Office of the Auditor General of Mali
It has created a need in citizens to monitor public action and to hold authorities accountable, as well as to report the work being done.
In 1992, Malian authorities had the idea of creating an independent service in charge of auditing the financial and administrative management of Mali's public services. Before that, Mali had two services in charge of oversight:
- General Government Oversight (Contrôle général d'État; CGE), created in 1967; similar to the structure found in most French-speaking African countries, the CGE is an auditing structure within the government; and
- The Supreme Court's Court of Auditors (Section des Comptes de la Cour Suprême; SCCS), the only external oversight structure, therefore outside the government.
The Government of Mali, by way of its ministry in charge of the CGE, decided to go on fact-finding missions in Europe and North America in the goal of analyzing different oversight service models. Following these missions, the Government of Mali decided to adopt a Canadian model and set up a structure inspired to the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) of Canada. The creation of the Office of the Auditor General of Mali (BVG-Mali) is a "Malian initiative, chosen by Mali."
In existence since 1878, the Canadian model was selected for several reasons, namely its independence. In Canada, the Auditor General (AG) is appointed by Parliament (National Assembly) and conducts audits and independent studies that provide information and reports to Parliament, the legislative assemblies, the elected officials and the Canadian people about the federal departments, bodies and most agencies and organizations.
In practice, Canadians use the AG's reports to monitor government activities and hold the federal government accountable for its spending and management of public funds. The reports are published out of obligation to render accounts to citizens and any debates are broadcast on television. It should be noted that this link to Parliament is only functional and in no way affects the AG's independence, as Canada's OAG independently recruits its personnel. Finally, the provinces have their own auditors, with specific mandates.
In 2003, the Government of Mali introduced a bill to form an independent authority (a department not subject to any political, administrative or judicial authority) that would be used as a tool to fight corruption and poor management. It also was tasked with building citizen trust in government. Based on the Canadian model, this was new for Mali, and was intended to reinforce the oversight system by giving citizens access to an independent entity charged with general auditing and whose work would result in improved management of public resources.
Creating an Office of the Auditor General of Mali indeed sought to meet two goals: that of fighting corruption and economic and financial crime (by bringing cases of fraud to justice), and that of improving the management of public funds (by making recommendations to the audited structures and to the government during audit or policy assessments). Given the lack of an external oversight structure other than the SCCS (which is a court of law), a truly independent and effective oversight institution was needed, and it had to be capable of standing up to corruption and of improving public finance management.
After seven years, a new law was passed in 2012 to improve BVG-Mali's performance. It gave the auditors greater recourse, broadened their areas of jurisdiction and laid out quality standards for their reports. Now, thanks to its officers' professionalism and the quality of their audit reports, BVG-Mali is raising the awareness of Malians and the audited public services to the vital need to review and improve the management of public resources.
This oversight tool proved all the more important when, in March 2012, Mali erupted in a coup d'état. Affecting all sectors (public safety, politics, institutions, etc.), the resulting social crisis was, in large part, triggered by the mismanagement of public affairs and widespread corruption.
Despite all the efforts of public authorities to create structures and adopt legislation, corruption persists. Transparency International's 2016 Corruptions Perceptions Index placed Mali 116th out of 176 countries at a moment when poverty was increasing, as shown by the United Nations' Development Programme's 2016 Human Development Index, which ranked Mali 176 out of 187 countries on the human development scale. In light of these findings, the Government of Mali, its oversight structures and civil society organizations must continue making considerable efforts to provide citizens with better governance.
In this respect, BVG-Mali is a key tool, even if it was initially met with skepticism by officers and public agencies. This distrust was due to lack of understanding of the structure itself, the many existing oversight organizations, and the difficulties inherent to starting up such an institution. However, civil society welcomed the initiative with much enthusiasm, expectation and support.
