Business organizations need to be controlled and evaluated and the authority to deal with such activities in Eritrea is the Office of the Auditor General (OAG). The office of the auditor general (OAG) is the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) in Eritrea established in May, 1992 by proclamation No.23/ 1993 which was later replaced by proclamation No. 37/1993.
The OAG has a relationship with the British Overseas Development Agency (ODA) for bilateral cooperation. The cooperation of these two organizations started immediately with the first batch of three staff members of OAG attending a three month course in the United Kingdom. A program of support for the OAG that provides consultants to develop audit manuals, delivery of training, the supply of books and training materials, office equipment and computers and vehicles was also approved in 1994 and continued till mid-1998. The OAG is a member of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTROSAI) and African Organization for Supreme Audit Institutions of the English speaking (AFROSAI-E). New accounting graduates are regularly recruited to the organization. Extensive training programs are carried out by local consultants and engaging specialized auditing institutions from the UK. The Office of the General Auditor in Asmara also provided six months training on auditing system as part of its effort to develop its human capacity.
OAG’s main aim is to audit or cause to be audited all government institutions, parastatals, and partially or completely state-owned enterprises. Based on this legal framework, the OAG has been giving audit services to the State of Eritrea.
The importance of having a strategic plan in OAG has been well understood by SAI since its inception. Initially, SAI prepared a strategic plan of five years covering 2007 to 2011. The strategy is meant to address the organization’s shortcomings, consolidate the achievements to date and invigorate the future operations of the OAG. The invasion of Eritrea by Ethiopia in 1998 was one of the causes that led to the deferral of introducing such a plan. However, when the Auditors General of the English Speaking African SAIs agreed to prepare strategic plans for their respective SAIs in March 2006, the OAG also committed itself preparing one. To facilitate such an undertaking the INTROSAI Development Initiative (IDI) and AFROSAI-E initiated guidance and the OAG continued with a strategic plan based on the guidance. The workshop on strategic planning that was conducted in Kenya, in August 2006, by IDI and AFROSAI – E was the initial phase for the preparation of the Corporate Plan.
To prepare the strategic plan, the IDI and AFROSAI-E designed a process (the Strategic Planning Process) that was to be followed by the OAG. The process was systematic which was based on intensive research. The process involved choosing the best response to the circumstances of a dynamic environment and was categorized in three stages comprising eight phases.
In the first stage, the Strategic Planning Team (SPT) planned the activities to be performed and identified the responsible individuals for the activities, the time frame and techniques to be used, the output of the activities and the status of the activities for the whole Strategic Planning Process. In the second stage, it included phases 2 and 4 in which the SAI’s situation was assessed by gathering the required information from internal and external stakeholders by conducting a SWOT analysis. This enabled the OAG to articulate and draft its vision, mission and value statements, and conduct the Gap Analysis. The third stage comprises phases 5 and 6, in which goals were determined based on the prioritized strategic issues and were broken down into SMART objectives. The goals were reviewed by an expert and finally the Strategic Plan was documented. The last stage is the Implementation stage which includes the 7th and 8th phase. This stage evaluates and monitors phases of the Strategic Plan.
The plans had inputs from stakeholders such as the Ministry of Finance, AFROSAI-E and Department for International D e v e l o p m e n t – U K ( D F I D ) . Moreover, consultations were conducted to check whether the OAG is doing things right. It identified where the OAG is, and where it wants to be by the end of the current Strategic Plan period. Through this plan, the OAG chose specific priorities and ensured the participation and commitment of its staff members. It is also committed to work by bringing together its staff members into focus to its priorities and improve the process of people working together. These priorities helped the OAG make substantive progress towards the achievement of its missions and goals. Further, the Strategic Plan is instrument for a better future and the OAG believes that this plan is not an end in itself, but rather a means of achieving its purpose.
The General Auditor, Mr. Gerezgiher Gebremedhin, said that the office is making efforts to provide training to staff members and to introduce modern technology with a view to coping with the international auditing standards. Mr. Gerezgiher added that as a result of its hard work the Office of the Audit General of the state of Eritrea has received an award from AFROSAI-E up on demonstrating best progress during 2014 technical update.
After having gathered the relevant information about the OAG’s operating environment, the big picture of the OAG has become clear and major decisions were made. The OAG has identified its strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and came to know how best to address them. To this end, the OAG developed concrete measures for what it wants to specifically achieve and the resources needed, and was able to articulate its five core future Goals and relevant Objectives.
Goal number one is to have an Audit Legislation in place in order to strengthen the Legal Mandate and independence of the OAG. The second is to enhance the organization and management capacity of the OAG. The third is to enhance and manage the existing audit methodologies and process of the OAG to increase their impact. Goal number four discusses developing the skills, competence and professional qualifications of OAG staff. The fifth goal looks to upgrade the facilities and application of information technology (IT) to enable IT play a vital role in producing quality audit procedures.
Mr.Gerezigher said that the vision and mission of the OAG are to provide reasonable assurance in the management of public resources by independent and objective public sector audit services as well as to be an independent, efficient and effective audit institution that promotes public accountability and transparency.
Mr. Gerezgiher said that the office has been achieving successes by working as a watch dog within the nation to protect public interest and ensure accountability. The OAG will introduce mandatory continuous professional development by enhancing a performance audit program on the coming year. This demonstrates to audit clients and the public that the OAG continues to develop its staff members’ knowledge and skills along with ethical obligations.
Moreover, it will continue to provide high qualified audit services by improving its audit methodologies, process, procedures and other institutional factors to fulfill its mission.