The Swedish National Audit Office (Swedish NAO) has been in cooperation with the SAIs in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Supreme Audit Institutions (ASEANSAI) since 2017, but has supported ASEANSAI since 2014. The most recent project phase was conducted between December 2019 and December 2022.
The Swedish NAO’s support to ASEANSAI is given mainly through participation of experts, training initiatives and coaching for activities organised by ASEANSAI and its sub-committees and members. This form of cooperation means regional ownership, but also that the Swedish NAO has limited influence over how all the work in ASEANSAI is conducted and developed.
The main focus of the cooperation between the Swedish NAO and the SAIs in ASEANSAI covers:
- financial audit
- performance audit
- quality control.
The Swedish NAO and ASEANSAI signed a first cooperation agreement for the period 2017–2019. During the period, the Swedish NAO’s support focused on strengthening the ability of audit techniques mainly within financial audit and quality assurance, but there was also a preparedness to provide support in other areas, such as performance audit. However, the Swedish NAO has supported ASEANSAI since 2014 with experts in financial audit for a number of workshops in the context of the Long-Term ASEANSAI Programme on ISSAI Implementation (LTAPII). The purpose of the programme has been, with a focus on implementing international auditing standards, to strengthen the regional cooperation between members, build up a pool of regional experts, strengthen expertise in each member organisation and promote regional skills transfer.
The Chairmanship of ASEANSAI rotates, and in November 2021 was handed over from the SAI of Malaysia to the SAI of Myanmar. ASEANSAI also consists of a number of committees and functions led by the various members. For example, the Secretariat function lies with Indonesia for the period 2018–2023, the Knowledge Sharing Committee lies with Malaysia and the Training Committee with the Philippines.
Since December 2016, ASEANSAI has a more permanent structure than before, with the aim of giving the Secretariat a clearer mandate to coordinate support from donors, for example. However, the Secretariat still has a weak role in comparison with other subregional organisations such as AFROSAI-E and in principle all decisions are made in consensus. ASEANSAI has continued to develop in recent years and through the Secretariat has strengthened its professionalism and developed sustainable structures and functioning committees.
According to the Open Budget survey of 2020, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar, from a weak starting point have reported the most improvements when it comes to budget transparency. Thailand reported the highest result for East Asia and the Pacific.
The institutional conditions vary considerably between members of ASEANSAI. There are also major variations regarding the organisational ability of the SAIs and their status in their respective countries. Despite this, INTOSAI’s Global SAI Stocktaking Report presents good results in several areas.
The SAI’s Degree of Independence
The World Bank’s SAI Independence Index is an index of SAIs’ independence. The index is designed using a ten-point scale where 0 is low and 10 is high. The index for the region in 2021 was in the interval 6.0–9.0. The SAIs of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar were in the interval 6.0–7.5, which places them in the category “moderate independence”. The SAIs of the Philippines and Indonesia were in the interval 8.0–8.5, which places them in the category “substantial independence”.
The cooperation with ASEANSAI has not been evaluated during the period 2019–2022. The Swedish NAO planned to make an evaluation at the end of 2022. The results below build mainly on the Swedish NAO’s internal performance reporting for completed activities.
The Swedish NAO’s support to ASEANSAI is given mainly through participation of experts, training initiatives and coaching for activities organised by ASEANSAI and its sub-committees and members. This form of cooperation means regional ownership, but also that the Swedish NAO has limited influence over how all the work in ASEANSAI is conducted and developed and that it is more difficult to trace and identify specific results of the Swedish NAO’s input.
In our opinion, the Swedish NAO’s support to ASEANSAI has resulted in the organisation developing better training material and improving its own capacity to facilitate training. The support has also contributed to better strategic planning.
The Swedish NAO considers that ASEANSAI has gained greater understanding of how they can produce relevant training material. The purpose has been to build up regional ability and strengthen knowledge of international standards in various audit types. The Swedish NAO has acted as external support in regional workshops. In the period 2017–2021, several workshops focused on producing training material were held. For example, one workshop was arranged focusing on producing overall course material on compliance audit for the ASEANSAI region. After the workshops the participants reported that there was now greater knowledge of compliance audit and the opportunity to continue to develop training material themselves.
The Swedish NAO has also supported ASEANSAI in developing a training programme for auditors linked to the global development goals. The participants state among other things that they have gained increased understanding of their role as facilitators and knowledge of the link between performance audit and the UN global sustainability goals.
The Swedish NAO considers that the cooperation has strengthened conditions for increasing audit skills in the region. We have, for example, supported four facilitators in financial audit, who in turn conducted training for 39 auditors in the region. The Swedish NAO supported them in their preparatory work, such as preparing presentations and exercises, as well as in the transition to conducting training in digital form.
The Swedish NAO has also supported the SAI of the Philippines and trained 33 new auditors from different SAIs in ASEANSAI as trainers in compliance audit.
In the past year ASEANSAI has developed its strategic planning. The Swedish NAO has provided support to the SAI of Vietnam, which led the work on the strategic plan. The strategic plan was approved by all members at the ASEANSAI summit in 2021.
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 the ASEAN region
ASEAN is a geopolitical and economic organisation made up of ten countries in South East Asia: Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. ASEAN works together politically through the Political Security Community, which is to work to strengthen democracy, human rights, good governance and ensure that people in the region live at peace.
ASEAN fights for peace, stability and to counteract terrorism in the region. In 2015 ASEAN established a regional economic integration agenda, the Economic Community (AEC). It was established to facilitate capital flows in the region and for a free flow of qualified labour, goods and services. The ten member countries have different languages, cultures and history, but have a common goal to increase prosperity in the region. The ASEAN region is the seventh largest economy in the world and aims to be the fourth largest. They have free trade agreements between the member states and other countries, including China. ASEAN is China’s third largest trading partner.
ASEANSAI was founded in 2011 and is a regional organisation for SAIs in ASEAN’s member countries. ASEANSAI aims to contribute to good governance and strengthened capacity in the region as well as promoting cooperation through exchange of experience and knowledge between the different SAIs. The conditions for SAIs in the region differ but several are working in challenging political environments with a high degree of corruption and limited democratic space. According to the Transparency International corruption index, ASEANSAI members range from rank 4 (Singapore) to rank 157 (Cambodia) out of 180 countries in total.
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