This perception should be put into perspective, however. The BVG was indeed added to existing oversight structures (which it complements), but it is nonetheless a significant innovation in Malian governance. Several arguments supported its creation. First, there can never be too much oversight, as the saying goes, and therefore having several oversight structures is not a bad thing in itself. It should be remembered that most departments in Mali cannot provide effective oversight because they do not have enough sufficiently trained auditors. It is therefore recommended that every manager be subject to regular oversight, to avoid the late discovery of slips that will be costly for the community.
Second, all of the existing oversight organizations are in the government's chain of command. Since these are dependent on decision-makers within the administration, their independence can be questioned. The BVG is necessary for transparency and credibility, since it is an independent authority with its own means and its jurisdiction is overseeing public resource management in all of the country's institutions, civil and military governance, public organizations, local communities and private structures that receive public subsidies.
The Auditor General's oversight covers not only the regularity of management, but also the performance and effectiveness of public structures. To achieve this, the AG is supported by an assistant auditor general, appointed under the same conditions. The BVG is also made up of auditors and support officers.
The Auditor General can be solicited by any natural person or corporate entity wishing to audit a structure. The AG decides how to handle the referral and can take up any matter that comes under his or her jurisdiction. The BVG's engagements are sanctioned by the production of sectoral reports (for the audited service) and an annual report (summarizing the sectoral reports), solemnly presented to the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and Parliament, as well as shared with Malians. Corruption and the poor management of public funds cannot be fought behind closed doors, hence the underlying aim for transparency in disclosing reports. Audit reports and their recommendations for improving public fund management are of interest to all Malians and deserve to be discussed openly.
These reports are sent to public authorities so that these latter may implement their recommendations and, if applicable, to the justice system for prosecution. The first report was submitted in 2005 and the latest, concerning the 2017 audits, in 2018.
Despite the initial concerns, BVG-Mali now enjoys a positive image. This is thanks to Malians' greater knowledge of the structure's goals and mission, and to the quality of the reports published in the last several years.
Canada has long provided Mali with general, ongoing and multifaceted support in its fight against corruption and has supported BVG-Mali since its creation.
Support in the institution creation process
Canada has supported the structure's implementation, starting in 2003 through the development of an act instituting BVG-Mali. A study tour was also conducted in Canada between October 20 and 25, 2003, to explore the effective implementation of an Office of the Auditor General in Mali.
This mission was led by the Minister for Reform at the time, Badi Ould Hamed Ganfoud, and was made up of senior officials in Mali's public administration, representatives of Mali's National Assembly, a representative of the Mali Association of Controllers, Inspectors and Auditors, and a Canada-Mali Cooperation Program Support Unit advisor. During the delegation's stay in Canada, members visited the Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG). The delegation also held interviews and work sessions, which focussed on implementation, operations, staff selection, working conditions, audit products, special examinations of government-owned corporations and the OAG's relationship with its institutional environment, namely with the judicial system and Parliament. The delegation had an opportunity to attend a hearing of the Canadian Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts on a report produced by the Auditor General, which allowed it to see how the Canada's Auditor General delivered her report.
From left to right, front row: IsmaëlDiawara, Jocelyne Thérien, Julie Gelfand, Renée Pichard, Lucie Cardinal, Adriel Gionet, Jean-Charles Parisé. Back row: Sylvain Ricard, Yvan Gaudette, Michael Ferguson, AG of Canada and Amadou OusmaneTouré, AG of Mali.
Canada strongly supported this mission, via the participation of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The lessons learned on the mission were decisive for the development of the act instituting the Auditor General, which took into account the specificities of Mali's political system.
In August 2009, during the review of the 2003 act, the Committee for Institutional Reform, with support from Canadian aid, conducted a study tour of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada and of Quebec. The delegation was led by Minister Daba Diawara and included committee experts.
Canadian aid also strongly supported the mission, from preparation to realization. The delegation had a meeting at the Parliament of Canada, where it received helpful information about the latter's operation. It held work sessions with OAG-Canada and OAG-Quebec, as well as with the Canada International Development Agency (CIDA).
The mission helped clarify understanding about the relationship between OAG-Canada and the Parliament and reminded the delegation of the importance of upholding the Office's objectivity and independence.
