The Swedish National Audit Office (Swedish NAO) has been in cooperation with and has partnered with the SAI of Liberia, the General Auditing Commission, since 2018. The current cooperation agreement was entered into in May 2022 and runs until May 2023. It is a preparatory project phase with a view to examining the conditions for preparing the cooperation.
The purpose of the previous cooperation has been to strengthen the SAI’s institutional capability with a focus on professional development in quality assurance and quality control. The goal has been to support the establishment and development of a quality assurance function. The Swedish NAO considers that support in quality assurance and quality control has worked relatively well.
The main focus of the cooperation between the Swedish NAO and the SAI of Liberia covers:
- strengthening the capacity to conduct audits
- quality control and quality assurance systems.
The Swedish NAO’s cooperation with the SAI of Liberia began in 2018. The overall goal of the cooperation project is to assist the SAI of Liberia in the ambition to conduct its audits in accordance with international standards. However, the cooperation is limited and only includes support in quality assurance and quality control, but it may now be broadened. The purpose of the previous cooperation has been to strengthen the SAI’s institutional capability with a focus on professional development, as well as to support the establishment of a quality assurance function.
The SAI’s mandate as an independent authority is defined in the Liberian Constitution, and the law on audit adopted in 2014. Although the SAI has full operational independence, its financial independence is limited. The finance ministry has significant influence over the budget allocation and the SAI is granted only a small part of the proposed budget.
The SAI’s audit mandate is divided into two different categories — audit for state agencies and audit for state organisations. The mandate is estimated to include 85 ministries, government agencies and state enterprises. In addition, the SAI also audits regions, municipalities, embassies and diplomatic missions.
The SAI has the right to audit financial statements, budgets and the central government annual report. On the other hand, the PEFA report states that the SAI of Liberia lacks full access to the majority of the requested public data, in particular timely access, leading to delays in SAI reporting.
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. Liberia’s 2021 index was in the range 6.0–7.5, placing the SAI in the category of “moderate independence”.
In terms of the project’s scope and activity level, the Swedish NAO has assessed that an external evaluation was not justified. Instead, we plan to conduct an internal questionnaire survey in order to get an overall picture of how the SAI of Liberia views the support. The following assessment of results is based on the performance reporting that is ongoing in the project.
The Swedish NAO considers that support in quality assurance and quality control has worked relatively well, although the cooperation has been hampered by low activity levels, the COVID-19 pandemic, and technical challenges in the form of poor internet connections.
The Swedish NAO assesses that managers within the SAI of Liberia, through our support, have gained an increased understanding of quality control. The managers have also gained an increased understanding of the difference between the managers’ responsibility for quality control and quality assurance and the responsibility of a quality assurance function. This has been achieved through training for 20 managers. In 2019, a quality assurance function was established.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swedish NAO’s support has shifted to digital form with a number of shorter seminars. Such seminars have been possible to organise, but there have been relatively major technical challenges, in particular with regard to internet connectivity, which has limited the possibility of providing effective support.
Based on the seminars with employees at the quality assurance function at the SAI of Liberia, we understand that there is an obvious drive and willingness to strengthen and develop the work. Progress has also been made: for example, at a seminar in March 2021, all participants indicated that they would use the knowledge and skills from the seminar in their work. At the same time it is clear, both in the questionnaire and in dialogue, that participants want further training, especially on site, and that they need additional support to strengthen their knowledge and skills in the field.
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 Liberia
The consequences of the 1989–2003 civil war and the 2014–2015 Ebola pandemic are tangible in Liberia. Since the signing of the peace agreement in 2003, Liberia has taken significant steps in a democratic direction to build up the country. At the same time, many of the root causes of the conflict remain, such as political and economic concentration of power to the elite and weak democratic institutions, which makes trust between citizen and state more difficult.
Corruption is widespread, and together with a weak economy, it causes great dissatisfaction among the population. Protests and strikes are recurrent. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, Liberia ranks 136 out of 180.
Liberia is one of the world’s ten poorest countries and more than 50 per cent of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line. Unemployment in the country is widespread and around 70 per cent of those working are estimated to be active in the informal sector, including crafts, agriculture, street sales and domestic work. Liberia is one of the world’s most aid-dependent countries and in 2019, world aid accounted for 20.1 per cent of the country’s GNI.
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