The kick-off meeting for a cooperative environmental audit on water management in the Mekong River basin for 2020-2021. — VNA/VNS Photo
The co-operative audit of water resources in the Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia for 2020-2021 is an important part of the co-operation activities of the Supreme Auditing Body in Asia.
Member of the Party Central Committee, State Auditor General Hồ Đức Phớc talks to the Vietnam News Agency about the plan to audit water resources in the Mekong River basin
Could you please tell us about the motivations for the auditors to agree and sign a Declaration of Commitment attached to the Terms of Reference for this audit?
First of all, it must be said that for many decades, co-operative audits have been one of the top priorities on the agenda of the International Organisation of Supreme Auditing Institutions (INTOSAI) with support from the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI).
Through it, the supreme audit institutions (SAI) can exchange experience and best audit practices to improve their operational capacity. The co-operative audit model is a growing trend in various regions, including Asia.
In the Hà Nội Declaration at the 14th Congress of the Organisation of Supreme Audit Institution (ASOSAI) with the theme of 'Environmental Audit for Sustainable Development', there were two important points focused on: environmental audit for sustainable development and audit of sustainable development goals.
Therefore, one of the key activities led by the Working Group on Environmental Audits of INTOSAI and included in the Action Plan 2020-2022 is the integrated audit on the environment by Southeast Asia's member supreme auditing institution to promote the role of the supreme auditing agencies in the implementation of the Agenda up to the year 2030 United Nations on Sustainable Development.
As the Chairman of ASOSAI for 2018-2020, the State Audit of Việt Nam is well aware of the state of climate change, sea-level rise, drought, increasing upstream hydropower construction and negative environmental impacts on the Mekong River; and how they are affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people in six countries in the areas of the Mekong River, especially downstream countries.
The State Audit of Việt Nam launched the initiative to start the audit of water management in the Mekong River basin, to recommend countries be responsible for the water management of the Mekong River for the sustainable development of countries related to the Mekong River.
On the basis of stakeholder consultation, the supreme auditing bodies in the areas have agreed to choose the theme as 'Cooperative environmental audit on water management in Mekong River basin is associated with the realisation of sustainable development goals (SDGs)'.
Could you please tell us the main contents of the Terms of Reference?
According to the Terms of Reference, the three supreme auditing bodies of Việt Nam, Thailand and Myanmar agree on the general principles of objectives, content, criteria, scope, co-ordination mechanism and action plan to carry out the audit for the values and common interests of participating supreme auditing bodies in accordance with national laws, standards, and international practices.
The audit focused on implementing two main objectives, including identifying the responsibilities of countries involved in implementing national sustainable development goals in the Mekong River basin and assessing the implementation of commitments by relevant countries, linked with the realisation of international sustainable development goals related to the management, use and protection of water resources in the Mekong River basin.
The co-operative audit is conducted in the form of a parallel audit, applying a type of operational audit and compliance audit. The audit will be conducted simultaneously by three supreme auditing bodies. Each participating supreme auditing authority may adopt a different audit method tailored to the needs and interests of each country. The exchange of information and close connection is the most important element of this form of co-operation.
What is the specific time of this audit and how will the auditing institutions co-ordinate?
The newly signed Terms of Reference also provide some general principles for co-ordination. The participating supreme auditing institutions are responsible for co-ordinating with the host supreme auditing body – in this case, the State Audit of Việt Nam, and consultants to implement activities within the audit framework.
If the actual work involves a new activity that requires the co-ordination of participating supreme auditing institutions, they will hold a meeting to share information on an agreed schedule.
In the process of implementing the audit, the supreme auditing agencies participate in completing the outline of the audit plan expected to perform at each supreme auditing institution, by providing the following main information: the general status of the Mekong River's water resources in the national territory; subject, objective, content, method, scope, limit, location and audit duration.
Upon completion of the audit, each participating supreme auditing institution develops an independent national audit report.
The supreme auditing institutions will exchange audit reports in accordance with the laws of each country. National audit reports will be the basis for a final report on audit results.
The State Audit of Việt Nam, as the host supreme auditing institution, will be responsible for leading the audit process and creating a mechanism for information exchange and co-operation. The country will chair and co-ordinate the audit and promote close co-operation with consultants to support the audit and the connection between participating members to ensure the effectiveness and quality of the audit.
The State Audit of Việt Nam will also host a seminar on evaluating the audit results after the audit ends to evaluate and share the results of the co-operative audit.
After completing this audit, have the member countries of Southeast Asian Auditing Bodies conducted similar joint audits?
According to the plan, after signing the commitment statement attached to the Terms of Reference, the audit will take place in the first and second quarter of 2021.
Upon completion of the audit this year, we will consolidate the recommendations of the audit reports into a joint audit report, organise experience sharing as well as communication and send recommendations to leaders of countries to be responsible for managing and protecting the water of the Mekong River for sustainable development, contributing to the achievement of the goals of the Agenda to 2030 of the United Nations on sustainable development.
We hope this audit will be the beginning for other in-depth audits of the responsibilities of countries related to climate change and environmental issues for sustainable development. VNS