In this post, we feature a detailed look at the different structures for Supreme Audit Institutions in African nations. Andy Wynne, a new member to the Global Integrity field staff, describes how the models for government auditing bodies are direct descendents of colonial rule: “One approach is adopted by the Anglophone countries and the other two are adopted by Francophone countries and, with minor variations, by the Lusophone and Spanish speaking countries.”
Andy’s eloquent legal break-down of the Westminster, the Court of Accounts and the State Inspectorate models lends strong evidence to the need for governance research to avoid the “one-size fits all” approach.
For example, Andy points out that while the Westminster Supreme Audit Institution typically releases all audit related reports, in a Francophone system, like Cameroon, reports may come from both the Court of Accounts and the State Inspectorate.
“The Court of Accounts in Francophone countries provides two main annual reports:
a) The annual general activity report – usually sent to the president (may be parliament and usually made public)
b) Report on the Execution of the budget and general declaration of conformity of this with individual accounts of the Public Accountants – sent with the financial statements (budget out-turn) to parliament.
It seems to me that these two reports need to be considered separately in the Global Integrity reports. The reports should consider when each of them are prepared and when/if they are made public.”
Andy also notes that the cooperative mandate of the Court of Accounts and the State Inspectorate makes it impossible to identify just one institution as the “Supreme Audit Institution” as denoted in the Global Integrity Report.
In Global Integrity’s review process, we place much emphasis on the importance of “functional equivalents.” This is what we call processes or institutions that might not be officially labeled by the same term, but in the end, play the role identified by our indicators. The United States provides one example where an agency entitled the Ombudsman does not exist, though a network of inspectors general oversees the performance of each federal agency and the Department of Justice is responsible for overall investigation (FBI) and prosecution (Public Integrity Section) of government officials. Andy points out that in Cameroon and Burundi, both the Court of Accounts and the State Inspectorate should be identified as the de jure equivalents of the State Audit Institution.
If governance assessments, like the Global Integrity Report, are really to be used as toolkits, the indicators need to allow for country-specific adaptability. However, Andy’s critique also acknowledges that with this flexibility, a high level of scrutiny must also be applied to ensure that all relevant institutions are identified in the assessment.
A portion of Andy’s analysis is included below. Please see his blog, Public Finance in Africa, for full details.
— Norah Mallaney
Models of Supreme Audit Institution in Sub-Saharan Africa
by Andy Wynne, idilmat – Capacity Development Solutions
There are individual variations between countries, but in general, there are three approaches to the institutional arrangements for Supreme Audit Institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. One approach is adopted by the Anglophone countries and the other two are adopted by Francophone countries and, with minor variations, by the Lusophone and Spanish speaking countries. As a result there is not one, but two external auditors for Francophone African governments. And to makes things more complicated one of these, the Court of Accounts, produces two annual reports rather than the single report generally produced by auditors general.
The Anglophone African countries adopt the parliamentary (or Westminster) model – an individual auditor general heads an office which is, ideally, independent of the executive. Its work is focused on a review of financial management and the accounts of public entities. If irregularities are found they are reported to the relevant ministry or other agency for appropriate action to be taken. The professional staff often have an accounting or audit background. The auditor general is ideally appointed by and provides an annual report to Parliament which should be reviewed in detail by the Public Accounts Committee and made public. Other entities may audit sub-national governments and parastatal organizations.
Almost all Francophone Sub-Saharan African countries have two types of institution which undertake external audit type functions, either of which may be designated as the Supreme Audit Institution for an individual country:
• the Court of Accounts (Cour or Chambre des Comptes) is a division or separate court within the judicial system. The individual members of the court (judges or magistrates) are led by a president who is generally appointed by the president of the relevant country (or the council of ministers). The court, with the support of its staff, judges the legality and regularity of the transactions and accounts of individual public accountants and reports to Parliament (usually via the President of the State) on the overall State Account. There is limited follow up of the Court’s reports by Parliament. The professional staff traditionally have a legal rather than accounting or audit backgrounds, but this is expanding in several countries.
• the General State Inspectorate (Inspection Générale d’Etat) reports either to the president or the country’s prime minister (rather than parliament), but is largely independent of the state bureaucracy and has access to all state institutions, public servants and their documents. It may set its own annual programme. Each public institution may not be visited or reported upon each year. The larger ministries may be reviewed each year, but different departments will be subject to review each year. The professional staff of the General State Inspectorate are usually educated in public financial management at specialist higher education institutions. If irregularities are found they are reported to the relevant ministry or other agency for appropriate action to be taken.
The Court of Accounts, as part of the judiciary, may be considered to be independent of the executive, but their members may be appointed by the president or the council of ministers and their reports may not be submitted direct to parliament. In France, which is the model broadly adopted by most Franco-phone countries, the first president of the Court of Accounts is appointed by the council of ministers.
The main thrust of audit reforms in Francophone Sub-Saharan African countries in recent years has been the move from the Court of Accounts being a chamber of the supreme court (Chambre des Comptes) to being a court in its own right (Cour des Comptes). However, unless the appointment of the court’s president and magistrates is changed and the relationship with parliament is strengthened it is not clear that such reforms will greatly improve the independence of the Court of Accounts. Of the 12 Accounts Courts in French speaking Sub-Saharan Africa that are the Supreme Audit Institution for their country, eight are independent courts (Cour des Comptes) and four remain as part of the supreme court (Chambre des Comptes). In a 2010 report, the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa said that in only three of its seven member countries had a Court of Accounts with functional financial autonomy (Senegal, Burkina Faso and Guinea Bissau).
As the General State Inspectorate is accountable to the president or the prime minister they may also have a high degree of independence from the entities (ministries, departments and agencies) which they audit. A distinction could perhaps be made between independence from the executive and independence from the entities which are subject to audit. If the General State Inspectorate has the support of a strong president they may in fact have considerably more independence from the ministries and other bodies which they audit than an accounts court whose budget may have to be submitted through the Ministry of Finance (as is the case usually for an Auditor General) before being agreed by parliament. The General State Inspectorates are generally better resourced and have more staff than the Court of Accounts in their country.
It has been argued that General State Inspectorates should not be considered as external auditors or supreme audit institutions as they are part of the executive. In contrast the Court of Accounts are claimed to be outside and functionally independent of the executive. General State Inspectorates are usually appointed by the president or the prime minister and their annual reports are sent to these offices rather than to parliament. However, this may also be the case for Court of Accounts and, indeed for Auditors General. In countries where the Court of Accounts has been nominated as the Supreme Audit Institution the General State Inspectorate may still be a better resourced and have greater influence, as is the case in Senegal.
In all Francophone (and most Lusophone) African countries there are two bodies equivalent to the Auditor General in Anglophone countries. These are the General State Inspectorate (Inspection Générale d’Etat) and the Court of Accounts (Cour des comptes). Six of the 18 Francophone members of CREFIAF have designated their General State Inspectorate as their Supreme Audit Institution, whilst the other 12 countries have designated their Court of Accounts. Note: CREFIAF is the Conseil Régional de Formation des Institutions Supérieures de Contrôle des Finances Publiques des Pays Francophones d’Afrique au Sud du Sahara (African Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions – Francophone countries).
Thus the following General State Inspectorates are all members of INTOSAI and are the Supreme Audit Institutions for their countries:
• Burundi – Inspection Générale des Finances
• Cameroun – Contrôle Supérieur de l’Etat
• Centrafrique – Inspection Générale d’État
• Guinée Conakry – Inspection Générale d’État
• Mali – Contrôle Générale des Services Publics
• Togo – Inspection Générale d’État.
The Court of Accounts in Francophone countries provides two main annual reports:
1) The annual general activity report – usually sent to the president (may be parliament and usually made public)
2) Report on the Execution of the budget and general declaration of conformity of this with individual accounts of the Public Accountants – sent with the financial statements (budget out-turn) to parliament.
It seems to me that these two reports need to be considered separately in the Global integrity reports. The reports should consider when each of them are prepared and when/if they are made public.
The simple answer to the existence of more than one external auditor in Francophone African countries is to address the Global Integrity questionnaire to the Supreme Audit Institution for the country (so in Cameroon it would be the Contrôle Supérieur de l’Etat that is reported on not the Court of Accounts, as in the 2008 Global Integrity report). The 2008 Global Integrity report for Benin describes the General State Inspectorate rather than the Court of Accounts which is the INTOSAI member for this country. Similarly the 2006 report for Senegal also refers to the General State Inspectorate rather than the Court of Accounts which is the INTOSAI member.
However, I think it would be better to answer the relevant questions for both the Court of Accounts and the General State Inspectorate. This would encourage the existing trend for both entities to become more independent and their reports to be made public. The reports for the General State Inspectorate, for example, are currently made public in Burkina Faso, Djibouti and Mauritania (on website) and Ivory Coast. In addition, it is planned to be made public in Senegal.
For more details on this subject read the following article:
I am in the process of writing up some more extensive research on the independence of the General State Inspectorate and the Court of Accounts in Francophone African countries. For this reason I would be delighted to receive comments and further information in this blog.