Joint activity ALSAI-SIGMA on "Developing Effective Working Relations between the ALSAI and the Parliament"

04.06.2018

On June 4, 2018, in Tirana, the Supreme State Audit and SIGMA, an OSCE-funded initiative funded mainly by the European Union, organized an awareness meeting "Developing Effective Working Relations between the AlSAI and the Parliament", as well as the presentation to the interest parties of the ALSAI Development Strategy for the period 2018-2022.

The purpose of the meeting was to raise the awareness of stakeholders on the role of the Supreme State Audit for the establishment and development of effective relations with the Assembly, civil society and interest groups in order to increase the impact of the audit work and support the ALSAI’s mission, as a watchdog institution in the service of the Albanian citizens and the Assembly to continuously fulfill its constitutional role and guarantee transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.

Organized on the basis of the SIGMA Document no. 54 "Developing Effective Working Relations between Supreme Audit Institutions and Parliaments", this meeting presented the best European experiences in building and maintaining co-operation relations between senior audit institutions and parliaments to assist parliaments in maintaining governments responsible for spending with the economy, effectiveness and efficiency of public money and to assist higher audit institutions to have more impact on the life of the citizen with their audit work.

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The meeting brought together about 60 representatives of independent institutions, civil society organizations, professors and journalists to discuss one of the key elements in strengthening accountability, SAI-Parliament relations. The meeting was attended by the Chairman of the Albanian Parliament, Mr. Gramoz Ruci, Secretary of the Committee on Economy and Finance, Academician Anastas Angjeli, MP Florion Mima, Secretary General of the Prime Minister, Mr. Engjëll Agaçi, Senior SIGMA Counselor, Mr. Alaastair Swarbrick, Representative of the EU Delegation in Tirana, Mr. Stephen Stork, etc.

Mr. Gramoz Ruçi, President of the Assembly of Albania, in his speech, praised the fact that the Assembly and the Supreme State Audit have cooperated as partners. Parliamentary committees and deputies have used and rely on indices from ALSAI audits in the exercise of their functional duties for parliamentary scrutiny as well as in the commitment to be concrete and active in the fight against corruption, abuses and other governmental defects. The Assembly is working in parallel to strengthen its role of lawmaker and controller, emphasized Mr. Ruci, and for both functions, a great practical service provides the recommendations of the Supreme State Audit. Strengthening both functions of the Assembly will have a direct impact on improving the work of the executive, through accountability and transparency, as two basic principles of good governance. This will ensure that public funds go to the benefit of the public and citizen by guaranteeing effective, quality and affordable public services for everyone.

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Pursuant to the constitutional obligations and recommendations of the Progress Report of the European Commission, in 2017, the Assembly, by a special decision, established the Inter-Institutional Assembly-Government-Independent Institutions Mechanism as an effective instrument for systematic monitoring of follow-up and implementation of recommendations of independent institutions to the executive. Practices so far directed mainly to the two ALSAI's annual reports, continued Mr. Ruçi, will be supplemented by other parliamentary scrutiny instruments, such as hearings, question sessions at the responsible Committee of Economy and Finance, and other committees, such as the establishment of special investigative commissions. So, the recommendations of the ALSAI will go through a process of discussion and debate between the Assembly, you as a referral institution and other institutions of interest groups. This will also be based on the legislative initiatives proposed by the ALSAI, which will be finalized through a broad public consultation.

This will enable auditing findings and audit recommendations to pass through a wide process of scrutiny, accountability and accountability. In this way, the recommendations or proposals for penalizing violations of offenders will not be easy to hide or drag behind the bureaucratic justification and technicalities.

At the end of his speech, Mr. Ruçi stressed: " The Assembly is increasingly relying on the indices and findings of the Supreme Audit Institution in the country. The October 2016 Assembly's Supreme State Audit Resolution, has increased the expectations of the Assembly for your audits to be more analytical and qualitative. You are guardian of the legality, honesty and efficiency of government activity. I will take measures within this legislative session to enable the creation of a special sub-committee for reviewing the ALSAI’s audit reports.”

Afterwards, the word was taken from the Chairman of ALSAI, Mr. Leskaj, who stressed that we, as external public auditors, are convinced that there is a symbiotic relationship (necessary, vital) between the Parliament and the highest public audit institution (SAI). Parliament and SAI have mutually supportive roles to ensure effective governance.

Relationships between parliaments and SAIs have been strengthened and increased over the past two to three decades in almost all countries of the world, including Albania, especially after the outbreak of the 2008 global financial and economic crisis when the role of SAIs in the soundness of public finances rose sharply.

The Supreme State Audit relations with the Albanian Parliament, and in particular the Albanian Economy and Finance Committee, reflect the requirements of INTOSAI's international standards for more accountability for the use of public funds, in particular of the Lima Declaration, otherwise called "Magna Carta", the Constitution of Supreme Audit Institutions, ISSAI 1, Article 8 "Relationship with Parliament", which states that: " The Supreme Audit Institution should be empowered and mandated by the Constitution in order to report his findings independently and annually to the Parliament ".

In our working philosophy as a watchdog institution of the citizen and the Assembly, we chose the approach of promoting the accountability triangle "Parliament (citizens) - SAI – Government”, within the interest of strengthening accountability and transparency of governance. For that, we sought more frequent communication with Parliament, respecting the basic rule that as a supreme audit institution, we as do not make policies, but we audit their implementation.

