Volume 23, Number 2, July 2022
Volume 23, Number 2
The International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) is the professional organization of supreme audit institutions (SAI) in countries that belong to the United Nations or its specialized agencies. INTOSAI was founded in 1953 and has grown from the original 34 countries to a membership of over 192 SAIs. As the internationally recognized leader in public sector auditing, INTOSAI issues international guidelines for financial management and other areas, develops related methodologies, provides training, and promotes the exchange of information among members. One way by which INTOSAI promotes the exchange of ideas and experiences between SAIs around the world is through its triennial congress called the International Congress of Supreme Audit Institutions (INCOSAI).
Within INTOSAI there are seven regional organizations of supreme audit institutions: Latin American and Caribbean (OLACEFS), Caribbean (CAROSAI), Europe (EUROSAI), Africa (AFROSAI), Arabic countries (ARABOSAI), Asia (ASOSAI) and the South Pacific (PASAI). Not all SAIs are members of a regional organization. Each regional group organizes seminars, congresses, or other activities for the SAIs in that region and has its own headquarters.
INTOSAI also has a number of committees on special subjects, such as auditing standards, as well as a number of working groups dedicated to innovative subjects like environmental auditing, and task forces dealing with issues of significant interest of members. INTOSAI works in five official languages: Arabic, English, French, German and Spanish.
WGEA is one of many committees and working groups that are addressing a variety of audit topics and issues under the auspices of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI).
During the 14th INCOSAI meeting held in Washington, D.C. in October 1992 the INTOSAI membership indicated a strong interest in the roles and activities of Supreme Audit Institutions in issues of environmental auditing. The formation of a Working Group on Environmental Auditing (WGEA) was initiated and approved by the Congress. The INTOSAI Governing Board then took the steps to constitute the Working Group under the chairmanship of the Netherlands Court of Audit, which in turn prepared terms of reference for the WGEA. The terms of reference, which constitute the guidelines for the Working Group, were approved by the INTOSAI Governing Board in Vienna in May, 1993. The Working Group aims to improve the use of audit mandate and audit instruments in the field of environmental protection policies, by both members of the Working Group and non-member Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs).
Chairmanship of the WGEA by Netherlands Court of Audit ended in October 2001, at which time the Office of the Auditor General of Canada began its terms as Chair of the Working Group. In November 2007, the Chairmanship of the WGEA was given over to the National Audit Office of Estonia. Starting from November 2013, the Chairmanship of the WGEA was handed over to the Supreme Audit Board of Indonesia. The main substantive theme for the WGEA during the Chairmanship of the Netherlands was 'fresh water.' Since the 17th INCOSAI in October 2001, the WGEA accepted a new mandate of activities for the period 2002-2004. As part of this new mandate it was decided to add 'waste' as a second theme of the work of the WGEA. The third theme of the work of the WGEA for 2005-2007 was "biodiversity" and main topic decided for 2008-2010 was "climate change".
The WGEA started out with 12 countries and has since grown to a membership of 77, making it the largest INTOSAI working group. By the end of 2000 the INTOSAI regions ACAG/PASAI, AFROSAI, ARABOSAI, ASOSAI, EUROSAI and OLACEFS have each established a Regional Working Group on Environmental Auditing (RWGEA). English is the official language of the Working Group on Environmental Auditing.
The work of INTOSAI WGEA supports good governance by providing Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) guidance and research on accountable, rule-based, and efficient governance. WGEA also highlights rising approaches related to participation and transparency, such as the Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA) approach or how to communicate audit results better. Sustainable development and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stress both the intergenerational justice as well as global justice.
While accountability is the key focus of SAIs, they also contribute to the prevention of fraud and corruption. WGEA research from 2013 pointed out that there is a growing body of evidence showing how negative impacts of fraud and corruption are also substantial in the environmental and natural resource sectors partly because these sectors are often under the control of state and state officials. Consequently, fraud and corruption can lead to large losses of government revenues from exploitation of natural resources, deprive people and their livelihoods, contribute to unsustainable exploitation patterns, and overall worsen climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution..