Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) Chairperson Sandra S. Montano paid a courtesy call to Commission on Audit (COA) Chairperson Michael G. Aguinaldo on 2 June 2021.
Auditing public debt in a crisis (COVID-19 considerations and the Public Debt Auditor’s experience) was the focus of discussions at the annual meeting of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) Working Group on Public Debt (WGPD). The virtual meetings conducted through Zoom were facilitated by the Philippine Commission on Audit (COA) as Chairman of the INTOSAI WGPD.
Around 38 member countries participated in the meetings that were held in two batches on 19 and 20 May 2021 for Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) in the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Officials from SAIs Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lithuania, Moldova, Qatar, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Yemen, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Seychelles, Maldives, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Indonesia, Thailand, China, and Fiji were part of the first batch while SAIs Ecuador, Chile, USA, Argentina, Brazil, Gabon, Portugal, Austria, Egypt, Northern Macedonia, Zambia, Finland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Korea were part of the second batch. Representatives from SAI France attended as observers.
Commission on Audit (COA) Chairperson Michael G. Aguinaldo shared the Philippines Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) experiences in maintaining accountability and transparency during the time of pandemic at an online global discussion on “Managing COVID Funds: A Global Scorecard of Accountability” hosted by the International Budget Partnership (IBP) on 24 May 2021. The discussions centered on various countries’ assessment in maintaining transparency, oversight and public participation in managing COVID Funds and highlighted the need for accountability and global effort to battle COVID-19.
Joining Chairperson Aguinaldo in the panel were Mr. Nazir Kabiri - Deputy Minister for Policy in Afghanistan, Ms. Carolina Renteria – Chief of the Planning and Finance Management Division of the International Monetary Fund’s Fiscal Affairs Department, and Ms. Shumani Luruli – Program Coordinator for Plan Act, a Civil Society Organization (CSO) based in South Africa. Ms. Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary General of CARE International and a board member of the IBP, was the moderator.
IBP said the scale and complexity of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic have challenged governments' capacity to manage their resources effectively. By the end of 2020, more than $14 trillion had been spent on addressing the pandemic's financial impacts. These included additional spending measures, tax relief programs, and loans and loan guarantees. IBP’s report also stated that two thirds of countries failed to provide enough information on the relief packages that they introduced and almost half bypassed their legislatures.
The Commission on Audit (COA) puts emphasis on resilience and innovation in adapting to the challenges brought by the pandemic as it marks its 122nd anniversary on 8 May 2021. With the theme “Resilience and Innovation in the New Normal,” the Commission sustains quality audit performance amidst the disruptions caused by the pandemic through leveraging the use of various technologies and changes in processes and systems.
“We have tapped the use of different technologies to adapt to the pandemic situation as we transition to the new norm and to effectively and efficiently do our audit work,” Observed COA Chairperson Michael G. Aguinaldo. The Chairperson cited innovative programs such as the Machine Intelligence, Knowledge-based Audit and Experience Learning or MIKA-EL which is an envisioned artificial intelligence that provides for electronic submission of documents and assists auditors in early detection of fraud through analysis of collected digital data, and the COA Order of Execution Management Information System which is an automated system that strengthens the enforcement and monitoring of decisions on audit disallowances and charges.
“We continue to bravely face the ‘new normal’ in the performance of our mandated duties. While we continue with our work, bear in mind the circumstances of the pandemic we are in, where perhaps not all rules we apply in normal times can be applied in this ‘abnormal’ period, and where matters of substance should trump rigidities, and where observations should not lead to absurdities,” the Chairperson added. He also expressed his sympathy “for those of us who have suffered and lost loved ones” and gratitude “for those of us who continued to help and support our fellow COAns emotionally, spiritually, and financially.”