As ALSAI, we have tried to outline the relationship with the Assembly, in the footsteps of strengthening accountability and transparency. In this outline, we have been helped by findings, reflections on the experiences of the developed European SAIs and the conclusions of SIGMA Reports no. 33 and Nr. 54, especially the latter. Mr. Leskaj described the important contribution that has been given by the European Union and OECD SIGMA Program (Support for Governance and Management Improvement) for 26 years in improving public governance in candidate and potential candidate countries for European Union membership.

In 2016, the Assembly adopted the Resolution of 20 October 2016, "On the performance of the State Supreme Audit of 2015", which states that "the Assembly of Albania, in function of its constitutional obligations, and in accordance with the recommendations of Progress Report 2015 of the European Commission on the establishment of a more efficient mechanism by the Assembly for the implementation of ALSAI’s recommendations, expresses its utmost commitment in this regard, with the aim of improving cooperation and exercising parliamentary control over the implementation of ALSAI’s recommendations, as the following:

- Cooperate with the ALSAI and the Government to increase the inclusive rate of interaction with all public administration institutions for the implementation of ALSAI’s recommendations;

- See the possibility of setting up a Parliamentary Subcommittee within the Committee on Economy and Finance to systematically monitor the activity of the ALSAI and implement the recommendations.

We immediately agreed to create a dedicated parliamentary subcommittee. For all the tasks left by the resolutions of the Albanian Parliament, those of 2012, 2014 and 2016, as ALSAI we have drafted concrete plans for their implementation.

Mr. Leskaj proposed the signing of a framework agreement between ALSAI and the Albanian Parliament, for which Mr. Ruçi expressed the agreement that it will be signed within this year.

Mr. Leskaj concluded, "... There’s a big challenge ahead for us. With the Chairman's Decision no. 56, dated 30 April 2018, the ALSAI approved the Code of Ethics of the Chairman, which recognizes and accepts without any conditions the Code of Ethics of the Assembly's deputy. This standard opens the way, in the conditions of total lack of conflict of interest for the next 6 months at the end of the mandate of the current chairman, for a broad agreement ALSAI- Assembly, which I propose to the Chairman of the Assembly.”

In the Strategy of Development of the ALSAI 2018-2022, Point 4 " Strategic Partners ", it is noted that " The quality and reliability of ALSAI’s audit reports are increasingly attracting the attention of parliamentarians, increasing the possibility of functioning of the "Triangle Accountability "(SAI-Parliament-Government), as the findings and recommendations of the audit are directed precisely towards identifying and solving public governance issues, contributing to good governance."

The activity also greeted Mr. Stephen Stork, representative of the EU Delegation in Tirana, who praised the role of ALSAI as the Guardian of Public Money. The latest EC Report on Albania highlighted the progress made by ALSAI, particularly in improving the quality of audit reports and increasing transparency of audit activity.

The Parliamentary Assembly Member, Academician Anastas Angjeli, in the capacity of the Secretary of the Commission for Economy and Finances, appreciated the recent work of the ALSAI, especially in increasing the professional level of auditors and the developed trainings.

Mr. Alastair Swarbrick, Senior Policy Adviser at SIGMA, continued pointing out that the key element to ensure accountability and transparency is to increase greater stakeholder engagement, especially with parliaments. In this concept, SIGMA analyzed the SAI relations with the parliaments in the EU and in the enlargement countries and presented Document No. 54 of SIGMA. The purpose of this document is to provide guidance on strengthening working relationships between SAIs and parliaments, identifying key factors that support effective relations, identifying examples of good practices, and so on.

Mr. Swarbrick, in particular, thanked the Chairman of ALSAI, Mr. Bujar Leskaj for the achievements of the institution in recent years, in terms of increasing the quality of the work in the audit, transparency and opening of the institution. Mr. Swarbrick thanked Mr. Leskaj, also for the cooperation in the realization of this meeting and the spirit created, bringing together representatives from all stakeholders from the Assembly, civil society, media, etc.

The second issue of the activity focused on presenting the ALSAI’s Strategy for the next five years 2018-2022. Joop Vrolijk, an expert from SIGMA, provided an overview of SIGMA's assessment and opinion on this development strategy.

As one of the greatest accomplishments of the ALSAI, Vrolijk emphasized that the policy followed by Mr. Leskaj has influenced the "professionalism of the institution".

Specifically, Mr. Vrolijk emphasized the progress made by the institution underlining that " six years ago the ALSAI Chairman requested the assistance of SIGMA to draft the ALSAI Development Plan 2013-2017, while for the new strategy of ALSAI 2018-2022, prepared and adopted by ALSAI, has been provided an opinion from SIGMA. So this is the case when the support of external technical expertise shows that along with the development, the human capacities of the institution have been increased and improved: ... During this time SAI has changed from an institution looking only from the inside with a traditional approach to auditing compatibility in a forward-looking institution with new types of audit, performance audit and financial audit, in accordance with ISSAIs. "

This activity, in addition to the ALSAI auditors, was attended by representatives of the EU Delegation in Tirana, USAID, representatives of Civil Society Organizations and field professionals and journalists, of whom we can mention: Mrs. Darsie Nielsen (USAID Project Director), Mrs.Sybille Schmidt (EU Delegation in Tirana), Prof. Dr. Jorgji Bollano, Prof. Dr. Sazan Guri, Mr. Sotiraq Hroni, Mr. Engjëll Musai, Mr. Artur Çani, Mr. Same Neza, Mr. Fatos Hodo, Mrs.Ornela Liperi, etc.