Young auditors: innovation ambassadors at ALSAI

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 6, 2019 20:11

Young auditors: innovation ambassadors at ALSAI

by Bujar Leskaj

The Young ALSAI Scientific Conference has reached its second edition and aims to become a tradition for the institution, as well as a benchmark, forum and experience exchange platform, to encourage the generation of young auditors to continue their professional careers at the SAI, deepening audit knowledge and enhancing cooperation with more experienced auditors and with their peers at partner SAIs in Europe and beyond.

The conference is the first activity of ALSAI’s Open Month for Citizens 2019, which has reached its third edition and has become a tradition of transparency and communication for the institution. Through the Open Month, we aim at a comprehensive and continuous communication with the citizens.

The theme of the Conference is to address key public audit issues in the context of changes towards Albania’s European integration. The themes and sub-themes, as well as prepared and spontaneous presentations and discussions have outlined the key challenges of the Albanian supreme public audit today. The discussions are in line with the orientations and topics dwelt at the INTOSAI XXIII-rd Congress in September 2019 in Moscow. The two central themes of Congress were:

a- Information technology to develop public administration

b- The role of SAIs in achieving national priorities and goals.

Using information technology in public administration has evolved from digitalization to the current era of Big Data, which has led to the proliferation and variety of substantial data. Focusing on data as a tool to innovate and optimize the work of public administration has a positive impact on decision-making, increases coordination and enhances accuracy and transparency of public services. The information technology enriches the potential to perceive, predict and manage risk factors, accelerate economic development, improve methodologies and enhance the quality of public service. “The IT well-functioning systems can also improve the delivery of services and programs that are essential to the health, safety and well-being of citizens“, emphasized in the Congress Mr. Gene Dodaro, United States Comptroller General.

In these years, we set up the Performance Audit Department in October 2012, four years later the Information Technology Audit Department and now we have made the decision and are setting up the Innovation and Systems Audit Department, in full reflection of INTOSAI XXIII-rd Congress orientations.

In addressing the second theme, Congress emphasized that as governments are being transformed and adapted to more effectively meet national and global goals, SAIs should be developed similarly, in line with the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, such as Goal 8 “Promoting sustainable and inclusive economic development and full and decent employment” and Goal 12 “Ensuring a sustainable pattern of consumption and production”.

The XXIII-rd Congress directed SAIs to audit the fulfillment of Sustainable Development Goals according to national priorities and goals, shifting audit activities from “process responsibility” to “performance accountability” as a fundamental approach to improving accountability and efficiency in public governance.

The approach of Young ALSAI conferences is inspired by the experience of a small group of young auditors from different European countries attending the VII-th EUROSAI Congress in Krakow, Poland in 2008. Their work got crowned in 2013, with the organization of the first Young EUROSAI Conference (the YES Conference) on 21-22 November 2013 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Two more YES conferences followed in November 2015 in Tel Aviv, Israel and in September 2017 in Tallinn, Estonia.

Immediate and visible product is the network established in Europe among young auditors. Many YES participants are in constant touch with each other, both professionally and personally. The network that they have started building through meetings at YES conferences provides them with easier access to the audit experiences of their peers in other European SAI-s. It gives them the opportunity to compare their approaches in audit and ask questions, which enhances the quality of their daily work. It also assists them and subsequently their SAIs by identifying issues that arise both in the audit topics and in the processes of governing respective SAIs.

The Fourth Young EUROSAI Conference is being held at the same time (November 5-7) in London on “Relevance: Ensuring supreme audit institutions remain relevant in rapidly changing landscapes”. This topic has many similarities to the topic selected by the Second Young ALSAI Conference.

The question arises: How do we integrate ourselves as SAIs, with the help and contribution of young auditors? As a member of INTOSAI and EUROSAI and a partner of EU-developed SAIs, the ALSAI considers audit capacity building as an ongoing, result-oriented and objective process. Since the beginning of my mandate as ALSAI Chairman, in the strategic platform presented before the Parliamentary Committee on Economy and Finance in December 2011, among the main objectives of the institution, I emphasized “the Development of SAI human resources at the level of INTOSAI standards and in line with country’s integration requirements”.

During 2012–2019, we worked to enhance SAI auditors’ capacities, by creating a high professional profile of experienced auditors and young auditors, able to withhold knowledge, skills and integrity at the level of European developed SAIs’ auditors.

We have tried to recruit as many young auditors we could, convinced of the added value that they bring, thanks to their modern mindset and inclination versus innovative approaches to audit, or to their willingness to promote such approaches at the institution.

During 2012-2019, the ALSAI has increased and diversified the professional composition of staff and at the same time, has sensibly reduced staff average age from 50 zears old  in 2011 to 40.8 zears old at the end of 2018. In order to improve their audit performance, acquire new knowledge and techniques, some of the new employees have completed their second bachelor studies or possess professional certificates recognized nationally and internationally. 9 auditors, of whom seven are young auditors, have on-line training certificates developed by IDI, the INTOSAI Development Initiative. Other young auditors have participated in ECA’s international internship and in US GAO’s fellowship programs.

In ALSAI, the lifelong and ongoing training process has been operating effectively since 2012. It has been continuously improved and has become a consolidated system, reflecting the central message of the XXII-th INTOSAI Congress “To define professionalism as a an ongoing process by which auditors and their organizations provide SAIs with high levels of expertise, competence, ethical and quality behavior based on professional standards, the ISSAIs”.