Support in building BVG-Mali's capacities
In January 2008, the Canadian and Malian governments signed a memorandum of understanding for an initial four-year period, called Canadian Support for BVG-Mali, in the amount of Can$4.5 million (about 2 billion CFA francs). This support was provided in two parts. The first aimed to help BVG-Mali equip itself with audit standards, methods and techniques, communication tools and an internal planning and management process. The second was immediate ad hoc support to help fulfill the new structure's most pressing needs.
The project's final objective was to "help BVG-Mali adopt a competent structure, with the appropriate means and tools for fulfilling the mandate bestowed upon it by law."
The expected results were, on the one hand, the good management of public resources, improved public service delivery and a better application of the policies set by the authorities and, on the other, an improvement of BVG-Mali's institutional capacities with regard to planning, an increase in the Government of Mali's abilities to prevent fraud and the poor management of public resources, and inclusion of gender equality and environmental sustainability in audits in Mali.
After the project's implementation, concrete results were obtained. These were namely the various training sessions given, the development and implementation of work management instruments, the availability of strategic advisors, the provision of expertise in specialized fields, the reinforcement of the Office's planning, management, organization and office-work methods and techniques, and the audit engagements with the creation of a pole.
In light of these results, Canada decided to extend its support for an additional project period, from 2012 to 2014. The Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) ensured the project's implementation and OAG-Canada acted as its technical partner. Despite this, the project's implementation was difficult after the suspension of aid following the March 22, 2012, coup d'état and the withdrawal of the Canada School of Public Service in 2014.
When Canada resumed its aid in March 2014, the Auditor General of Mali conducted a work visit to OAG-Canada and a 2014-2016 action plan was developed, with a value of Can$1.5 million.
Training trips to build the Auditor General's and the auditors' capacities were conducted with Canadian aid. Key partners of the Office, such as magistrates, joined these training sessions, namely the one held in Canada in 2016, which helped improve collaboration with the judicial authority.
Canadian involvement was also demonstrated through fruitful cooperation with OAG-Canada. The Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser, conducted a mission to Mali in 2009, during which she met with the Auditor General of Mali, administrative and judicial authorities and elected officials. Made as a token of friendship, the visit strengthened the partnership between the two structures.
Overall, Canada's aid helped BVG-Mali to build its audit methodology on a solid foundation and to become functional and effective in carrying out its mandate. It also contributed to setting up a highly skilled team of financial and performance audit technicians, which had never been seen in Mali. The work tool was also well-organized and modernized.
Canada's strong involvement is clear; it helped obtain good results because it did not try to impose ready-made solutions on Mali. Quite the contrary: needs were prioritized by the Malians themselves and met by Canada within a constructive partnership. Solutions were developed and implemented in a congenial manner, in an atmosphere of ongoing dialogue and mutual respect.
All in all, it can be said that the financial support provided to BVG-Mali was conclusive and very significant and that the project was constantly and effectively monitored by Canada. The quality of the reports is improving; the institution has become credible and now appears to be a true instrument of good financial governance and the fight against corruption.
Given the positive results and with a view to continuing and reinforcing these gains, a new initiative was recently approved by Global Affairs Canada.
Involvement of other partners
BVG-Mali has management autonomy. The credits needed to conduct its engagements are entered into the government's budget. On this point, the Auditor General considers that the means the government places at its disposal allow it to more or less satisfactorily ensure the Office's operation, which, incidentally, is under the control of the SCCS. Besides this aspect and the submittal of the reports, BVG-Mali has no direct relationship with the government.
According to the AG, Canada is currently BVG-Mali's only technical and financial partner, although he notes that the Office received occasional aid from the Delegation of the European Union (DEU) to Mali, which sponsored two audits in 2015. The DEU recently stated its intention to renew its aid, but that the publication of BVG-Mali's report justifies slowing its budgetary support.
