Responsible public Governance : an authentic and universal alternative for more efficient human and ethical public services
Dr. Stéphane Monney Mouandjo GD. CAFRAD Yaoundé May 2017
Prevention of Public Wealth Violations: New Challenge of Public Finance Supreme Audit Institutions in Africa

CONTEXT OF THE FORUM

 

The life of modern organizations is marked by the constant search for a balance between considering the changing elements of their environment and achieving defined objectives in different contexts. Whether they are cyclical or structural, changes that occur in the wake of organizations end up by changing the functional orientation of these entities, which can lead, in some cases, to reforms whose magnitude is measured by the ability of structures to adapt to a constantly changing environment.

Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) of public finance, like other organizations, are subject to the influence of changes taking place in the environment in which they operate. Today, the interpellations and constraints facing public finance control structures are as diverse as pressing and require that appropriate attention be given to them.

Thus, as regards interpellations, it should be recognized that, in matters of national governance, the contribution of SAIs is important in a number of areas in Africa.

First, public finance audit should be a means to safeguard democracy and the rule of law, all other things without which one cannot consider sustainable development. It promotes the exercise of democratic rights of citizens as true decision makers. Because, by the publication of their reports, SAI of public finance allow citizens to participate in public affairs and assess government management. Secondly, the inspection helps to enforce the law. The various audits being conducted by SAIs consist in verifying compliance with laws and regulations by the directors of public wealth and report the problems encountered in the implementation of these texts. Thirdly, in some cases, the SAIs report gaps and shortcomings of laws and regulations and make recommendations for their revision or improvement.

Then, the public audit system should contribute more to enhancing the effectiveness of the government action. To this end, it must promote the optimization of public resources through the evaluation, verification and review of government activities and projects on the one hand, and the encouragement of the best use of public funds as well as the implementation of public policies in order to achieve the pursued objectives, on the other. The audit of public finance is also called upon to improve the functioning of public entities by detecting weaknesses and shortcomings in the management and operating mechanisms of these entities and proposing appropriate corrective measures. It should also encourage government transparency and openness by publishing reliable information on how State agencies and officials are meeting their statutory obligations in the management of public funds.

Finally, more than before, public finance Supreme Audit Institutions are expected to contribute to improving the lives of citizens. Indeed, since the expenses aimed at improving the standard of living and well-being of the populace are an important part of public spending, an effective audit of these expenditures represents a guarantee of their rational use for the benefit of the citizens. By carrying out audits in areas such as education, health care, prevention and fight against endemic diseases, social security, employment, housing or environmental protection, SAIs defend thus the fundamental rights of people whose living conditions can get improved.

Although the list of interpellations which the SAIs are currently facing is not exhaustive, it is clear that they must perform these missions under constraints that do not facilitate their task.

First, the context in which the SAIs evolve today is characterized by an increasingly demanding social corps. The democratization movement initiated here and there resulted in a renewed vitality of social forces whose claim for their participation in the conduct of public affairs is sometimes expressed brutally. The structuring of social community has witnessed the birth of various forces which are interlocutors that governments can no longer ignore, at the risk of causing social crises whose effects may even destabilize the current regimes. The economic difficulties that Africans are experiencing also accentuate their desire to know the way in which public resources, which are supposed to improve their daily lives, are managed. It follows from this that SAIs which must provide them with information on public management have a considerable responsibility.

Second, public finance Supreme Audit Institutions undergo the effects of globalization at many levels. On the one hand, the dissemination of best practices developed across the world, and the services provided by their peers, submit these institutions to an obligation of result and a performance requirement that are not easy to achieve. On the other hand, the compliance with international standards setting in both the areas of competence of SAIs and the principles of their operation does not allow the latter to address some areas that could have improved their performance. With globalization and the rapid evolution of information and communication technologies, the field of audit has significantly evolved to the point that SAIs are facing new challenges that force them to innovate in order to continue to fulfill their mission.

Third, in Africa the daily life of SAIs is characterized by a lack of resources of all kinds. In human terms, this deficiency is both qualitative and quantitative. Indeed, many countries lack the initial training institutes of auditors intended to serve in the SAIs. Many are limited to recruiting graduates of some prestigious schools and guaranteeing them personalized trainings on specific areas related to their professional activities of the moment. This need for quality auditors increases with the emergence of new sectors to be taken in hand by the SAIs. Regarding the quantitative aspect, it should be noted that the staff in-service in the audit structures are not compatible with the complexity of the work to do, nor with the number of entities to be audited. This is especially more worrying that the SAIs are called to develop activities in areas that sometimes come out of their traditional spheres of expertise.

