Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States

22nd UN/INTOSAI Symposium: Audit and Counselling by SAI’s: Risks and Opportunities as well as Possibilities for Engaging Citizens

Secretary-General Josef Moser,
Distinguished Participants,

It is a pleasure to co-organise the 22nd UN/INTOSAI Symposium.

I thank INTOSAI for collaborating with the United Nations. 

Indeed, the UN General Assembly noted with appreciation the work of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions in promoting greater accountability, transparency, and efficient and effective receipt and use of public resources for the benefit of citizens.

In a recent resolution, the General Assembly encouraged Member States and relevant United Nations institutions to intensify their cooperation, including in capacity-building, with the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions.

The 22nd UN/INTOSAI Symposium is a timely response to the General Assembly’s call.  And, it is an occasion for us to better focus on the collaboration of the two institutions.

Today, I wish to share with you some thoughts on citizen engagement for public accountability and on our future cooperation.

I will begin by expanding on three concepts:  (i) the post-2015 development agenda, (ii) public accountability, and (iii) citizen engagement in managing development.  

You may recall that the Millennium Development Goals range from cutting extreme poverty levels in half, to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS.

With the approaching 2015 deadline, the international community is not only accelerating progress on the MDGs, but also starting to prepare the UN development agenda beyond 2015.

The current discussion on the post-2015 development agenda involves the agreement from Rio + 20 to design a set of Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs), and on a long-term strategy for financing for sustainable development.

As part of these ongoing discussions, the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel recently highlighted: 

  • the need for good governance,
  • investment in stable and accountable institutions,
  • fighting corruption, and
  • ensuring the rule of law.

At the same time, the Rio+20 outcome document, “The Future we Want”, acknowledges the necessity of democracy, good governance and the rule of law at the national and international levels for sustainable development.  It also highlights the need for institutions at all levels to be effective, transparent, accountable and democratic.

Achieving the post-2015 development agenda, with sustainable development goals at its core, will therefore require institution building, with broad public involvement. 

Indeed, public participation is essential to “public accountability”.  It is key to ensuring that public officials and institutions be held accountable to citizens.

As I conveyed to the INTOSAI’s Governing Board in Chengdu last fall, your work gives the public assurance in the management of public accounts, and the overall performance of government operations.

Your institutions promote transparency and accountability, thereby contributing to effective public, and corporate, governance.

Given your expertise, your continued advice on safeguarding scarce public resources for financing competing priorities for sustainable development, is critical.

The World Bank estimates that over a trillion dollars are lost to bribes each year. As the United Nations Secretary-General recently stated, I quote:

“The cost of corruption is measured not just in the billions of dollars of squandered or stolen Government resources, but most poignantly in the absence of the hospitals, schools, clean water, roads and bridges that might have been built with that money and would have certainly changed the fortunes of families and communities.”  Unquote.

At the United Nations, Member States have committed to fighting corruption through the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which requires each Member State to have in place a system of accounting and auditing standards and related oversight, as a corruption prevention measure. Such measures increase the credibility of public institutions.

This credibility of public institutions makes a difference – a huge difference – in development. 

Whether a country can attract foreign direct investment, facilitate trade and build up human capital – often depends on whether there are strong, efficient, effective and transparent public institutions in place.

A hallmark of good governance is citizen engagement and participation in decision making on development. 

Indeed, engagement has an intrinsic value for citizens to exercise their civic rights. It also has an instrumental value for public institutions to better formulate public policies and improve public services, through responding to citizen preferences and addressing citizen needs and concerns.

In today’s interdependent world, governments do not have all the answers. They need to work together with civil society and the private sector in defining the problems, and identifying the solutions. 

Distinguished Participants,

The United Nations and the international community recognize that economic growth, social development and environmental protection form the three pillars of sustainable development. Cross-cutting, effective and efficient public administration is also critical in supporting the three pillars.

Some experts suggest that good governance is the fourth pillar of sustainable development.  I agree. Good governance strengthens and reinforces the inter-linkages of the social, economic and environmental pillars, and ensures that the future we want is translated into reality.  

Supreme audit institutions are an integral part of the fourth pillar.

I invite you to reaffirm your commitment to building stronger foundations for effective governance for the post-2015 development agenda.

And I look forward to hearing your proposals and ideas, including ideas on how to strengthen our future cooperation.

Thank you for your attention.