The Swedish National Audit Office (Swedish NAO) has been working together with the African Organisation of English Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI-E) since 2005. AFROSAI-E comprises 24 English-speaking and two Portuguese-speaking supreme audit institutions in Africa. The Swedish NAO’s current cooperation agreement with AFROSAI-E covers the period 2020–2024 and has a strategic approach. This means that the Swedish NAO is supporting the implementation of the AFROSAI-E strategic plan for 2020–2024 financially and professionally, with a focus on audit-related and institutional operational areas. The Swedish NAO is primarily an institutional partner for AFROSAI-E, which involves a collegial exchange, in which many experts from the Swedish NAO contribute by carrying out training and development initiatives in the region.
Support to AFROSAI-E differs from the Swedish NAO’s other cooperation, since the technical support is supplemented with a financial contribution. This is done in the light of the view of AFROSAI-E as a motor of development of auditing capacity in the region. This is also related to the fact that the Secretariat has reached a level of maturity where it assumes ownership of its own development and where the Swedish NAO’s role increasingly is about being a dialogue partner.
The main focus of the cooperation between the Swedish NAO and AFROSAI-E covers:
- financial support
- skills development in performance audit
- skills development in financial audit
- quality assurance and quality control
- leadership development.
The Swedish NAO is one of AFROSAI-E’s most long-term partners and external donors. The Swedish NAO has cooperated with AFROSAI-E since its formation in 2005, but even AFROSAI-E's forerunner received Swedish development support from 1989. Historically, the Swedish NAO’s support has mainly been focused on the development of performance audit in the region, but has also included other areas such as methods and skills development in financial audit, quality control and quality assurance, as well as HR, leadership and communication.
The circumstances of the members of AFROSAI-E-vary. Some SAIs hold a relatively strong position in their countries and have the capability and room to manoeuvre and carry out public auditing within the scope of their mandate. Other members operate in challenging environments characterised by such things as insufficient resources, political turbulence, immature administrative cultures, weak parliaments and reprisals in connection with criticism of the government.
The AFROSAI-E-Secretariat holds a strong position in the region and is a driving force for development among its members. However, in terms of resources the Secretariat is dependent on external donors and cooperation partners, above all as regards financing of the Secretariat, but also for carrying out activities.
The Global SAI Stock Taking Report includes a comparison between the regional bodies in terms of four principles of independence. AFROSAI-E scored higher points (86) than the global average (84). AFROSAI-E came in third place at 61 points, after PASAI and EUROSAI with their 72 and 63 points respectively out of 100. Within AFROSAI-E, 25 out of 26 SAIs present a good organisational structure and a majority of the SAIs carry out their strategic plans and are resource efficient. AFROSAI-E has an audit coverage of 28 per cent in performance audit, which refers to the number of audits carried out in relation to the number of planned audits.
The SAI’s degree of independence
Among AFROSAI-E’s 26 members there are great variations as regards the context in which the SAIs operate, the scope of their mandates, the degree of independence, the structure of the organisation and access to resources and competence. According to the members’ self-assessment, independence has increased from 3.07 in 2017 to 3.17 in 2020 (on a scale from 1 to 5). However, there are major variations between different audit institutions in the region. These variations make high demands on the flexibility of AFROSAI-E and its partners in terms of adapting support to the circumstances of the members, developing learning and creating platforms for exchange of experience. The COVID-19 pandemic is deemed to have had a negative effect on audit institutions’ independence.
In 2021, at Sida’s request, an evaluation of AFROSAI-E was carried out with the aim of capturing the long-term impact of the support of the Secretariat’s efforts in the region. These reports form the basis for the description of the results below. In addition, the Swedish NAO sends out surveys after each completed activity to evaluate it. Every year, the Secretariat also submits a comprehensive results report.
The Swedish NAO’s cooperation projects with AFROSAI-E differ from bilateral cooperation. The activities that the Swedish NAO participates in are planned and run by the AFROSAI-E Secretariat, in accordance with the members’ priorities, instead of being formulated in a project document between the Swedish NAO and the other partner. This means on the one hand an inbuilt ownership, where the AFROSAI-E Secretariat and the members of the organisation themselves identify needs and take responsibility for their own development. On the other hand, it means that the Swedish NAO has less influence over how the combined work is conducted and developed, and fewer opportunities to influence content. The technical support is also supplemented with a financial contribution.
The Swedish NAO therefore supports the implementation of AFROSAI-E’s strategic plan, with a clear ambition to steer support towards certain priority areas. This means that the cooperation to a greater extent is steered towards results in defined operational areas, rather than towards specific activities.
In our opinion, support to AFROSAI-E has contributed both to developing audit capacity in financial audit, performance audit and quality assurance in the region and to strengthening the Secretariat in supporting its members. This is also clear in that the Swedish NAO has on several occasions used experts from the region as facilitators in our other cooperation partnerships. We also see good prospects of sustainable results. Sida’s evaluation identifies a couple of factors as favourable for creating sustainable results. The first is that we, as well as Sida, work with capacity building that reaches a large number of auditors in the region. In addition, the concept “train-the-trainer” is identified as an important factor to create sustainable results. We train regional trainers, who in turn train colleagues in various audit-related subjects. Another factor is that we support the development of material in the form of manuals and guides, which provide guidance for the SAIs’ development and operations.
