Institutional development cooperation between the National Audit Chamber of Sudan and the Netherlands Court of Audit

Speech by Ewout Irrgang, Vice-President of the Netherlands Court of Audit
Institutional development cooperation between the National Audit Chamber of Sudan and the Netherlands Court of Audit
High-Level Meeting (HLM), 16 January 2020
Corinthia Hotel, Nile Road, Khartoum, Sudan

Dear Auditor-General, Mr El Tahir Abdelghayoum Ibrahim Malik, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I am very happy to be with you here in Sudan today, at this High-Level Meeting to celebrate the institutional development partnership between the National Audit Chamber of Sudan and the Netherlands Court of Audit. Mr Auditor-General, thank you for deciding to work in partnership with my own institution, the Netherlands Court of Audit. We are highly honoured.

Hand shake of Vice-President Ewout Irrgang of Netherlands Court of Audit and president Eltahir Malik in Khartoum
Hand shake of Vice-President Ewout Irrgang of Netherlands Court of Audit and president Eltahir Malik in Khartoum after signing MoU with National Audit Chamber of Sudan. Project aims strengthening control of public financial management, specific on revenues of Sudan state.

It will be a historic moment for all of us later this morning, when we sign a memorandum of understanding on the partnership between the National Audit Chamber of Sudan and the Netherlands Court of Audit.

I was delighted to talk to you so soon after the recent developments in your country and discuss how the National Audit Chamber of Sudan can fulfil and strengthen its role in contributing to the country’s democratic development. We met in Moscow in September, shortly after the transitional government was appointed. As you will remember, we agreed to launch our partnership by no later than January. And here we are today.

The people of Sudan have brought about historic change, through their demands for a more peaceful, inclusive, democratic and prosperous future. Promoting transparency will require support for the rule of law and the development of accountable institutions at both local and national levels. Sudan’s supreme audit institution is one such institution. To this end, it is important for the new government to examine the National Audit Chamber’s past audit findings in implementing its reforms.

Personally, I believe that my own organisation, the Netherlands Court of Audit, can help to facilitate this change, the importance of which cannot be underestimated. Before I was appointed as the Vice-President of the Netherlands Court of Audit, I spent three years working for an NGO in Tanzania. I saw very clearly how important it is for citizens in African countries to be able to rely on an accountable government that operates in their own interest. The situation is no less different in my own country, the Netherlands.

But for the people of Sudan, after the historic change, hope and trust are not only signs of optimism, they also create an obligation for all those involved in building and reforming the state and its institutions. I feel honoured that we can assist in this process.

The fact that we are standing here today is possible only because the two national audit offices have been in contact with each other for some time. We use these contacts to strengthen each other's positions with the aid of technical and substantive support, wherever possible. In the context of this partnership of peers, the Netherlands Court of Audit has spent the last four years working on a programme known as the Sharaka programme. Sharaka involves assisting and supporting national audit offices in seven Arab countries. Sudan’s National Audit Chamber is one of them.

The purpose of the Sharaka programme is to foster good governance, effective public services and a strong system of public financial management, both in the Netherlands and in our partner countries. The specific objective of the bilateral project with Sudan is to foster reforms in public financial management, with a specific focus on the revenue side. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is funding the Sharaka programme, which includes this partnership with Sudan’s National Audit Chamber.

Besides expressing my gratitude to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I would also like to thank more particularly the Dutch embassy in Sudan, who have been very supportive in planning the official launch of our partnership here in Khartoum. We are fortunate to have the Deputy Ambassador here with us today. Her Excellency the Ambassador could not be here this morning, but will be joining us for lunch.

Mr Auditor-General, you have decided to be open to further audits of the revenue side of public finance. Indeed, this will be an important focal point in the future. Based on a detailed analysis to be presented later this morning by your Deputy Auditor-General, Mr Mohammed Nour Abdeldaim Abdelraheem, you have identified two specific areas on which more work needs to be done as part of our bilateral cooperation project: (i) tax exemptions; and (ii) state-owned enterprises. During the past few days, your staff have held in-depth discussions with our own experts on the focus and details of future audits in these two areas. The paper presentations and plenary discussions this afternoon will act as a platform for a debate on audits of public revenue. I would like to thank all the participants for the tremendous efforts they have made in this connection. We welcome the progress that has been made.

Our own support will include the coaching of the two audit teams conducting these performance audits, to be provided in the form of bilateral missions and side meetings. In the absence of a transitional parliament, the National Audit Chamber will need to identify channels for effectively communicating its recommendations on public financial management. It is absolutely vital for you to be able to effectively communicate your audit recommendations to the transitional government and other stakeholders, including auditees, the media and the general public. We can help you in this process.

The project will facilitate a study trip to the Netherlands, including visits to representatives of the Netherlands Court of Audit and the Dutch Ministry of Finance. The aim of this fact-finding mission will be to gain a better understanding of the budget cycle, internal controls and internal audit mechanisms in the Netherlands, and to use this knowledge to encourage reforms in Sudan.

Our support will be provided in the form of technical assistance. We are a sister organisation, not a donor. It is important that support activities are based on your own needs as our partner. Our experience is that there are two key success factors in this respect: the first is the commitment of the leadership. And the second is that the partner organisation must be willing and able to regard audits as forming part of its core business.

We believe that close cooperation between our two institutions will help you to further develop as an accountable institution, to the benefit of the people of Sudan. The professional development of the National Audit Chamber is one of the cornerstones of a strong Sudan.

Mr Auditor-General, dear esteemed guests, I sincerely hope that the future will see us working together in this spirit. I welcome the public financial management analysis that will be presented this morning detailing the current challenges in public financial management in Sudan.

I am thankful for the partnership that the National Audit Chamber of Sudan is offering us today.