International budget credibility is the subject of a draft handbook designed to support the work of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) around the world.
The handbook is expected to serve as a reference in terms of concepts, guidelines, and good practices to assist SAIs in their role of auditing the credibility of nations' budgets.
Given the current context in which governments around the world need to increase the resources applied in public policies, the president of the TCU, minister Ana Arraes, emphasizes that "the support of SAIs is necessary for countries to be able to face new challenges in areas such as health, education, security and social assistance, without ignoring the need for public accounts to remain sustainable, preserving their credibility with the population".
The presentation of the draft was made by the General Secretariat of External Control (Segecex) and the Department of
Government Macro Analysis (Semag). According to Alessandro Aurelio Caldeira (Semag), the handbook provides a comprehensive definition of budget credibility." In a nutshell, a credible budget is one that accurately estimates revenues and expenses and achieves the expected level of execution. In a broader sense, the handbook also includes the essence and the effectiveness of budget spending".
Production of the handbook – Eight Audit Institutions (Brazil, Argentina, Georgia, Indonesia, Morocco, Philippines, Uganda and Zambia) are divided into four discussion groups and are contributing to the material’s development. A first version of the text was presented in early June at the United Nations (UN) with the presence of the SAIs that are part of the project and external consultants, such as representatives of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) program, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Kennedy School of Government.
Working Group I, which includes Brazil, Argentina, Morocco, the Philippines and Uganda, is in charge of the chapter that addresses recurring audits of the budget or government accounts. The group oversees defining what is a recurring audit and why recurring audits are important for strengthening budget credibility, as well as providing guidelines for implementing and improving recurring audits, including how to plan, execute, and report.
The handbook’s remaining chapters address budget management system performance (led by Indonesia), risk analysis in the budget, either at the individual agency/entity level or the overall government level (led by the Philippines and Uganda), and recommendations and follow-up (led by Argentina).
"The nature of the handbook is to be a practical guide that effectively contributes to the performance of external auditors internationally, taking into consideration the diversity of mandates and institutional conformations of SAIs around the world", remarks Neemias Albert de Souza, auditor of the TCU and coordinator of the Working Group established by the UN to prepare the handbook.
International cooperation – The handbook is part of an international project conducted by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the International Budget Partnership (IBP), with the collaboration of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI).
"International collaboration is a two-way street. It is a great opportunity to learn from international good practices, from what the world does best, as well as to share our expertise with other countries," says Leonardo Albernaz, head of Segecex.
Senior Governance and Public Administration Officer at UNDESA Aranzazu Guillan Montero describes the preparation of the manual as "a one-of-a-kind effort". She also says that "There is a big gap in the public finance management literature regarding the role of SAIs in relation to budget credibility. Almost no information is available on how entities have helped in understanding and assessing budget credibility".
Next steps – The suggestions and insights gathered from the discussions at a workshop held in early July will be used to draft the final version of the document by the end of the month. The material should be officially released in early 2023, with translations into French and Spanish.