facility called The Palms, is now complete. Guyana is completing its second audit with additional assistance from Newfoundland. The twinning component of CCAF’s International Program “is one of the best things CCAF has done,” Mr. Sharma said. CCAF Executive Director Michael Eastman noted that CCAF now uses the Palms audit as an example in its workshops, in Canada and abroad.
Regional workshop cements regional relationships
Tanzania hosted a regional CCAF performance audit workshop in April 2009, with participants from Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana and Tanzania. George Haule, an audit team leader from Tanzania, said the workshop revealed that the audit offices in these countries face similar challenges, such as problems with collecting data, writing reports, and tabling reports. The participants in the workshop were able to share ideas on how to address these challenges. Moreover, they were able to identify ongoing opportunities for cooperation. For example, Tanzania was able build on Rwandan experience as it launched an audit of maternal health. “They told us how they proceeded, and this helped us speed up our work,” Mr. Haule reported. He said the offices now not only share their final products, but also the areas they plan to audit, to look for possibilities to help each other.
Mr. Haule also spoke highly of his office’s twinning relationship with the Office of the Auditor General of New Brunswick. New Brunswick Auditor General Michael Ferguson has provided extensive assistance with Tanzania’s performance audits, giving the Tanzania office the confidence to table its reports in Parliament. The reports now receive extensive media coverage, and the government is beginning to implement report recommendations. “It would have been very tough for us to accomplish this without the support from New Brunswick,” Mr. Haule said.
Twinning benefits both partners
Nova Scotia Auditor General Jacques Lapointe said his office’s twinning relationship with the Saint Lucia Audit Office is “very much a partnership, a two-way street.” One benefit is staff development. Mr. Lapointe said his staff’s involvement in projects in Saint Lucia, working in a different culture outside their comfort zone, gives them a different perspective on their work and makes them better auditors.
Another benefit is staff morale. “They just really like the whole thing,” Mr. Lapointe said of his staff. “They like the relationships they have developed, and they like doing something that could really make a difference in another jurisdiction.” Nova Scotia is now examining the possibility of setting up a “mini development program” under which auditors from Saint Lucia would come to Nova Scotia to work on audit teams, providing benefits to both offices.
Different sizes, different strengths
The Kenya National Audit Office has about 600 staff, while its Canadian twin, the Office of the Auditor General of Manitoba, has 50, Manitoba Auditor General Carol Bellringer told symposium participants. But there are similarities: Kenya and Manitoba have land masses of about the same size, and floods and droughts are recurring issues in both jurisdictions.
The Manitoba audit office has a particular strength in the area of forensic audit – in fact, it has one of largest forensic audit teams in Canada. The Kenya National Audit Office has a strong interest in this area; CCAF recently arranged for three Kenyan auditors to study forensic auditing through distance education with Algonquin College in Ottawa. “This is one area where we can share with Kenya,” Ms. Bellringer said. The two offices are now making plans under which Manitoba will share its forensic audit expertise with Kenya as part of their twinning relationship.
How to integrate visiting Fellows successfully
Last year, for the first time, the Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia hosted CCAF Fellows, joining the audit offices of Canada, Québec and Alberta. Wayne Schmitz, an Executive Director in the BC audit office, said the office wanted the two Fellows to experience the audit process from start to finish. It contacted the Fellows (from Costa Rica and Barbados) in advance, found out what areas they were interested in, and put them on those teams as they were starting new audits.
Each Fellow was assigned a mentor to assist with work on the audits, with the Strategic Paper each had to write, and with adaptation to BC. To help them feel like part of the office, the BC audit office asked the Fellows to code their time, participate in interviews, help analyze results, develop findings and conclusions, and participate in staff meetings, training sessions and social events.
Designing assistance that fits
Two officials from the Office of the Auditor General of Alberta described how they shaped their CCAF International Program activities to best support the State Audit Office of Vietnam.
Darrell Pidner, an Audit Principal, talked about how the office worked with its Fellows from Vietnam. The office examined the resumes of the people who had applied to see who had demonstrated a commitment to life-long learning – for example, who had learned another language or studied another discipline. Then the office determined who among the Alberta audit office staff would be a good match for each Fellow to serve as a mentor. Mr. Pidner noted the particular importance of each Fellow’s Strategy Paper in guiding the Fellow’s work on return home.
Audit Principal Sergei Pekh talked about the CCAF performance audit workshop he helped lead in Vietnam in April 2010. He said the language barrier was not as much of a problem as expected. To make the course as relevant to the Vietnamese situation as possible, the workshop team dropped the Canadian cases and instead asked the workshop participants to develop ideas for four performance audits based on projects from their office. Each team had to come up with objective, scope, approach, criteria, and detailed audit procedures for one criterion. In response to audit interests of their Vietnamese colleagues, Alberta auditors identified specific relevant performance audits done by the Alberta office, and used these in detailed discussions to provide analysis, examples and practical advice. The result was tangible deliverables the participants could apply immediately.
Ideas for Effective Interventions
Following the above sessions, the symposium participants broke into groups to discuss how best to move forward in each jurisdiction with technical support and mentoring initiatives. Each group comprised a CCAF facilitator, staff from a participating developing country audit office, and staff from the provincial audit office twinned with that developing country audit office The aim was to identify the types of interventions that would be most effective in each country.
Some of the ideas that came out of these discussions included the following:
Audit Office Capacity Development Plans
In the final session of the symposium, the participants worked in their groups to consider how the ideas generated by the symposium could be implemented through the strategic plan of each developing country audit office. To facilitate the discussion, CCAF provided copies of strategic plans from other organizations.
In wrapping up the symposium, CCAF Chair Ron Thompson said he was heartened to hear support expressed for the twinning component of CCAF’s International Program from both developing country and Canadian participants. “We have a good sense now of how we can structure twinning to provide help, and let people providing the help do it in a practical way,” he said.