The strength of the cooperation is the close and long-standing relation that the Swedish NAO has with AFROSAI-E, which enables an open dialogue about challenges and opportunities. However, challenges remain in the cooperation, such as the fact that the Swedish NAO often takes on a driving role and that the planning horizons are often short.
Our assessment is that through our support we have strengthened both the Secretariat’s skills in supporting the members, and the region’s overall capability in performance audit. This has been achieved for example by our support to AFROSAI-E in the basic courses implemented within performance audit. These are implemented in three modules a couple of times per year. In an evaluation conducted digitally in 2021 the participants stated (an average of 4.8 on a scale of 1 to 5) that they will use the knowledge in their work and that they will spread the knowledge from the course (an average of 4.7 on a scale of 1 to 5). The number of performance auditors in the region increased from 685 to 704 in 2020. However, high staff turnover is a challenge for many of the SAIs in the region.
As part of the cooperation, we have also actively participated in producing training material and manuals and in discussions of how audit capacity in performance audit in the region can be developed. Apart from that, the Swedish NAO supports a prize awarded to the best performance audit report in the region (“The Prize”). The Swedish NAO sponsors the prize and chairs the committee that nominates the winner. From this work it is clear that the quality of the audits is increasing, and an increasing number of countries can participate in the competition. The COVID-19 pandemic has, however, hit some SAIs hard and they have not been able to conduct as many audits as was initially planned.
More evidence of the development journey that AFROSAI-E has travelled is that the Swedish NAO now uses the Secretariat and staff from other SAIs as facilitators in other regional and bilateral cooperation. Something that AFROSAI-E itself notes in its reporting of results is that the basic courses in performance audit are now conducted by regional facilitators, which is evidence of improved skills and capability to incorporate international standards in their operations. Many of the facilitators have previously completed the training modules. Through great efforts, AFROSAI-E was able to implement most of the training courses digitally during the pandemic.
The Swedish NAO has helped to create conditions for developing financial audit capacity in the region. Our activities have included the development of the manual for financial audit to comply with international standards. The Swedish NAO has also provided advisory support on how the manual can be updated to meet new international standards. At the end of 2020, 17 SAIs in AFROSAI-E had adapted their manuals to comply with these.
We have supported AFROSAI-E and its members in quality control and quality assurance. In our opinion, the quality of the operations has increased due to our support. However, this is an area that has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, as quality assurance and quality control were difficult to perform digitally because legislation in AFROSAI-E’s various countries makes it difficult to share documents required digitally.
The Swedish NAO has participated in workshops held in member countries. We have also acted as a reference group in the production of a manual for quality assurance and quality control. The international standard for quality assurance in SAIs is being changed, so our support also covers updating working methods to the coming new standard set for the area.
In our opinion, HR, leadership and communication have developed due to our support. AFROSAI-E states in its own performance reporting that they have noted growth. Among other things, we have provided coaching support in communication and the development of AFROSAI-E’s manual. We have also supported production of training material for how SAIs can strengthen and simplify the language in their performance audit reports. This provides the conditions for better response and understanding for the SAIs’ audits. AFROSAI-E states in its reporting that members’ external communication improved as a result of the guidance they received through the communication manual. In the area of communication, members’ self-assessment increased between 2018 and 2019 and then decreased in 2020, which stems from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the HR area, AFROSAI–E, together with the Swedish NAO, has developed a digital HR tool. The tool makes it possible to assess employees’ capability in a number of areas, such as analytical capabilities and values. The idea is that the tool can be used in recruitment, training and development. This was launched as a pilot with nine SAIs and was subsequently fine-tuned. SAIs in Kenya and South Africa have subsequently used the tool. In Kenya, 1 700 candidates were tested and the equivalent of 600 candidates were tested in South Africa. We have also supported AFROSAI-E in producing material and structure for the leadership programme.
There has been greater demand for auditors in the AFROSAI-E region in recent years. AFROSAI-E has responded to this by developing capacity-building programmes, for example “training-of trainers”. This means that the focus lies on “training the trainers”, who then implement training at their own SAIs. This programme, aimed at increasing sustainability and quality of training, was developed with the support of the Swedish NAO.
Costs of the Swedish NAO's cooperation that are charged to international development cooperation.
Source: Swedish National Audit Office Annual Reports for 2019, 2020 and 2021 and budget for 2022.
Brief facts about AFROSAI-E
AFROSAI-E is a regional organisation whose members consist of 24 English-speaking and two Portuguese-speaking supreme audit institutions in Africa. AFROSAI-E is a sub-regional organisation within INTOSAI that aims to strengthen members’ capacity and ability to conduct public auditing. The strategic goals of AFROSAI-E are to professionalise public sector accounting, empower SAIs for greater audit impact and quality, transform SAI organisational capabilities for greater impact, and to lead by example and deliver on our mandate. The Swedish NAO supports the implementation of AFROSAI-E’s strategic plan, including the vision and mission detailed within.
There are major variations in terms of the political situation in the countries in the AFROSAI-E region, from relatively developed countries to more fragile states. Many of the countries are characterised by corruption and weak parliaments. According to the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, its members lie within an interval from rank 27 (Seychelles) to rank 179 (South Sudan and Somalia) out of a total of 180 countries. At the same time rapid economic growth is taking place in several of the member countries and in some places democratic progress is being made.
The economic situation varies in the same way. Some countries are characterised by a high level of growth, while others are characterised by widespread poverty, high population growth and ongoing conflicts. The dominating sector is agriculture, which means that climate change has a major impact on the region. Raw material extraction is another important factor.
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