The first Young EUROSAI was hosted by the Netherlands Court of Audit all the way back in 2013, when phones still had key pads. The vision was to host a conference that gave staff from supreme audit institutions (approximately 35 years old and below) the opportunity to share new ideas and solutions to the challenges facing supreme audit institutions today and in the future.
The fourth YES conference in London maintains this same vision, and like YES conferences one, two, and three, we begin from the recognition that the environments in which we all work are in a constant state of flux.
The theme of the fourth conference is “Relevance”. There are vast amounts of data available, and the technologies to store, access and analyse these data are constantly developing. At the same time, social and political attitudes are shifting across Europe, and the world. These technological, social, and political shifts are not independent of one another. Each is intertwined and creating impact on individuals, communities, societies, businesses, and governments in unpredictable ways, both positive and negative.
To remain relevant in these changing landscapes, supreme audit institutions (SAIs) need to demonstrate the positive impact their work is having on the individuals, communities, societies, businesses, and governments they serve. If impact cannot be demonstrated, SAIs may no longer be perceived as relevant. If supreme audit institutions cease to be perceived as relevant, then they may cease to remain.
The UK has a positive story to tell here. Over recent years we have been experimenting with new ways to engage our audiences, we have created interactive data visualisations for the public, produced shorter and faster reports for Parliament, and tested automating our audits.
The fourth YES conference provides the opportunity for SAIs from Europe and beyond to share experiences on how we are responding to today’s environment and preparing for the future, to show that the solutions are within our gift, and that simple ‘audit and report’ may not cut the mustard anymore.
Our conference will address the following question:
How can supreme audit institutions remain relevant to their audiences?
To address this question, we need to consider who our audience are, and what the unique characteristics of a supreme audit institution that make it relevant. Our initial hypothesis has led us to define our audiences as government, media, and the public. The unique characteristics of a supreme audit institution are that it is independent, trusted, and credible.
This leads us to four further sub-questions:
How can supreme audit institutions ensure they are valued by their executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of government?
The relevance of an audit institution depends on the relevance of its work; this work must be clear, timely, and of high quality. We want to debate the hypothesis that producing high quality outputs may not be sufficient. Audit institutions may not be required to demonstrate and seek recognition of the value and impact that audit work has in order to remain essential to the pillars of democratic society.
How can supreme audit institutions ensure they maintain their independence from public, media, and government pressures?
The role of independent assessor of government spending and governance is a privileged position to hold. The freedom to give balanced and independent audit judgments is what makes the role of the supreme audit institution so distinctive. Arguably in our modern times, the need for a fair, balanced, and independent assessor becomes ever more essential. For audit judgments to be relevant, credible, and effective they must be seen to be free from external influence. We want to debate the extent to which the safeguarding of independence requires not only fair and balanced judgment of auditees, but also of auditors – of ourselves. We must hold ourselves to the same standards that we expect of our auditees.
How can supreme audit institutions ensure their work continues to be trusted by the public, media, and government?
For the work of supreme audit institutions to be relevant, it must be trusted. the debate around ‘fake news’ has brought about an increased distrust of once highly trusted sources of information. Supreme audit institutions may not be immune from this increasing distrust and we want to explore what we need to do to ensure we continue to be highly trusted organisations.
How can supreme audit institutions continue to be perceived as credible?
The relevance of a supreme audit institution is tightly bound to its credibility as an institution. The independence and trust discussed above both feed into the credibility of an institution. But so too does an institutions competence and capacity. the perception of a competent and capable institution depends on a workforce with the perception of a competent and capable institution depends on a workforce with the appropriate training, skills, experience, and capacity to carry out audit work that is relevant to the audience of a supreme audit institution. We want to explore how audit institutions can continue to build capability and capacity they need to be credible externally.
The fourth YES Conference
will seek to provide a
Explore together the shared challenges and opportunities supreme audit institutions face today.
Share existing practices, projects, and innovations that are already being explored in our respective institutions to address our own challenges.
Agree the main challenges, opportunities, and solutions that we think our institutions should adopt in order to continue to remain relevant.