May 16, 2019
Vietnamese Delegation Learns from Canadian Performance Audit and Oversight Practices
This April, CAAF welcomed a delegation from Vietnam representing the State Audit Office (SAV) and the National Assembly’s Committee for Finance and Budgetary Affairs. During the week-long visit to Ottawa, the delegation worked with CAAF and met with experts from across the country to study how performance audits are used in Canada to hold government to account.
It was an opportune time for this delegation visit, as Vietnam is updating its Law on State Audit this year. The delegation learned about the practices of audit offices and oversight committees as well as how legislation supports effective performance auditing. At the end of the week, the delegation members were able to identify practices they found important to reflect upon as they consider changes to Vietnam’s legislation.
This visit was part of our International Governance, Accountability and Performance (IGAP) program, funded by Global Affairs Canada. In this seven-year program (2018-2025), we are helping the SAV and the National Assembly increase their effectiveness, ultimately contributing to improved transparency, effectiveness, accountability and governance in the management of public resources and delivery of services for citizens.
The week’s meetings and presentations
To give a comprehensive picture of Canadian practices and legislation, we arranged for the delegation to meet with auditors and oversight committee members and staff from the federal, provincial and municipal levels:
We also invited other experts to present to the delegation. Anne Marie Smith, who recently retired from the OAG of Canada as Senior General Counsel and member of the Executive Committee and Audit Committee, spoke about legislative support for performance auditing. She focused on hallmarks required for an audit office to conduct effective performance audits—independence, consistent standards, access to information, and the ability to communicate audit results—and how these hallmarks could be addressed in legislation. CAAF Associate Michael McLaughlin presented on the International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions and the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions Mexico Declaration on SAI Independence.
The delegation heard a consistent message across all these meetings and presentations: The independence of the audit office, the publication of its reports, and the follow-up role of the oversight committee are essential to the effective accountability systems we see in Canada.
Reflecting on the visit at the end of the week, Mr. Nguyen Huu Quang, Vice Chair of the Committee for Finance and Budgetary Affairs, said: “It may have been a short time, but we gained a clear understanding of the work of audit offices and oversight committees, especially their roles in following up on recommendations. We also gained a clear idea how we might improve our legislative system to make sure audit recommendations will be implemented.”
“CAAF wishes to thank all those who met with the delegation,” said John Reed, CAAF’s President and CEO. “Having presenters from around the country, speaking about audit and oversight at all three levels of government, provided a great picture of how the accountability process functions in Canada. This also illustrated a key strength of our international program: how our participating countries benefit from the knowledge of so many highly experienced auditors and oversight committee members from across the country.”
Outcomes and next steps
At the end of the week, the delegation members agreed that, ultimately, they want to ensure that performance audit recommendations are implemented, and identified some ways they could work towards this goal.
Deputy Auditor General Vu said, “a key issue now is raising awareness of performance auditing, both among auditees and the public.” It will be important for the SAV to be able to publish its performance audit reports and to make the audit results and recommendations more widely known.
Vice-Chair Nguyen remarked that, having seen the Canadian example, he would like the Committee for Finance and Budgetary Affairs “to mirror the mandate, roles and responsibilities of Canadian committees, to maximize our responsibility.” The delegation was impressed by how Canadian committees are able to put pressure on auditees to implement recommendations, for instance by requesting that auditees present action plans and status updates.
The delegation expressed interest in trying some of the practices they learned about in Canada. Together, CAAF and the delegation agreed that an important first step could be for the Committee to hold a hearing on a performance audit. While calling a hearing is already within its powers, the Committee has never before done so. CAAF could offer guidance on preparing for and holding a hearing, including whom to invite, how to run the hearing, and how to question witnesses.
CAAF will also provide ongoing guidance to the SAV and oversight committees of the National Assembly as the new legislation is drafted and we will continue supporting these partners throughout the seven-year IGAP program.
“This delegation visit was an excellent launching point for our future work with the SAV and National Assembly,” said Terry Hunt, CAAF’s Vice-President for International Programs. “CAAF is confident that, working together, we will further strengthen the effectiveness of performance auditing in Vietnam.”
Our partnership with the State Audit Office of Vietnam
In the IGAP program, CAAF and the SAV are continuing our partnership which began in 2008. Under our previous international program, CAAF’s support helped the SAV officially establish a Performance Audit Division in January 2014 and conduct its first two performance audits that year. The SAV is now completing several performance audits each year and continuing to grow and improve its performance audit practice, with the 13 CAAF graduate Fellows playing key roles. The IGAP program will help to further advance the SAV’s performance audit practice and enhance the relationship between the SAV and National Assembly.
During the delegation’s visit to Ottawa, CAAF and the SAV signed a Memorandum of Understanding formalizing our current seven-year partnership under the IGAP program. In this MOU, which we developed together, we jointly commit to achieving the IGAP program’s expected results and lay out the principal responsibilities of each party.
“In signing this MOU,” Mr. Reed said, “both organizations affirm our commitment to this partnership and, thereby, our commitment to improving accountability in Vietnam for the benefit of the country’s citizens.”