The Auditor-General of Pakistan chaired first meeting of the newly constituted audit Policy Board which was held on August 1, 2016. The Board includes representatives of all relevant stakeholders including professional accounting bodies and civil society organizations. Members of the Board also include heads of Federal Government departments like Finance Division, Controller-General Accounts, Federal Board of Revenue, State Bank of Pakistan, Planning Commission and Additional Secretary of Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The Two Additional Auditors-General and Deputy Auditors-General who are ex-officio members also participated in the meeting. The Board has the mandate to make recommendations about the policy and strategic issues of government auditing and accounting in public financial management. Key features of the agenda included endorsement of initiatives and reforms of the Auditor-General of Pakistan, collaboration with professional bodies, involvement of civil society and NGOs in audit operations and international activities and specific recommendations for sustaining audit reforms.

The Board appreciated and endorsed initiatives and reforms of the Department which include remarkable achievement of a record benefit-cost ratio of Rs.28 for each Re.1 spent on auditing. During first seven months of FY 2016-16, Rs.56 billion was recovered on account of financial deviations by government departments against an expenditure of Rs. 2 billion only.

The Auditor-General of Pakistan in his capacity of Chairman of the Policy Board, briefed the forum about special initiatives and achievements of the current management to improve the quality and accountability of audit. He assured the Board that officers with integrity, competence and experience are being placed on top and middle management positions. Lower positions are also being taken care of through planning and implementation of field audit activities.

The Chair also highlighted some major challenges for the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) Pakistan for the promotion of accountability. Externally, the independence of SAI Pakistan is compromised as it is subordinate to Finance Division and is treated as an ordinary service delivery department instead of a supreme accountability agency. The argument was that SAI Pakistan is an auditing organization which identifies financial deviations in all government bodies including Finance Division.        The Board observed that SECP had delivered significantly by virtue of its independence. It was therefore recommended that to ensure the SAI Pakistan’s sanctity, it should be treated as an independent watchdog and be allowed to report

directly to the Finance Minister on the pattern of independent agencies like FBR and Statistic Division. The Board also recommended that Pakistan Audit Department should be given a one-line budget to be managed by a board for regulating financial affairs of the Department.

The Policy Board was informed that there has been a remarkable improvement on the quality of audit. Previously, massive resources were spent on compliance audit. This includes procedural variations of financial transactions from financial regulations. The problem with this approach is that it focuses on symptoms instead of facilitating system reforms. However, the current management has implemented a shift in audit policy by allocating at least 40% of financial and human resources to special operations including environment, forensic, and information technology audit.

To promote transparency and accountability, Pakistan Audit Department plans to sign a memorandum of understanding with investigating agencies like NAB. This style of engagement with other accountability agencies will not only create a deterrent effect on financial irregularities but will also facilitate practicality of the accountability process.

The entire premise of audit initiatives and reforms is based on implementation of the Department’s Strategic Plan (2015-19) which will turn the Department as a model Supreme Audit Institution in the world.

For capacity building of the Department, special attention is being given to implementation of international auditing and accounting standards and guidelines for conducting professional audit. Human resource development has also been regarded a high priority area. Pakistan Audit & Accounts Academy is conducting professional training programs for the employees besides continuous improvement of curricula. The employees are being given the opportunity to seek professional degrees in the world’s best universities. They are also attached with Supreme Audit Institutions of other countries for sharing of knowledge and experience in the field of auditing. For sustained capacity building, the Auditor-General assured the Board that more interaction will be made with ICAP, ICMAP and PIPFA.

It was emphasized that the entire output of the Audit Department is based on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). However, impact of the audit reports largely depend on frequency and directives of the PAC. The Department has also established communication and consultative linkage with stakeholders. The organization is now reaching out to NGOs and civil society organizations promote the accountability process. Revival of the Audit Policy Board is a marked evidence of engagement with the private sector organizations.

In the field of international cooperation, the Department is engaged with INTOSAI, ASSOSAI, ECOSAI for knowledge sharing and capacity building to implement international auditing and accounting standards. A special initiative has also been taken for the establishment of SARCOSAI. Pakistan Audit Department is considered as the pioneer of performance audit in the region. Officers of the Department are trainers and mentors for Supreme Audit Institutions of 33 countries. So far, more than 300 resources have been trained in the field of special sectors auditing.

It was unanimously observed by the Board that no government agency can escape auditing, in view of a Supreme Court ruling with reference to Article 17(2) of the Constitution that the Auditor-General of Pakistan enjoys a strong constitutional mandate to audit all public spending without exception. Pakistan Audit Department strives for partnership with government agencies to hold them accountable and to ensure good governance for the welfare of the people of Pakistan.