Gov’t internal auditors benefit from performance audit workshop

The Jamaica Observer

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) – Approximately 35 government internal auditors have completed a four-day workshop aimed at improving auditing performance standards within Ministries, Departments, and Executive Agencies.
The workshop, which ran from October 20 to 23, was organised by the Ministry of Finance and Planning in collaboration with the Office of the Cabinet, and formed part of the Government’s undertaking to improve public sector efficiency, by developing entities’ capacity to audit actual performances against targets.
To date, the internal auditing community has primarily focused on auditing process outcomes and compliance. 
Some of the topics discussed during the workshop included: ‘Standards for Performance Audits’; ‘Designing Audit Methodologies’; ‘Writing the Audit Report’; ‘Techniques for Internal Audit’; and ‘How to Improve Value for Money and Better Returns on Taxpayers’ Dollars’.
Funding support was provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), European Union (EU), and the People’s Bank of China.
Director of Internal Audit Directorate (IAD) of the Ministry of Finance and Planning Suzette Campbell told JIS News that the workshop was staged out of the IAD’s recognition of the need to restructure government’s internal auditing functions.   
“We have identified that there is a gap in terms of the number of audits that are being performed that are related to performance, as well as operational (engagements); not that it wasn’t happening before, but we wanted to (revamp) how it is that they approach performance audits,” she outlined
In noting that performance auditing is about “value for money”, Campbell said the training is intended to equip participants to approach this undertaking in a “more structured manner.”
 “Finding value in how we use our resources, how government spends its money, and whether or not objectives are matching outcomes…(are among) the key things we expect to see the auditors contributing. So what we expect to see is more performance audits, and managers being given foresight and insight into how they can improve performance and, of course, monitor targets,” she explained.
To ensure the programme’s sustainability, Campbell said a training manual is being developed, for promulgation by the Management Institute of National Development (MIND), adding that “there will be an entire programme dedicated to performance audit.”
She advised that over the next three months, participants will be coached while engaged in the practical aspects of performance auditing under the supervision of overseas consultants. 
Participant and Chief Internal Auditor of the Ministry of National Security Jacqueline Chevers said the training was useful.
“We got a deeper understanding of some of the things we weren’t doing…even how to present our reports. We got a better understanding of these audit planning matrices that we are exposed to, so that when you put that in a report, it minimises a lot of the text for easier reading and better understanding for somebody who may not know or understand our audit jargons. So I think it is very beneficial to us,” she told JIS News.
Chevers further said that the training has put “a new spin” on auditing, while citing new tables learnt that will make it easier to present shorter reports with the main issues more prominently placed.
“You find that it is not that management don’t want to read your reports, but they have time constraints. So if we can do our work in such a way and present it in a manner that makes it easier for them to read and understand and see the seriousness of potential risks, then we believe that we would get better responses and they would implement those recommendations,” she said.
American Consultant Chris Shapcott who was recruited by the Ministry of Finance and Planning to conduct the workshop, said the auditors will be given practical projects in order to apply the theories that were imparted. 
Shapcott said he will continue to coach the group via Skype and emails, and will return on completion of the projects to “help them formulate conclusions and recommendations.”
“They are quite experienced auditors and they clearly have done a lot of good work in this area. So what we are focusing on is trying to move them to the next level and develop their skills and capabilities; and it’s more post-graduate than under-graduate work that we are doing here,” he indicated.
Shapcott said the participants were also taught how to manage their work in order to get the maximum impact and outputs.
“This is an important area for Jamaica because of the potential which it has for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations. So it’s all about making the tax payer dollar go a bit further, and getting a bit more for people and the users of services,” he added.