Working Group on Public Debt records many ‘firsts’ in 2020

Working Group on Public Debt records many ‘firsts’ in 2020

The Working Group on Public Debt (WGPD), under the auspices of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), recorded many ‘firsts’ in Calendar year 2020.

Chaired by the Philippine Commission on Audit (COA) for three years since 2017, the WGPD’s mandate is to publish guidelines and other informational materials to be used by Supreme Audit Institutions to encourage proper reporting and sound public debt management.

While the COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to reassessments and changes in priorities and undertakings the overall direction for WGPD remained in accordance with its mandate set under INTOSAI Knowledge Sharing and Knowledge Services Committee (Goal 3). Looking back, WGPD takes pride in accomplishing the following feats:

The Working Group’s growing membership

From the 26 members-SAIs assumed by the SAI Philippines in 2017, the Working Group has grown to a total of 38 member-SAIs across Asia, Europe, Pacific, Middle East, Latin America, and Africa by end of 2020, and has gained its first Observer, SAI France, which was conditionally accepted in 2019 and was fully-recognized in 2020 upon the approval of the revised WGPD Terms of Reference.

GUID 5250 officially released

Now available in all INTOSAI languages, WGPD’s priority project formally-named the Guidance on the Audit of Public Debt or GUID 5250 saw its fruition after gaining the approval of the INTOSAI in the November 2020 Governing Board meeting.

GUID 5250 aims to effectively support INTOSAI goals and objectives: to improve, develop, and adopt audit guidance and contribute to independent, high-quality public debt audits. Working for the accomplishment of the Guidance, SAI Philippines’ Technical Working Group (TWG) and four sub-task teams led by member-SAIs of Chile, India, Russia and the United States, committed to a series of careful drafting of proposals, revisions of draft versions, quality reviews, finalization followed by the endorsement and translation.

GUID 5250 is the first official document contributed by the SAI Philippines-led WGPD for the INTOSAI Framework of Professional Pronouncements.

Cooperative efforts with World Bank

In September 2020, after conducting a survey on the most important topics to be featured in WGPD capacity-building programs, the TWG proposed topics including ‘Exploring SAIs’ Roles in the Implementation of SDGs in the light of COVID-19′ as well as ‘Challenges and Opportunities for Public Debt Auditors in Audit of Public Debt and its Management’ to the World Bank for future collaborations. WGPD and World Bank will steer series of webinars by 2021.

The collaboration will be the first partnership of WGPD outside INTOSAI, in an effort to engage major global public debt stakeholders while working its way to become a leading forum on audit of public debt practices and debt management issues. (WGPD Vision)

WGPD virtual meeting

With the restrictions on travel and logistics brought about by the pandemic, the WGPD held its Annual Meeting virtually, in two batches, on August 26 and 27, 2020. The meeting, presided by COA Chairperson Michael G. Aguinaldo, was attended by 32 member-SAIs including SAI Philippines and representatives from INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI), World Bank, and United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Under the theme “Implementation of SDGs: Exploring the role of public debt auditors in Light of COVID-19”, select member-SAIs presented and discussed relevant topics, such as “Challenges and Opportunities for Public Debt Auditors in the context of SDGs and beyond COVID-19”, “Challenges that face financing SDGs in Egypt before and after COVID 19 pandemic crisis”; and “Auditing the Federal Debt and COVID-19”.

The meeting was the first virtual activity WGPD pursued coping with the changes and which will serve as a successful template for incoming virtual programs and activities.

Co-branded Handbook on PDM

The co-branding of the IDI Audit of Public Debt Management – A Handbook for Supreme Audit Institutions, an IDI Global Public Goods (GPG) guidance material that was jointly developed by SMEs from Argentina and Sweden and resource persons from SAIs of Philippines, Argentina, Georgia, Maldives, and the IDI, was completed in December 2020 following the INTOSAI Quality Assurance (QA) protocols and shall soon be officially pronounced as IDI GPG co-branded with the WGPD. The QA statement was jointly signed by the Director General of the IDI and the COA Chair, representing the WGPD.

The Handbook will be the first contribution of the WGPD to the collection of IDI GPG comprised of handbooks, guides, tools, and documents developed to contribute to global knowledge creation, capacity development and enhanced performance of SAIs.

New projects

Before concluding 2020, the TWG concurrently undertook the review of four (4) new WGPD projects in conformity with the applicable INTOSAI Quality Assurance protocols, namely: (1) Compendium of practical procedures in the audit of Debt Authorization, Contracting, and Legal Framework on PD; (2) Guidelines in the Audit of Government Guarantees; (3) Guidelines in the Audit of Fiscal Exposures – Implications for Debt Management; and (4) Research paper on the mapping of SAIs’ mandates on the audit of public debt, institutional capacities and the Regional Organization’s support and resources.

The projects are the first set of documents, after GUID 5250, that WGPD will complete simultaneously in an effort to advance sound practices for debt audit and management while fostering exchange of knowledge among member-SAIs

Disclaimer: This article was earlier published at the Philippines Commission on Audit website.