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International cooperation facilitated by a common language — SAIs in Portuguese-speaking countries

Although language can sometimes be a barrier to cooperation, it can just as often be a valuable common denominator. One good example of this is the OISC/CPLP, a cooperation network set up by the world’s Portuguese-speaking supreme audit institutions. José Tavares, Director-General at the Portuguese Tribunal de Contas and also its liaison officer, describes the network’s objectives and organisational structure and reflects on some of the main aspects of its work in recent years.

By José Tavares, Tribunal de Contas, Portugal

Members and organisational set-up

The Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (OISC/CPLP) is an autonomous and independent association of eight SAIs — those of Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Principe, and East Timor. It also has three members with observer status: Macau, Brazil’s Instituto Rui Barbosa and the Association of the Members of the Brazilian Courts of Auditors (ATRICON). It was established in 1995 through a memorandum of understanding signed by seven SAIs (Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Principe), on the basis of existing bilateral cooperation agreements, in order to exchange cooperation and good practices. Since 2010 it has also been an associate member of INTOSAI.

The objective of the OISC/CPLP is to help its member institutions develop and increase their effectiveness. It does this by promoting technical, scientific and cultural cooperation in the field of public audit.

The OISC/CPLP consists of four bodies:

  • the General Assembly, the organisation’s supreme organ, comprising representatives of all the member institutions. The General Assembly normally meets every second year, each time in a different country, and is chaired by the president of the hosting SAI;
  • the Governing Board, composed of the institution holding the presidency, which is the institution where the next General Assembly will be held, as well as the institution hosting the General Secretariat and the institution hosting the Study and Training Centre. The Board usually meets once a year;
  • the General Secretariat, which has been based since 1995 at the Federal Court of Accounts of Brazil;
  • the Study and Training Centre (CST), which works alongside the General Secretariat to promote research, training courses and the production of publications of common interest (access to them here). Since its inception at the first OISC/CPLP meeting in 1995, and as confirmed in 2001 through the approval of the organisation’s statutes, the CST has been based at the Portuguese SAI — the Tribunal de Contas. In this capacity the Tribunal de Contas frequently hosts staff from the other members for training and traineeships.

Mission and strategic plan

The OISC/CPLP’s mission is to promote its members’ development through cooperation and capacity-building in the field of external control of public finances. Besides strengthening its members’ professional and institutional capacities, the OISC/CPLP aims to promote good governance. In its Strategic Plan for 2017–2022, the organisation has set itself the following two goals:

  • capacity-building and knowledge-sharing, through the execution of projects and activities under the following headings: professional capacity-building; institutional capacity-building; knowledge-sharing.
  • strengthening and improving the OISC/CPLP, through the execution of projects and activities under the following headings: result and impact-oriented management; increased visibility; strategic partnerships.

Each year the OISC/CPLP prepares a work plan to further develop and execute its Strategic Plan.

Main activities

The most recent General Assembly (the 10th) was hosted by the SAI of East Timor in September 2018. The main theme was ‘The impact of collaboration between public and private institutions on improving SAIs’ work’. The Assembly approved the ‘Dili Declaration’, a summary of the event’s main conclusions and decisions through which the SAIs undertook to:

  • Prepare model cooperation protocols to be concluded with internal control bodies, universities, professional associations and international organisations, notably in areas such as the exchange of information and streamlining of procedures, the sharing of knowledge and good practices, and professional training;
  • Establish a communication channel between SAIs and citizens, so as to improve financial control and other state services by sharing good practices.
  • Organise awareness-raising actions with technical and financial partners, including sister organisations, by disseminating information on the OISC/CPLP (at congresses of INTOSAI and its regional branches EUROSAI, AFROSAI and OLACEFS) and inviting representatives of those organisations to the OISC/CPLP’s seminars and General Assembly meetings;
  • Strengthen cooperation with AFROSAI-E, GIZ (a German state enterprise active in the field of international cooperation) and Pro-PALOP (a project promoting the management of public finances in Portuguese-speaking ACP countries) with a view to monitoring the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
OISC/CPLP 10th General Assembly in East Timor, September 2018. Source: Portuguese Tribunal de Contas.
OISC/CPLP seminar in Funchal, September 2017.

The liaison officers from each participating SAI meet once a year to discuss the impact of that year’s work plan and prepare the next one, which is then presented to the Governing Board and the General Assembly for approval. In addition, an annual seminar is held to discuss topics of interest for all SAIs. The most recent seminar, which took place in September 2017 in Funchal (Portugal), focused on the theme: ‘The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — what role should SAIs play in its implementation?’

In 2013, the OISC/CPLP applied to the INTOSAI Global Call for Proposals programme for donor funding to train and develop the capacities of auditors from its member SAIs. In December of the same year, the EU Delegation and the United Nations Development Programme country office in Cape Verde signed an agreement launching the Pro-PALOP-TL project to strengthen the technical and functional skills of SAIs, national parliaments and civil society for the control of public finances in the PALOP countries (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Principe) and East Timor.

Ongoing cooperation

The OISC/CPLP promotes cooperation and tailors its capacity-building activities for member SAIs to their level of development. A recent example of this was the lengthy period of audit training offered to more than 30 young people from the East Timor SAI, which was supported by Pro-PALOP and the Portuguese Tribunal de Contas. Another example is the training course on the SAI Performance Management Framework assessment tool, with in-kind support for all OISC/CPLP members from the Brazilian SAI and Pro-PALOP.

The OISC/CPLP’s cooperation with INTOSAI is mainly organised through the three-yearly International Congress of Supreme Audit Institutions (INCOSAI), which it attends as an observer; it has made efforts to obtain simultaneous interpretation of key events such as INCOSAI into Portuguese.

Cooperation among the OISC/CPLP members is set to continue. Plans include a coordinated audit on the scope of Sustainable Development Goal 15 (Life on land), as well as collaboration with the GIZ to assess the performance of public financial management in relation to SDG 16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions).

This article was first published on the November-December 2018 issue of the ECA Journal. The contents of the interviews and the articles are the sole responsibility of the interviewees and authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Court of Auditors.

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