INTOSAI and the COVID-19 Pandemic
The General Secretariat continues to assist the INTOSAI members and institutions within the possibilities of the necessary restrictions that affect the operations of our organizations during this unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, which has an impact on us all. During this period of social distancing, severe travel limitations and profound changes in our lives, we have to find new ways to collaborate and share information and knowledge to keep the international audit community connected.
The coronavirus crisis and its repercussions will also have an impact on the priorities that INTOSAI and SAIs will have to set for their future work. SAIs might have to re-evaluate their approaches in some of their audit areas. This will concern new standards, especially in the area of health care. For some time now, SAIs have not only been focusing on savings potentials but, in accordance with the aim to provide benefits for citizens and quality of service, on the question of how services can be provided to citizens in the best possible manner. This should be one of our main focus areas in the future.
All SAIs will have to draw their lessons from the coronavirus crisis to keep their relevance. The states will have to set priorities with regard to the supply of the population, which may differ from the priorities taken before this global crisis. SAIs should also contribute to avoiding indecent profit-making from this crisis. The money spent to save the economy and support affected citizens must reach those who really need it. SAIs must ensure – within the scope of their mandates – that the many billions that are now being allocated to tackle the crisis serve their purpose and are managed as well as possible.
As to the continuity of the functioning of INTOSAI, all INTOSAI committees and working bodies are encouraged to closely scrutinize whether they really need to have their annual meetings this year since it will not be possible to hold – even virtually - all the postponed meetings this autumn. If the conclusion is reached that the meetings are crucial to safeguard the activities and to fulfil the respective work plans, they will have to be done virtually.
Such virtual meetings require short and precise agendas and the duration should be as short as possible. As far as feasible, agenda items that require decisions should be discussed without lengthy presentations. These international videoconferences will require even more thorough preparation. In addition, it will be necessary to set strict rules for such video/phone meetings or, in other words, to urge the participants to respect the so-called virtual meeting etiquette, which will essentially contribute to the success.
In general, the current situation should be an opportunity for the INTOSAI community to consider whether we could possibly shift a great part of our essential INTOSAI activities to more virtual communication and less face-to-face meetings, which require a lot of travelling around the world and may entail – as we just experience – considerable challenges.
The INTOSAI General Secretariat wishes all members and stakeholders good health and strength during this highly demanding and challenging time. Take care and stay safe! You can count on us!