The AG maintains collaborative relationships with the other administrative oversight structures (General Government Oversight, Departmental Inspections) as well as with the SCCS, which it can refer if it has knowledge of financial and accounting legislation violations. There is good collaboration between these two external control structures, which are complementary, according to the SCCS's president. It should be specified that the BVG is an administrative structure, while the Court of Auditors is a court of law, with the vocation of sanctioning violations found during audit engagements. The BVG can directly inform justice (in this case the Prosecutors of the Economic and Financial Poles of the Kayes, Bamako and Mopti high courts) of cases of fraud discovered during the audits. The collaboration between the institution and the judicial administrations is good, according to the Ministry of Justice's General Secretariat. Indeed, at the judicial level, it is believed that the quality of the BVG's work has greatly improved, which facilitates legal proceedings. The reports are better documented, better prepared and have a positive impact on the work required of the judge, who must often seek elements of evidence or, failing that, close the case.
The Senior Examining Magistrate of the Economic and Financial Pole of the District of Bamako's Commune III high courts adds that the BVG's report has an effect on public fund managers, who have improved their management given this rendering of accounts. However, the Senior Examining Magistrate stresses that better training of the auditors and judges would produce more conclusive results and have a real impact on the processing of the cases.
In October 2012, BVG-Mali signed a collaborative agreement with the National Civil Society Council (Conseil National de la SociétéCivile [CNSC]). This framework establishes a partnership namely in the goal of "sharing audit reports with umbrella and grassroots organizations, disseminating audit reports, making citizens aware of the BVG-Mali's roles and importance." However, lack of funding for the audit dissemination and citizen education activities has made for a meek implementation. Finally, BVG-Mali maintains relations of cooperation with similar structures in other countries, and this facilitates the sharing of experience.
BVG-Mali is a governance endeavour of undeniable relevance; its audits and subsequent audit reports have indeed cleaned up public finances and fought corruption. Various testimonies and legislative and institutional reforms (namely regarding procurement contracts and the Finance and Material Directorate) attest to this. The numbers also speak for themselves: More than 193 financial audits, 52 performance audits and 27 recommendation follow-ups have been conducted since BVG-Mali's foundation.
Canada's aid facilitated the structure's creation and has provided continuous guidance since 2003. It should be noted that the audit staff's capacities were strengthened through training, exchanges and the development of tools and guides, especially audit methodology. Auditing has gradually improved and this improvement has had a positive impact on the quality of the reports, public affair management and the use of the reports, namely by justice. We should also mention the Office's sound management, via the implementation of administrative and financial management procedures and the acquisition of results-based management skills.
The highly anticipated publication of the AG's annual report has a definite psychological impact on public opinion and on Mali's public authorities and financial partners. It has created a need in citizens to monitor public action and to hold authorities accountable, as well as to report the work being done. The publication of the AG's report and its dissemination in the media are exciting moments in the fight against the poor management of public funds in Mali, highlights that cannot be hidden by leaders. The different conclusions of the audit engagements, namely failings and violations and even misappropriation of funds, are sufficient motive to justify referral to the judicial authority in charge of prosecuting under the rule of law. As such, the contents of the report appear to be a tool for assessing the quality of the country's governance and management of public affairs.
The reports also increase public office holders' accountability and educate Malian citizens about the sound management of public funds.
During the audits and subsequent legal proceedings, sums of money have been recovered and repaid. For example, of the 100 or so financial audits conducted between 2004 and 2011, a shortfall of 382.93 billion CFA franc (around CAN$889 million) was detected in the public treasury and audited entities. A total of 393.14 CFA francs (around CAN$915 million) were proposed for recovery.
Although not exhaustive, about 6.02 billion CFA francs (CAN$12 million) should be added to that sum, for 2012-2015, for recoveries, reimbursements or regularizations. These various amounts will eventually be reinvested in the country's development efforts.
There was also a noted improvement in managers' behaviour. The audits thus had an educational effect and brought about change in the culture of public office. BVG-Mali's implementation largely contributed to instilling in public fund managers greater compliance with the applicable standards, legislation and regulations. It is important to note that the aim was not necessarily to take repressive action against officers. Instead, it sought to encourage better behaviour for the good of the community in each person involved in public life, especially managers.
