Conference of Presidents held in Bonn on 15-16 October 2018

Audit institutions shift focus on sustainability

As a result of their deliberations, the Presidents of the German SAI and the audit institutions of the German federal states adopted the Bonn Declaration of Sustainability. The Declaration sets out the contribution that the external audit function can make to successfully accomplish the sustainability goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda.
“Sustainability is an inherent yardstick governing the work of audit institutions. As a cross-cutting national challenge, sustainability requires the joint commitment of federal, state and local governments. Government operations of today are not to overuse public goods or to burden future generations”, said Kay Scheller, President of the German SAI in his capacity as Chair of the Conference of Presidents.

The Conference held in Bonn on 15-16 October 2018 had a key theme: “State audit and Germany’s sustainability strategy”. The delegates discussed the need for placing more focus on sustainability in external audit work. Sustainability impacts on nearly all branches and levels of government activities. This offers a wide range of audit approaches and audit matters for the public sector audit function. Public sector mission performance has been increasingly measured against sustainability indicators, all the more so after the General Assembly of the United Nations agreed on the 17 sustainable development goals and the Federal Government adopted the sustainability strategy in 2017.

Teilnehmerinnen und Teilnehmer der Konferenz der Präsidentinnen und Präsidenten der Rechnungshöfe des Bundes und der Länder

Delegates at the Conference of Presidents of the German SAI and the audit institutions of the German federal states

This requires sound budgets that ensure long-term sustainability of government finance. In addition, a sound fiscal policy for current and future generations is needed. Such a fiscal policy aims at reducing public debt and investing e.g. in sustainable infrastructure. Parliaments and public administrations need to make good choices to prevent any adverse effects on other public goods and future generations from arising.

Relevant audit case studies, initiatives underway and lessons learnt were presented by Christoph Weiser, President of the Brandenburg State Court of Auditors and Jörg Berres, President of the Rhineland-Palatinate State Court of Auditors, Dr. Margit Kraker, President of the Austrian SAI and Michel Huissoud, head of the Swiss SAI. Dr. Margit Kraker and Michel Huissoud outlined the key elements of sustainability strategies implemented in Austria and Switzerland and the view of their SAIs on sustainability.

Austausch im Kontinentensaal des Bundesrechnungshofes

Sharing of ideas at the continental hall of the German SAI’s Headquarters

To complement the two-day event, a discussion on the Conference theme of sustainability was held at the United Nations Office in Bonn. Dr. Martin Frick, Senior Director of Policy and Programme Coordination at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) met with the delegates to discuss UNFCCC’s progress towards accomplishing the sustainability goals.

Fachgespräch bei den Vereinten Nationen

Discussion at the United Nations Office in Bonn

The Conference of Presidents is a forum in which all heads of the German audit institutions can share their views and ideas on major issues and challenges faced by the external audit function. The Conference is regularly attended by the German Member of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) who currently serves as the President of the ECA, the President of the Austrian SAI and the head of the Swiss SAI. Germany’s SAI and the regional audit institutions are autonomous and independent government audit bodies. Given the interconnection between the financial systems of the two government levels, all audit institutions work closely together. As budgetary legislation is virtually identical in wording and content at federal government and state level, such legislation needs to be applied consistently.

vrnl: ERH-Präsident Lehne, Scheller, Kraker und Huissod

from left to right: Klaus-Heiner Lehne, President of the ECA, Kay Scheller, Dr. Margit Kraker and Michel Huissoud