Our current life is a mixture of crisis management, recovery measures and preparing for the future – and balancing between these. In this challenging situation, the national and international networks and cooperation are increasing in importance when we strive to safeguard sustainability and stability.
We are living a totally new reality where we, while managing the Covid-19 crisis and trying to recover from it, have to define and create the new normal. Questions are whirling around us: how are the various countries meeting and coping with the Covid-19 challenges? How can we find ways to lead the economies and finances to a sustainable, stable path? How to assure that the national and international recovery funds and measures will be allocated effectively? How could we better prepare for a new unpredictable global crisis? How can we support sustainable development in this turbulent and volatile operating environment?
There are no simple solutions or answers. We are faced with difficult, systemic problems whose answers are intertwined with each other. Answers and solutions create new questions. And the answers and solutions may be out of date even before we have properly unfolded them, as we are met with new challenges.
Close international cooperation helps us to face the challenges
Most of the questions and problems are shared globally by different organisations, states and regions. Thus, cooperation and communication between national and international parties are essential when we are shaping the new normal – or the new normals. Part of this interactive process is to consider whether there is a need to rethink and adjust the roles, relations and activities of the different agents and organisations.
The international audit community strives to support the management of the crisis and overcoming it. One of the main issues is also identifying means and measures to strengthen the capabilities to foresee and meet future changes and challenges. The supreme audit institutions as well as the audit and fiscal policy monitoring networks have intensified their cooperation and exchange of information and experiences from the very start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Continuity of audit work threatened in many countries
One of the challenges is how to assure the continuity and operational prerequisites of external, objective and impartial auditing in crisis situations. In this respect, different countries have faced the Covid-19 pandemic very differently.
The pandemic has had – and will have – a number of negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of people, and on the businesses and enterprises all over the world. Some countries have, however, been able to adjust to the situation better than others. For example, Finland has coped reasonably well compared to some other countries due to our well-developed digital infrastructure, which has made the shift to remote work easier, and the flexibility of our welfare benefit system. The National Audit Office of Finland has managed to continue its operations without interruptions or handicaps.
The situation is not similar everywhere. In many countries, the SAIs have cut down their activities considerably, even totally. However, in these kinds of extraordinary situations it would be crucial that the SAIs could continue their work as evaluators and verifiers of sustainable, legal and appropriate management of finances and society.
The international audit society supports the most vulnerable
In order to assist the SAIs to continue their activities in the most vulnerable situation, the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions INTOSAI has launched a new grant, the INITOSAI SAI Continuity during COVID-19 grant. The aim of this grant is to assist its Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) members with continuity of operations, through ICT and staff safety measures support, to respond to needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The total grant will be EUR 700,000 and available for a period of 3 years.
More information on the launch of the grant: https://intosaidonor.org/news/sai-continuity-during-covid-19-grant-now-available-for-sais/
This is the first time for the INTOSAI to take this kind of action and use this kind of an instrument. The investment shows how the international audit community is bearing the responsibility for the functioning of the field. It also highlights the crucial role that the reliable and objective audit work has in assuring and strengthening the openness and trust in society.
Heli Mikkelä’s area of responsibility is Sustainable Governance and Public Administration, and in addition to it, the development of international audit cooperation.