Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Opening Remarks
High-Level Roundtable Discussion
“The contribution of Supreme Audit Institutions to ensuring that no one is left behind in
the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”

His Excellency Mr. Jan Kickert,
His Excellency Ms. Lana Nusseibeh,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to join you at this roundtable. I thank the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) and the Permanent Missions of Austria and the United Arab Emirates for organizing this side event.

There have been several high-level discussions in New York in recent years on the role of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) in advancing sustainable development.

In May 2013, DESA and the Permanent Mission of Austria organized a panel on safeguarding finance for sustainable development. In January 2015, DESA and the Permanent Missions of Austria, the Republic of Korea and the Kingdom of Morocco organized a panel on the independent oversight role of Supreme Audit Institutions in implementation.

In 2013 and 2014, the Secretary General of INTOSAI spoke at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). He outlined the role of INTOSAI and SAIs in reviewing SDG implementation. These were very rich discussions. I am sure that today’s roundtable will be likewise inspiring and thought-provoking.

2016 marks the beginning of the implementation of the transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The HLPF is the central platform for the follow-up and review of the SDGs. The HLPF and its overarching theme – “Ensuring that no one is left behind”- frame the discussions at this roundtable.

Effective and accountable institutions are critical for realizing the SDGs. SDG 16 recognizes this. It also recognizes the need for substantially reducing corrupt practices and building effective, transparent and accountable institutions in order to achieve “peaceful and inclusive societies” for all people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

The detailed provisions for follow-up, review and reporting highlight the critical role of accountability for implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Earlier, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development, and the Secretary-General’s Synthesis Report “The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet”, underscored the critical role of monitoring frameworks, and the commitment to strengthen national oversight mechanisms, such as audit institutions. The General Assembly is currently elaborating more detailed provisions for reviewing SDG progress at the global level.

Now, our challenge is to ensure that the follow-up and review process helps improve the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and track progress on the SDGs for all.

The 2030 Agenda encourages countries to conduct regular reviews of progress. These reviews will feed into the HLPF reviews at the global and regional level as well as thematic reviews. Member States may consider engaging SAIs as part of the follow-up and review process.

This year—for the first time—the HLPF is hearing voluntary national reviews. This is an opportunity to learn about how SAIs can contribute to reviewing the SDGs in the future from these 22 volunteering countries. Such an exchange of experiences can help inform countries decisions about how to use SAIs in conducting their reviews.

The HLPF could also consider innovative ways in which SAIs can contribute to global, regional and thematic reviews, including on cross-cutting issues such as this year’s theme of “ensuring that no one is left behind”.

I believe that capable and independent SAIs, with sound public accounting systems and performance-oriented budgets, will help strengthen transparency and accountability in the implementation of the SDGs at the national level, and support an effective review of the SDGs worldwide. As recognised in INTOSAI’s Strategic Plan for 2017-22, SAIs can play this role in four key ways:

First, SAIs can assess national systems and policies for implementing the SDGs and their readiness to report on progress towards the targets. SAIs can review whether budgetary commitments towards the SDGs, where they exist, are being met. They can also report, for example, on whether national statistics are complete and accurate to ensure that no one is invisible.

Second, audit institutions can examine the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of sectoral policies which contribute to the SDGs (in health, water, or the environment), but also look at their results in reaching the poorest and most vulnerable.

Third, SAIs can assess and support the implementation of SDG 16, improving budget transparency and helping the fight against illicit financial flows and corrupt practices, which undermine efforts to finance the SDGs.

Finally, SAIs should be models of transparency, integrity and accountability in their own operations.

I am pleased to see many SAIs already making noteworthy contributions in these areas. I thank INTOSAI and the INTOSAI community for its continued support and efforts to assist in the review of the SDGs and their recognition of the 2030 Agenda as a cross-cutting strategic priority.

However, let us not underestimate the challenges. SAIs will need independence and adequate mandates, strengthening their traditional financial auditing functions and enhanced capacities to ensuring that institutions perform their functions with efficiency, effectiveness, accountability and inclusiveness.

My department, closely with the INTOSAI General Secretariat, is committed to supporting national efforts to address these challenges and foster an effective, accountable and inclusive implementation of the SDGs.

DESA is working with the INTOSAI Knowledge Sharing Committee, the INTOSAI Development Initiative and national SAIs to issue Guidance on Auditing the SDGs for INTOSAI members.

This will help enhance the role of SAIs in assessing the readiness of national systems to implement the SDGs and to integrate audits of SDG-related policies in their annual audit plans.

We will present this guidance at the 22nd International Congress of Supreme Audit Institutions (INCOSAI) in December 2016. The Congress provides a great opportunity to explore how SAIs can enhance their role in support of the 2030 Agenda. I welcome the focus of the Congress on the SDGs as well as INTOSAI resolve to identify specific commitments SAIs can make to support the review of the SDGs.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am confident this event will share valuable approaches and good practices on the contribution of audit institutions to ensuring that no one is left behind in the implementation of the SDGs, and encourage innovative ways in which this role can be further strengthened.

I look forward to the rich discussions today.

Thank you.

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