What are Supreme Audit Institutions?

SAI Independence Resource Kit

What are Supreme Audit Institutions?

Supreme Audit Institutions audit a government’s use of public funds. They are a critical link in a country’s accountability chain.

Donor's corner

Visit the INTOSAI website for a full list of SAIs around the world. You can also find contact information for the SAI in the country where you are operating.

What are Supreme Audit Institutions?

Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) are public bodies responsible for the audit of government revenue and expenditure. By scrutinizing public financial management and reporting they provide assurance that resources are used as prescribed .

Most SAIs derive their mandate from the constitution and/or legislation. SAIs undertake financial audits of organizations’ accounting procedures and financial statements, and compliance audits reviewing the legality of transactions made by the audited body. The also conduct performance audits to scrutinize the efficiency, effectiveness or economy of government’s undertakings.

SAIs are often seen to belong to one of three institutional frameworks:

  1. The Westminster model, also known as the Anglo-Saxon or Parliamentary model, used in the United Kingdom and most Commonwealth countries including many in sub-Saharan African, some European countries, and Latin American countries such as Peru and Chile. Key features include a National Audit Office headed by an independent Auditor General or equivalent, which submits audit reports to a committee of Parliament (often the Public Accounts Committee).
  2. The Court model, also refered to as the Judicial or Napoleonic model used by France, many Latin countries in Europe, Turkey, francophone countries in Africa and Asia and several Latin American countries including Brazil and Colombia. Here the SAI, often a Court of Accounts or Cour des Comptes forms part of the judicial system and forms judgements on the use of public funds by government officials.
  3. The Board or Collegiate model used by many Asian countries including Indonesia, Japan and the Republic of Korea, and some European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands. This approach has similarities to the Westminster model, except an audit board or boards produces audit reports and submits these to Parliament.

What is INTOSAI and who in INTOSAI will I work with as a donor?


International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI)

Nearly every SAI from a UN-member country is a member of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions, or INTOSAI. INTOSAI is a voluntary, non-political organization that works to promote auditing standards, good governance of SAIs, and SAI independence, among other work. INTOSAI has numerous committees and working groups which examine issues of particular relevance to SAIs, such as developing professional standards for public sector auditing, knowledge sharing, and capacity building.

Within INTOSAI, the General Secretariat, which is hosted by the SAI of Austria, provides strategic and central administrative support. The GS acts as the leading liaison with major INTOSAI partners, such as the United Nations.

The Regional Organizations can also be important partners in your work with the local SAI, as they are entities established for the purpose of promoting professional and technical cooperation among their members. INTOSAI recognizes seven Regions, namely :  AFROSAI (Africa, with two sub-regional groups CREFIAF for Francophone Africa and  AFROSAI-E for Anglophone Africa), ARABOSAI (Middle East and North Africa), ASOSAI (Asia), CAROSAI (Caribbean), EUROSAI (Europe and Eurasia) OLACEFS (Latin and Central America) and PASAI (Oceania).

Introduction to INTOSAI and the INTOSAI General Secretariat


INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI)

The INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI) is an independent INTOSAI body tasked with enhancing the capacities of SAIs in developing countries. As of 2019, IDI is working with SAIs in over 160 countries. IDI’s delivery model centers around four thematic work streams: Independent SAIs, Well-Governed SAIs, Professional SAIs, and Relevant SAIs. It delivers direct bilateral support to certain individual SAIs, and also works on strategic and cross- cutting issues which effect all SAIs, such as culture and leadership, communications and stakeholder management, and inclusiveness and gender.

As part of its work with SAI Independence, IDI operates the SAI Independence Resource Centre and manages the SAI Independence Rapid Advocacy Mechanism (SIRAM). IDI also works directly with individual SAIs around the world to help them enhance their independence.


INTOSAI-Donor Cooperation (IDC)

The INTOSAI-Donor Cooperation (IDC) was created in 2009 when INTOSAI and the donor community signed a Memorandum of Understanding to improve, scale-up and align donor support behind SAIs strategic plans. The IDC’s strategic goals are Independent, Professional, Capable, Transparent and Well- governed SAIs (Goal 1); Enhanced Partnerships and Scaled-up Support to SAIs (Goal 2); SAI-led Capacity Development (Goal 3) and Agenda 2030 and Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 4).The IDC assisted the development of the SAI PMF assessment tool and it has helped to advocate for SAIs and broker a variety of support initiatives via its Global Call for Proposals.

Currently, the IDC is working on improving the effectiveness of support to SAIs in key areas such as independence. The ability of SAIs to perform their mandate is increasingly being threatened, as their financial and operational independence is declining in many parts of the world. While the relevance of the topic is recognized through INTOSAI Declarations and UN resolutions, there is a need to firmly position the issue on the agenda in global policy discussions on public financial management, integrity, and accountability. Hence, the IDC is seeking a Goodwill Ambassador who can lend soft power to and promote the SAI Independence in such forums. The IDC Goodwill Ambassador shall demonstrate a strong desire to help mobilize public interest in, and support for advancing the cause of integrity and accountability in public sector management. He/she will attend and speak at meetings and events, organized by the INTOSAI, the UN and multilateral finance institutions among others. A task force group has been assigned to define the role, reach out to candidates and present an option for appointment to the IDC Steering Committee in 2021.


INTOSAI Capacity Building Committee (CBC)

The INTOSAI Capacity Building Committee (CBC) is one of four INTOSAI committees and is the INTOSAI advocate for, and custodian of, SAI capacity development. It facilitates initiatives in support of SAIs and regions, building their capacities and enhancing their capabilities. The IDI, IDC, and CBC work together on issues of capacity development and SAI independence.


INTOSAI Knowledge Sharing Committee (KSC)

The INTOSAI Knowledge Sharing Committee (KSC) encourages SAI cooperation, collaboration, and continuous improvement through knowledge sharing, including providing benchmarks, conducting best practice studies, and performing research on issues of mutual interest and concern, such as SAI Independence.


INTOSAI Professional Standard Committee (PSC)

The INTOSAI Professional Standard Committee (PSC) leads INTOSAI’s efforts to provide relevant and clear professional standards and guidance to the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), including on SAI Independence. Under the PSC sits a forum established to ensure the technical quality and consistency of the International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI) and other official INTOSAI pronouncements.

Donor Resource Kit