Latin America SDG Audit Shows Need for Coordination and Integration
Photo by IISD | Lynn Wagner
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The Federal Court of Accounts of Brazil led a coordinated audit on the preparedness of Latin American governments to implement the SDGs.

The audit report stresses the issue of fragmentation of the public sector, including poor coordination among ministries, non-integrated follow up systems and misalignments among public policies.

The report outlines ten recommendations for national governments to consider for implementing the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs.

March 2019: The Federal Court of Accounts of Brazil (TCU) led a coordinated audit on the preparedness of Latin American governments to implement the SDGs. The audit finds room for improvement in the coordination and integration of governmental actions, and it calls on Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) to encourage their respective governments to fight “isolated and stagnant action,” and to adopt a culture of integrated SDG action.

SAIs are independent governmental entities with an external audit role established by a constitution or supreme law-making body. They primarily oversee public expenditure, but are increasingly taking a broader, more comprehensive view to address reliability, effectiveness, efficiency and economy of policies and programmes, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Through SAIs’ oversight function, they can hold governments accountable for their efforts to implement the SDGs.

The International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), an umbrella organization for the external government audit community, has proposed four approaches to SDG audits and reviews, namely: 1) assessing the preparedness of national governments to implement the SDGs; 2) undertaking performance audits in the context of the SDGs; 3) contributing to the implementation of SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions); and 4) promoting the use of transparency and accountability in SAIs’ own operations.

In line with the first approach, Brazil’s TCU led the audit on the preparedness of Latin American governments to implement the SDGs. The audit, issued in 2018, involved SAIs from 11 countries, namely: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. It also involved the audit institution of Buenos Aires in Argentina.

The audit evaluates the preparedness of national governments to implement the SDGs at the center of government level – that is, the entities responsible for assisting the Executive Branch in the process of strategic decision-making. It also examined specific preparedness to achieve SDG target 2.4 (ensure sustainable food production systems).

The audit examined, among other components: ownership of the 2030 Agenda by the government; national long-term and medium-term plans; risk prevention and management; political coordination; national follow-up and review strategy and indicators; building awareness; and Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs).

According to the audit report, there has been mobilization of Latin America governments for the implementation of the SDGs, but preparedness of countries in the region is still “at an emerging stage.” The report stresses the issue of fragmentation of the public sector, including poor coordination among ministries, non-integrated follow-up systems, and misalignments among public policies.

On the center of government, the audit found: deficiencies in the processes of institutionalization of the 2030 Agenda, characterized by “poor coordination” among sectoral ministries, and the absence of defined targets and national indicators for most countries; a lack of a long-term planning for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in a majority of countries; the absence of integrated and cross-cutting risk prevention and management mechanisms specific to or focused on the 2030 Agenda; and deficiencies in the follow-up and review processes of the SDGs, and in the preparation of VNRs. Per the audit report, those deficiencies include: a lack of availability of data and information; low quality of available information; low integration between follow-up and review mechanisms to allow for cross-cutting evaluations; absence of structure in the VNR preparatory process; and presentation of aggregated data and isolated analyses in the VNRs, instead of intersectoral and integrated evaluations that could contribute to improve the transparency of the government action as a whole.

On SDG target 2.4, the audit revealed fragmentation, coordination problems or misalignments in policies related to the achievement of the target, with action towards reaching the target concentrated in a single ministry. It also outlined the absence of mapping of government own policies, and deficiencies in the integrated follow-up and review of policies related to the achievement of the target.

The audit report outlines ten recommendations for national governments to consider when implementing the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs. Those include: defining a formal plan or strategy for the institutionalization of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda in countries, with consideration for activities, responsibilities, products and deadlines; formally establishing entities for the coordination and implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and clearly assigning responsibilities; and establishing coordination and communication mechanisms among sectoral ministries to allow for the mapping and harmonization of their initiatives.

The report calls on national governments to establish long-term planning tools, adopt integrated mechanisms for the prevention and management of cross-cutting risks, strengthen technical capacities of national statistical systems, promote the access of disaggregated national statistical data, and establish processes and methodologies for the preparation of VNRs in a participatory and inclusive manner.

On SDG target 2.4, the audit report suggests establishing mechanisms to promote alignment and coherence in the design and implementation of public policies related to the target, encouraging intersectoral coordination for the “adequate setting” of national indicators, and strengthening cross-cutting follow-up and review.

The audit took place within the framework of the Organization of Latin American and Caribbean Supreme Audit Institutions (OLACEFS) Special Technical Commission on the Environment (COMTEMA), and was supported by Germany, through the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). [Publication: Executive Summary: Coordinated audit on the preparedness of Latin American governments to implement the SDGs] [INTOSAI website for SAI reports] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Canadian SDG Audit] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on The Netherlands SDG Audit]

This news story reviews one of the audit reports and activities produced by individual SAIs on the SDGs, as identified by INTOSAI as of March 2019. For more information about SAIs, click here.

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