The Working Group on Public Debt (WGPD), under the auspices of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), recorded many ‘firsts’ in Calendar year 2020.

Chaired by the Philippine Commission on Audit (COA) for three years since 2017, the WGPD’s mandate is to publish guidelines and other informational materials to be used by Supreme Audit Institutions to encourage proper reporting and sound public debt management.

While the COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to reassessments and changes in priorities and undertakings the overall direction for WGPD remained in accordance with its mandate set under INTOSAI Knowledge Sharing and Knowledge Services Committee (Goal 3).   Looking back, WGPD takes pride in accomplishing the following feats:

GUID 5250 officially released

Now available in all INTOSAI languages, WGPD’s priority project formally-named the Guidance on the Audit of Public Debt or GUID 5250 gained the approval of the INTOSAI during the November 2020 Governing Board meeting. GUID 5250 is the first official document contributed by the SAI Philippines-led WGPD for the INTOSAI Framework of Professional Pronouncements.

It aims to effectively support INTOSAI goals and objectives to improve, develop, and adopt audit guidance and contribute to independent, high-quality public debt audits.   SAI Philippines’ Technical Working Group (TWG) and four sub-task teams led by member-SAIs of Chile, India, Russia and the United States committed to a series of careful drafting of proposals, revisions of draft versions, quality reviews, finalization followed by the endorsement and translation.

Cooperative efforts with World Bank

In September 2020, the TWG proposed topics including ”Exploring SAIs' Roles in the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the light of COVID-19” as well as ”Challenges and Opportunities for Public Debt Auditors in Audit of Public Debt and its Management” to the World Bank for future collaborations.  WGPD and World Bank will steer series of webinars by 2021.

The collaboration will be the first partnership of WGPD outside INTOSAI in an effort to engage major global public debt stakeholders while working its way to become a leading forum on audit of public debt practices and debt management issues. (WGPD Vision)

WGPD virtual meeting

With the restrictions on travel and logistics brought about by the pandemic, the WGPD held its Annual Meeting virtually, in two batches, on 26 and 27 August 2020.  The meeting, presided by COA Chairperson Michael G. Aguinaldo, was attended by 32 member-SAIs and representatives from the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI), World Bank, and United Nations Conference for Trade and Development.

Under the theme “Implementation of SDGs: Exploring the role of public debt auditors in Light of COVID-19,” select member-SAIs discussed relevant topics such as “Challenges and Opportunities for Public Debt Auditors in the context of SDGs and beyond COVID-19”; “Challenges that face financing SDGs in Egypt before and after COVID 19 pandemic crisis”; and “Auditing the Federal Debt and COVID-19.”

The meeting was the first virtual activity WGPD pursued to cope with the changes and which will serve as a successful template for future virtual programs and activities.

Co-branded Handbook on PDM

The co-branding of the IDI Audit of Public Debt Management – A Handbook for Supreme Audit Institutions, an IDI Global Public Goods (GPG) guidance material that was jointly developed by SMEs from Argentina and Sweden and resource persons from SAIs of Philippines, Argentina, Georgia, Maldives, and the IDI, was completed in December 2020 following the INTOSAI Quality Assurance (QA) protocols and shall soon be officially pronounced as IDI GPG co-branded with the WGPD. The QA statement was jointly signed by the Director General of the IDI and the COA Chair, representing the WGPD.

The Handbook will be the first contribution of the WGPD to the collection of IDI GPG comprised of handbooks, guides, tools, and documents developed to contribute to global knowledge creation, capacity development and enhanced performance of SAIs.

New projects

Before concluding 2020, the TWG concurrently undertook the review of four new WGPD projects in conformity with the applicable INTOSAI Quality Assurance protocols, namely: Compendium of practical procedures in the audit of Debt Authorization, Contracting, and Legal Framework on PD;  Guidelines in the Audit of Government Guarantees; Guidelines in the Audit of Fiscal Exposures – Implications for Debt Management; and Research paper on the mapping of SAIs’ mandates on the audit of public debt, institutional capacities and the Regional Organization’s support and resources.

The projects are the first set of documents, after GUID 5250, that WGPD will complete simultaneously in an effort to advance sound practices for debt audit and management while fostering exchange of knowledge among member-SAIs. #