The symposium themed “Environmental Auditing for Sustainable Development”- one of the most important contents of the agenda- demonstrates the ASOSAI community’s commitments and efforts to bring about practical contributions to the United Nations’ pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the settlement of global environmental challenges.
In his speech as ASOSAI Chairman for the 2018-2021 term, Ho Duc Phoc, who is also Auditor General of the State Audit Office of Vietnam (SAV), affirmed that the environment has become one of the most urgent global issues of prime concern to each nation. In the future, environmental challenges will pose serious threats to the development of nations, raising the higher importance of Supreme Audit Institutions’ (SAIs) tasks of carrying out environmental auditing for sustainable development.
Cognizant of the importance of environmental protection for the nation’s sustainable development, and the role and responsibility of the SAV for environmental protection issues, the SAV has mobilized all available resources to implement the auditing of environmental issues in a sustainable manner, Phoc said.
From 2010 to now, the SAV has implemented five annual environmental audits across a variety of fields such as forest management, land, clean water, wastes, mineral mining and low carbon energy efficiency.
Regarding the importance of environmental auditing for sustainable development, the SAV leader urged SAIs to be fully aware of and regard the symposium as an opportune occasion to take action plans for environmental protection to each nation in a manner applicable to the world.
Through the event, the SAV is seeking experienced state audit agencies with strong environmental auditing capacity so as to share their expertise in synchronized implementation of this work at SAIs within the ASOSAI community, thus promoting cooperation among SAIs in the implementation of joint environmental audits.
Vice Auditor General of the National Audit Department Malaysia (NADM), Khalid Khan Bin Abdullah Khan, said Malaysia has committed to SDGs and environmental conservation plans under which the nation has signed a number of international environmental agreements, including the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships in 1973, the Putrajaya Declaration of Regional Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Seas of East Asia in 2003, and the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) in 2002.
Concerning environmental auditing experience, the Vice Auditor General of the NADM said the department has the legal rights to undertake auditing activities related to the environment with the aim of ensuring the accountability, validity and effectiveness of programs and the operations of ministries and government agencies as well as checking that actions are in keeping with the environmental law.
The NADM established an environmental auditing office in 2008 and has conducted more than 50 environmental audits at federal and state levels over the past 10 years.
All of their environmental audits have been implemented in accordance with International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI) and guidelines for environmental auditing of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions’ Working Group on Environmental Auditing (INTOSAI WGEA) and in line with the NADM’s instructions.
In addition, the NADM has used remote sensing technology and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to collect samples and provide analysis for environmental auditing.
It has expanded its international cooperation on environmental issues since 2008, coordinated with the Audit Board of Indonesia to perform four environmental assessments, and actively participated in the activities of ASOSAI WGEA and INTOSAI WGEA, said Abdullah Khan.
He pointed out that the environmental auditing process is facing a number of challenges such as a lack of information on the environment at grassroots levels, in the region and around the world.
Therefore, NADM’s orientation for environmental auditing is to combine between auditing and supervision of the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the 2016 – 2020 strategic plan, provide auditors with proper technical skills and a new approach to emerging issues such as biodiversity, climate change, cross-border environmental threats, cooperate with other SAIs in environmental management, environmental auditing and management, and use information technology to facilitate environmental auditing, he noted.
Li Feng representing China’s National Audit Office stressed the need to take full advantage of the database system BIG DATA for effective environmental audits.
China aims to use the digital technology platform, making it possible to monitor and collect feedback from local people on the effectiveness of ecological audits. Based on digitalized data, auditing agencies can collect information and data for environmental audits.
It is essential to ensure balanced development in parallel with environmental protection in support of auditing agencies, he added.
At the meeting, Deputy General Auditor of Vietnam Nguyen Quang Thanh gave a brief presentation on a national report "Environmental auditing for sustainable development" with the sharing of Vietnam’s experience in environmental auditing.
Since its establishment on July 11, 1994, the SAV has implemented a host of environmental auditing projects, including the drainage work in Hanoi, water environment in the Mekong Delta region, mineral mining in several localities, and environmental management in industrial parks nationwide.
The auditing outcomes have contributed to revising the legal framework on environment management while raising organizations and individuals’ awareness of complying with the country’s regulations on environment protection.
By participating in training courses and seminars on environmental audit within the INTOSAI, ASOSAI and ASEANSAI communities, the SAV has got valuable experience and applied what it has learned to carry out audits of wastewater projects in industrial parks, Thanh said, adding that the auditing outcomes were highly appreciated by the community.
He attributed difficulties and challenges in the environmental auditing process to a lack of awareness and sense of observance of regulations on environmental protection by organizations and individuals as well as social responsibility of enterprises for the community.
The limited legal system and inadequate standards of environmental protection are causing difficulties for organizations and individuals in the process of law enforcement, he said.
In order to surmount the difficulties and to promote the role of the SAV in environmental protection towards sustainable development in the coming time, the SAV will focus on building a strategic audit plan and an annual audit plan on the basis of evaluating the implementation of SDGs related to environmental protection activities of the Government and localities, and paying special attention to dealing with waste water, emissions and climate change, Thanh emphasized.
The symposium's conclusion was that in the context of the rapidly changing and complex global environment, in order to achieve SDGs, besides the efforts of specialized agencies, there should be closer collaboration between National Assembly and Government agencies.
Especially, the Government must play an important role in minimizing negative environmental impacts on the community, and join hands with the SAV to ensure effective environmental auditing towards sustainable development.