How Does the Independence of General State Inspectorates Compare with that of Courts of Accounts?

Posted by Andy Wynne,

The INTOSAI Mexico Declaration provides a summary of good practice for the independence of government auditors.  However, as in many parts of the world, this ideal is not achieved in many Sub-Saharan African countries.  This includes both the English and the French speaking countries. 

In addition, the judiciary and indeed parliaments in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have the independence nor capacity achieved in many OECD countries, for example, the African Peer Review Mechanism (2008: 120) report on Burkina Faso concluded that:

the Executive is dominant and is hardly limited by the legislature and the judiciary, both of which are weak as regards checks and balances.

The picture for public sector is complex, especially in Francophone African countries where there is usually more than one type of entity that provides some sort of audit function for central government. Almost all French speaking Sub-Saharan African countries have both a General State Inspectorate (Inspection générale d’Etat) and a Court of Accounts (Cours des comptes). In around a third of the countries the member of INTOSAI is the General State Inspectorate whilst in the other countries it is the Court of Accounts.

The roles and relative strengths of these different types of audit institutions (especially the Court of Accounts and the General State Inspectorate) need to be clearly understood. In a recent paper, I tried to provide an introduction to their roles and a detailed consideration of their relative levels of independence against the INTOSAI guidance on independence contained in the Mexico Declaration.

This analysis indicates that for three of the eight Mexico principles the levels of independence of the two types of institution are approximately equal; for three the Courts of Accounts tend to be more independent; and for two the General State Inspectorates are on average more independent.  This suggests that both the Courts of Accounts and the General State Inspectorates would both benefit from greater independence rather than one type of entity being significantly more independent than the other.

An effective Supreme Audit function is essential to achieve sound public financial management, but this may be provided by more than one institution (in many countries, for example, the audit of local or state government is undertaken by a separate entity to that of central government). In Francophone African countries, the Court of Accounts and the General State Inspectorate should play complementary roles. Despite significant improvements in recent years, further work is needed to optimise the independence, capacity and the resources available to both types of organisation. As a result co-operation between all public audit functions is more important than consideration of their relative levels of independence.

Note: The posts on the IMF PFM Blog should not be reported as representing the views of the IMF. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the IMF or IMF policy.