In the professional development of the auditor, and in particular of the young auditor, we have taken advantage of the innovative approaches of more developed European SAI-s, in particular the European Court of Auditors (ECA). We have considered young auditors’ professional development as a function of complex training through the transformation of experiences from vision to reality, as well as assimilating new knowledge into flexible formats, according to staff positions, as auditors, assistants, experts, audit team leaders or senior management, in the form of alternative learning, or as a mixed approach to maximize results.

We have tried to promote alternative and integrated learning – as tools for the success of young auditors. The culture of lifelong learning and ongoing training has coincided with the SAI’s professional development policies, maximizing the need to create sustainable values ​​by applying a systematic professional and ethical learning process, an encouraging and flexible one, capable of dealing with complex situations of present challenges and risks. The SAI has developed innovative training formats for both junior and senior auditors, but especially focused on new recruits, which have led to acquisition of practical skills in auditing. This has been accomplished through leadership training, joint workshops and collaboration with academic staff, as well as overseas training with expert colleagues from European developed SAIs. Such approaches have been the driving and at the same time the inspiring force for managing institutional change in ALSAI, through increased contribution from young auditors.

As SAI, we have consolidated the reforms undertaken since 2012 in the management of human resources, focusing on the realization of three key objectives:

  1. Implementing the civil service legislative framework, the INTOSA International Standards on Auditing covering human resources management and the best practices and approaches identified by most developed SAIs such as the ECA, the US GAO, etc.
  2. Developing and installing ethical and integrity values ​​in every new SAI staff member, which is a prerequisite for institutional credibility and the foundation of citizens’ trust in the SAI.
  3. Capacity building with a focus on enhancing professionalism and maximizing the productivity of young auditors and support staff.

This human resource management philosophy attempts to fulfill the priority objectives set out in the ISSAI 12 “Values ​​and Benefits of Supreme Audit Institutions – Making a Difference in Citizens’ Life”,by providing enhanced professional skills and knowledge of international standards in the field. During the period 2012-2019, ALSAI enabled the transformation from traditional human resource management to more proactive and innovative management, learning from SIGMA training experiences and from experts of advanced partner SAIs, such as the National Audit Office of Poland (NIK), the SAI of Croatia, the Austrian Court of Audit, the Czech SAI, etc., based on the INTOSAI motto “Experentia mutua Omnibus prodest”.

The SAI’s policy on audit capacity development, supported by its 2013–2017 Development Strategy, revised later and by its  2018-2022 Development Strategy, has aimed at recruiting and promoting capable and dedicated young auditors, hyghly motivated to contribute to individual development and to SAI development.

I thank Mr. Joop Vrojlik, Former Senior Adviser to SIGMA, Mr. Robert Gielisse, former Senior Adviser to the European Commission’s Directorate General for Budget (DG-Budget) and Mr. Raymond Hill, Team Leader and Senior Advisor to DG-Budget, for their permanent, significant and sometimes decisive contribution to ALSAI’s institutional developments.In the context of meeting the objective of a modern human resources management, the ALSAI has taken concrete steps and a number of initiatives for the establishment of an effective human capital management infrastructure and system and the creation of a credible and professional institutional profile versus its main stakeholders – the auditees, the parliament, the media and the public.

The effectiveness of HR policies in terms of enhancing professional capacity is evidenced by the indicator about 14 times higher of the average days of training per year per each auditor. So, from 2.1 average days of training in 2011 to an average of 25 days of training for the period 2012-2019, thus reaching the highest level throughout 94 years of existence of this institution. The average days per year for new auditors is 29 days.

The ALSAI has orinted its auditors, especially the young ones to the use of digital audit process management information and support system, called RevZone, as an absolute novelty for the institution. RevZone facilitates and completes with the required information the digital guidance in audit. The institution has created a database of IT audit entities (ICTS Database) and developed the Active Information Technology Audit Manual. This electronic manual, with unquestionable value in risk analysis, audit planning and the use of previous audit experience, is a novelty not only for ALSAI but also for the global audit community as a product that was born, tested in a pilot audit and improved with the modest contribution of the ALSAI Information Technology auditors (largely composed of young auditors). It has been presented at several INTOSAI and EUROSAI IT working groups’ events, has been accepted and is being implemented as an innovation in the field of public supreme audit.

 

The ALSAI has translated INTOSAI’s agenda for professionalism, presented at the INCOSAI XXII-nd Congress in December 2016 in Abu d’Habi and reconfirmed and consolidated at the INCOSAI XXIII-rd Congress in September 2019 in Moscow into assignments requiring more engagement from public auditors, especiallz from the young ones, to act as professionals, performing the audit work in the right quality and timely, as effectively and efficiently as possible.

 

The ALSAI, based on the enthusiasm and innovative strength of its young auditors, aspires to be fully capable to make a difference in the lives of Albanian citizens, as defined in the ISSAI 12. This is how our SAI has conceived growth and empowerment of institutional and organizational capacity, becoming the focus of the professional development for its young auditors and not only them, to enable them to deliver value and benefits to the citizen, in the uncompromising fight against corruption and in the work for real improvement of public governance, through auditing with efficiency, effectiveness and economz the use of Albanian taxpayer’s money.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 6, 2019 20:11