The audit was a joint initiative between PASAI and the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI). Lead by PASAI’s Director of Technical Support, A’eau Agnes Aruwafu and Mr. Shofiqul Islam, IDI’s Manager of Capacity Development, PASAI’s team of facilitators included two officers from Audit NZ, one auditor each from SAI Cook Islands, Samoa, Norway and Maldives, and PASAI’s Director of Practice Development, Sinaroseta Palamo-Iosefo who helped with design, planning and quality reviews. The whole team met in Oslo to design the program followed by a two-week planning workshop in Auckland, NZ, in 2015, and another week of reporting in Samoa, in Dec 2016. Quality assurance of the reports was done in Dec 2017, with the SAIs’ reports being made public for most in 2018.
It was a long-term activity but a successful one, and this report highlights not only the results of the audits themselves, but also the lessons learnt in being the first region to carry out a cooperative compliance audit, on this particular topic. This report sits in the PASAI suite of information-sharing regional reports as PASAI continues to support its SAIs as Learning and Knowledge organisation (and we’ll soon be following up with a regional report on the cooperative performance audit of preparedness for implementation of the SDGs).
Key Audit Issues
There were many audit issues identified during these audits which are recurring and all-too-common problems in the Pacific region. For instance:
- Procurement legislation is out of date and need to be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the purchasing practices are up to date, efficient, effective and that the seven principles of procurement are met;
- There is poor implementation of the procurement life-cycle phases relating to planning and monitoring or evaluating contracts, which is largely due to the lack of focus or training in these areas for procurement staff and disagreement with those charged with governance;
- There is a lack of procedure and guidance for some aspects of the procurement life-cycle; and
- Public Officers responsible for the use of public funds through procurement practices must be reminded of maintaining high ethical standards with integrity and honesty.
However, this regional programme identified new issues that need to be addressed to improve public procurement practices in the pacific region and hopefully reduce the ongoing recurring audit issues identified:
- Responsibilities for public procurement have traditionally been seen as an administrative service function carried out by staff who have not been trained properly in the procurement lifecycle. There needs to be a change from this being an administrative role to becoming a more proactive and strategic one. Building professional procurement expertise in governments will meet the development challenges faced as a result of weak procurement practices;
- Many of the procurement units or officers responsible for procurement practices did not have a good grasp of the entire procurement cycle including the seven principles of procurement. These are written in legislation and some procedures, but not embedded in daily practice to constantly remind all officers of their responsibilities. Training is required across all government agencies involved in procurement to remind them of the importance of accountability and transparency;
- This compliance audit methodology has really fine-tuned the focus of auditors to really highlight how non-compliance with procedures, legislation and processes increases the risks of fraud, theft and misappropriate of government resources (assets and cash). However, if the audit results are not followed through with actions by government/ministries to improve on these procurement processes, then there will be no change;
- Development partners in the region provide training on procurement in-country; however, these are usually in relation to their own procurement requirements. There needs to be an alignment to the government processes to try and improve procurement processes of governments/implementing agencies at the same time. The underlying principles of procurement will always be the same across the globe, so this is a good starting point for all training provided.