Financially and materially, the situation of the SAIs is far from brilliant. The lack of resources in these areas cannot be explained only by the economic difficulties facing most African countries. It is more the result of the absence of a true culture of accountability, which would have valued the place of audit of public finance and to induce a substantial allocation of resources necessary for this purpose. Moreover, the fact that the funding of SAIs activities is ensured by government entities under their control is not likely to improve their financial situation. Finally, because of the fear aroused by the activities of the SAIs, an increase of their resources would give them the opportunity to cover more entities, which is not the taste of everyone regarding the sanctions that are imposed after the checks.

Registration Form

JUSTIFICATION OF THE THEME

 

Faced with the interpellations and constraints described above, which are expected to worsen over time, the challenge for SAIs consists in adding to inspections, other activities that may help them to improve their performance in a binding context. Indeed, the development of complementary activities of conventional controls, in order to increase the efficiency of the public finance audit measures and to better protect the public wealth, becomes an imperative that should be tackled here and now for three basic reasons that can be briefly explained below:

First, because of the importance of human, material and financial resources they mobilize, checks carried out at the level of public and quasi-public entities constitute a burden that States have increasingly a difficulty to cope with it in this time when budgetary resources are very limited. It follows that many public services spend years without being checked, leaving free course to malfeasances of all kinds. Hence the need to seek less expensive mechanisms that would enable SAIs to cover a maximum of structures.

Second, although the inspections generally occur a posteriori, the sanctions imposed after exploiting audit reports have long had a deterrent effect. However, we see that over the years, this effect has faded gradually to the point that some have to question the ability of inspections to limit cases of embezzlement of public funds that unfortunately seem to be constantly increasing. This situation, which we should not accommodate, deserves a serious consideration.

Finally, regarding the specific case of Cameroon, it should be noted that the perception of the sanitation campaign of public morals, engaged for years, seems rather to be mixed, both at the national and international public opinions.

Indeed, on the one hand, some question the scope of an operation that results in only an insignificant repayment of misappropriated funds, and in which there would be a high opacity in the management of some registered refunds. On the other hand, we assimilate, rightly or wrongly, this campaign to a political purge operation.

Given this situation, many people think, and say it more publicly, that it would be more useful for the country to design a set of mechanisms enabling it to take the public wealth away from malicious manipulations. It is at this level that the prevention of violations of the public wealth appears to be as an appropriate response to the current situation of public finance Supreme Audit Institutions in Africa.

In view of the Cameroonian experience, the International Forum of SAIs, by highlighting the issue of prevention of public wealth breaches, could be a key moment the results of which would revolutionize these institutions.

In the light of the context depicted above, the forum has number of specific objectives which should be presented.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Considering the objectives pursued through the forum, the results that we expect are as follows.

  1. The consensual identification of preventive activities to be assumed by the SAIs themselves, and the procedures of their exercise;
  2. The concerted identification of preventive measures to be taken at the level of other government bodies;
  3. The proposal of possible institutional reforms needed for the deployment of the prevention activity of public wealth violations;
  4. Legal framework adjustments to be considered for the exercise of this new activity.

The main themes to be developed during the forum are:

  • The African specific context of public finance auditing (plenary presentation)
  • The protection of public wealth: real issue of public finance auditing in Africa (plenary presentation)
  • Constraints and limitations of conventional inspections (plenary presentation)
  • Activities regarding the prevention of public wealth violations (in workshops)
  • Adjustments that are needed to be made to the legal and institutional frameworks for a better exercise of the activities of prevention of public wealth violations (in workshops)

METHODOLOGIE

The proceedings of the forum will be conducted in an active and participatory manner. There will be constant interaction between resource persons and participants to better address the content of each topic of the programme. After the introduction of topics by resource persons, participants will have the opportunity to make their comments, suggestions and ask questions. The proceedings will take place in plenary sessions and in small groups.

 

Languages

French & English

 

Date: 2 - 4 March 2016
Venue: Yaoundé (Cameroon)
Duration: Three days