EUROSAI. Magazine N24 - 2018

eurosai 70 Studies and other articles Austrian Court of Audit General Secretariat of INTOSAI AUDITING THE SDGs: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNTIES FOR SAIs INTOSAI’S role in supporting SAIs in the implementation of the SDGs Introduction It is now more than three years since the member states of the United Nations (UN) have adopted the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This comprehensive and ambitious development agenda entails great opportunities, but also challenges for Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs). The successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs can only succeed if effective, accountable and inclusive institutions – like SAIs – are in place. Due the broad scope of the SDGs, many of the issues they address fall within the field of SAIs’ audit competence. For this reason, the whole SAI community worked hard in order to raise awareness for the contribution that SAIs can make to the review and follow-up of the implementation process of the SDGs – and INTOSAI aims to support SAIs in this important task. INTOSAI approaches to the implementation of the SDGs The great importance INTOSAI attaches to the role of SAIs in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda is especially prominently reflected by the current Strategic Plan of INTOSAI for the period from 2017 to 2022 – because of one of the five crosscutting priorities of this Strategic Plan is “Contributing to the follow-up and review of the SDGs within the context of each nation’s specific sustainable development efforts and SAIs’ individual mandates.” In this context, the Strategic Plan identifies the following four approaches where SAIs can make valuable contributions to the implementation of the SDGs: I. Assessing the readiness of national systems to report on progress towards the achievement of the SDGs; II. Undertaking performance audits that examine government programs contributing to the SDGs; III. Assessing and supporting the implementation of SDG 16, which provides for transparent, efficient, and accountable institutions – and which is of particular relevance for SAIs; and IV. Being models of transparency and accountability in their own operations, including auditing and reporting. These four approaches were also intensely debated by the participants of the XXII INTOSAI Congress (INCOSAI), which took place in Abu Dhabi in December 2016. As a result of these discussions, the INCOSAI decided in the Abu Dhabi Declaration that frameworks for the implementation of the four approaches will be developed up to the next INCOSAI in 2019. Challenges and opportunities The first experiences that SAIs have made so far show that their involvement in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda entails both challenges and opportunities. They have for example revealed that • SAIs conducting SDG audits are faced with a vast diversity in their mandates, capacities and resources; • In reviewing the implementation of the SDGs, SAIs face the challenge of performing audits that go beyond traditional financial and compliance auditing;