Mr. Thomas Gass Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs

SAI Leadership and Stakeholder Workshop
“Auditing Preparedness for the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS)”

Members of the Board of the INTOSAI Development Institute,
Heads of supreme audits institutions,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,

It is my great pleasure to be with you all today at this important workshop.

At the outset, I thank the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI) for jointly organising this with us. We see this workshop as very timely and strategic. Indeed, the involvement of supreme audit institutions (SAIs) in the implementation, follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs is much needed and welcome – I will come back to this in a minute.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Implementing the transformative 2030 Agenda will require efforts in multiple areas. We are talking about:

  • adapting the SDGs to national contexts,
  • devising integrated and multi-stakeholder approaches to implementation of the Goals,
  • mobilizing adequate financial resources, and
  • setting up appropriate monitoring and review frameworks.

Of course Governments have a key role in spearheading implementation.
And supreme audit institutions are uniquely positioned to promote trust in government by promoting effective public governance, enhancing the efficiency of public administration, and helping improve development outcomes.

At the centre of your discussions will be the performance audits of governments’ preparedness for the SDGs, that SAIs are planning to conduct.

Such audits are one of the first responses of SAIs in contributing to SDG implementation, follow-up and review, by providing independent oversight of governments’ efforts in the early implementation of the SDGs. I hear that more than 100 SAIs, from all INTOSAI regions, have expressed interest in participating in such audits. Yet, they also raise questions, many of which I expect this meeting to discuss.

Allow me to elaborate on two of them.

A first challenge that the agenda clearly poses is how to audit the dimension of inclusiveness. Leaving no one behind – at the core of the 2030 Agenda – means we need to address all forms of inequality and discrimination to ensure the inclusion of marginalized, excluded and disempowered groups. The 2030 Agenda calls for meaningful and active participation of all people and stakeholders at all stages, from SDG integration into national strategies, to implementation, to national monitoring and review.

Yet, we know that outcomes are determined by a wide combination of factors. Some of these factors are objectively measurable and can be monitored quite easily. Others are more intangible, and their rigorous evaluation requires methods that may be foreign to the core set of skills of auditors.

For example, in addressing the needs of vulnerable groups, direct allocation of resources to actions targeting these groups. is measurable. How behaviors in society at large, and in the public service, affect outcomes for these groups, is much harder to apprehend.
The question therefore is how can SAIs expand their traditional focus on economy, efficiency and effectiveness to enquire about equity and equality considerations, and how these are being met.

As an additional parameter to consider, in examining inclusiveness in the broad sense of the 2030 Agenda for this type of audit, SAIs may have to look beyond their traditional mechanisms. Collecting evidence and consulting with a wider set of stakeholders, including people from the poorest and most vulnerable communities who are hard to reach, will need to be considered.

A second challenge is relayed in the following question: How can the information produced by national audits on SDG preparedness, inform and help strengthen the reviews of the SDGs at the global level?

The 2030 Agenda clearly states that the SDGs have to be adapted to national contexts. Each Government sets its own national targets. These of course are guided by the global level of ambition, but take into account national circumstances. This means that in practice, the set of national Goals and the related targets will vary across countries. For example, under education, some countries may adopt more targets than others, at different levels, with different sequencing, etc.

In order for national audits to inform reviews at wider geographical levels, it would be useful to use some common elements, methods and standards. This would also facilitate exchanges of experience among countries around these audits.
Yet, the methodologies that are used have to be flexible enough to be fully relevant to the legal and institutional context in each country. Indeed, this is where the remit of SAIs lies. There is a delicate balance to be found there, which can only be found by SAIs themselves. As someone who believes deeply in the critical importance of a robust global review system for the SDGs, I wanted to bring this issue to your attention.
There are, of course, other important questions. For example:

  • What political space do SAIs have, in different contexts, to have an impact on implementation, follow-up and review of the SDGs?
  • What are the areas where they can bring the most value added, compared to other structures or institutions – Parliaments, internal audit institutions, civil society?
  • And, how will the findings of the audits be taken into consideration?

In a way, some of these questions will only be answered through experience. Today and tomorrow, SAIs’ varied approaches to auditing SDG implementation preparedness will be discussed. We will hear about emerging good practices that are critical for SAIs to further develop appropriate methodologies and standards.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The SDGs are our shared vision of humanity – the vision piece of the globalization puzzle. They will not be achieved through ‘business as usual’. Accordingly, this meeting is not designed to be a ‘business as usual’ meeting.

I hope you will be provocative and visionary. Ultimately, what matters is how SAIs can contribute to more robust implementation, follow-up and review of the SDGs and Agenda 2030.

I wish you a productive meeting.

Thank you very much.

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