Guide Aims to Increase Accountability Amid Pandemic Response
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The paper presents recommendations for the role that Supreme Audit Institutions could play in the current crisis and safeguards that development partners could apply when funding coronavirus measures.

In the aftermath of a crisis, the paper recommends that SAI audits be used for accountability purposes as well as to identify lessons for the future.

Lessons from previous pandemics and disasters can provide guidance for safeguards to apply when funding COVID-19 pandemic responses. The lessons are presented in a paper titled, ‘Accountability in a Time of Crisis’ released in April 2020.

The paper was developed by the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI), Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL), General Auditing Commission of Liberia (GAC), and African Organisation of French-speaking Supreme Audit Institutions (CREFIAF). 

Emergency situations can lead to basic control systems being suspended or bypassed.

The introduction to the paper notes that “emergency situations can lead to basic control systems being suspended or bypassed, combined with weakening of accountability systems and oversight.” The rush to address a crisis may result in increased levels of waste, mismanagement, and corruption, they caution.

The paper draws from audits of previous crises, including the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, to identify lessons that can be used for handling the coronavirus crisis. The paper presents recommendations for the role that Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) could play in the crisis and safeguards that development partners could apply when funding COVID-19 measures.

Among the activities that SAIs can provide during a pandemic are:

  • provide advice on rules and regulations;
  • conduct real-time audits on procurement;
  • audit the implementation of new regulations and programmes;
  • maintain dialogue with stakeholders such as the government, development partners, and CSOs to understand the COVID-19 response, the main risks, and how the SAI can add value through its audit work; and 
  • undertake short, special audit reports in order to issue timely and relevant reports outside the normal audit cycle.

In the aftermath of a crisis, the paper recommends that SAI audits be used for accountability purposes as well as to identify lessons for the future. 

The paper also suggests that development partners can reinforce good governance practices and carefully select short-term safeguards while encouraging the adoption of medium-term safeguards. Recommendations for how development partners can achieve these objectives include:

  • produce immediate messaging to strengthen and reinforce behaviors:
  • encourage key national stakeholders and other implementing agencies to send clear messages setting expectations about the use of and accountability for emergency funds;
  • in the short-term, use appropriate safeguards relevant for different sector risks and funding modalities; and 
  • in the medium-term, encourage governments to take action on relevant prior audit reports, bringing key findings and recommendations into policy dialogue, and encourage SAIs to stay visible and conduct follow-up audits on implementation of prior recommendations. 

The paper recommends that development partners should ensure that SAIs can audit the use of emergency funds. The authors suggest that development partners should consider how funds will be audited at the outset rather than after funds have been spent. [Publication: Accountability in a Time of Crisis]

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