It is worthy to note the strong involvement, via effective communication, of civil society and the press in the mobilization around the BVG-Mali reports. Over all, citizens consider the BVG to be a new public fund oversight instrument, one that "takes the temperature" of general compliance in public fund use.
Finally, it should be noted that the BVG-Mali's creation re-instilled considerable value in the oversight function. The BVG's independence has allowed it to freely address, through its action and results, a great variety of administration and public finance sectors.
In implementing support:
The development of a capacity-building program was required to improve internal management and was done so by integrating a results-based approach, reporting, and setting up a structure dedicated to the programming and launching of aid projects.
In fulfilling the mandate:
BVG-Mali proved most professional in fulfilling its mandate. Although it has considerably improved the quality of its work over time, there are still some challenges to overcome:
- Newness in the institutional environment generated mistrust toward BVG-Mali, which was initially perceived as an innovation in Mali's accepted traditional oversight system. To that was added the hostility of the public structures being overseen. The situation required greater communication about this new institution.
- Implementing the recommendations from the audits, and doing so beyond the public authorities' statements of intention, continues to be a sizeable challenge. It is mainly incumbent on the government and the audited entities, and requires synergy between the justice system and the administration. In keeping with its governing principles, the judicial institution must communicate case outcomes so that citizens see violators being punished. The BVG simply transferring files to justice has not always met citizens' expectations, given the complexity of the legal procedures and the differences in how the two bodies assess concepts and facts. Preliminary work to coordinate the BVG and the judicial bodies to which the reports refer should help harmonize the concepts and objectives specific to fighting corruption and poor governance.
- Civil society's mission must go beyond disseminating the reports to focus on implementing an active watch and a calling-out of authorities, if needed. It would be a good idea to extend BVG-Mali's partners to other aspects of society, namely currently influential and credible religious and community leaders.
- Strengthening BVG-Mali's credibility in the current context and determining its role in the fight against corruption is an absolute necessity. The BVG must demonstrate its very real added value in the overall framework of this effort, and adapt public finance oversight to the budgetary and accounting reforms underway. The dedication of new audit areas, such as the evaluation of public policies, must also be added.
As part of its activities, BVG-Mali provided training for women and young people on the Office's missions and their involvement in implementing its reports. As part of its tasks, BVG-Mali is planning to assess Mali's National Gender Policy and make recommendations for eliminating discrimination against women.
Finally, given that the purpose of the audits is to fight corruption and improve the management of public finances, the recovered funds can be used to eliminate discrimination, namely toward women and girls.
BVG-Mali has made efforts to recruit more female employees. Nevertheless, there are few female staff members: Of 113 officers, only 23% are women. The percentage of female auditors is even lower: Out of 40 auditors, there are only 7 women (or 17.5%). This can be explained by general factors, such as the underrepresentation of women in public service and the lack of women in the auditing field.
There is no doubt that after more than 10 years of partnership, Canada and Mali have learned many lessons from their experience. This flagship project has indeed strengthened the ties of collaboration and friendship between the two countries. Lessons include:
- Transitioning from a first project, founded on a partnership with the CSPS and OAG-Canada, to a sustainable institution requires budgetary support.
- Maintaining ongoing dialogue with Mali's political authorities is needed to support BVG-Mali.
- The BVG's reports and the implementation of its recommendations are now leading partners to support the Malian government.
- Capacity building is a vital element for ensuring BVG-Mali's credibility and effectiveness.
- Cooperation with civil society, the press, the judicial system and Parliament has proven necessary to increase the scope of the BVG's reports, popularize them and encourage the general public to adopt them as its own. Reflection on the creation of a collaboration gateway between BVG and Mali's National Assembly (Parliament) is necessary for optimal use of the reports.
Beyond the gains of this project and the progress BVG-Mali has made over the last 15 years, it should be noted that the fight against corruption (which BVG-Mali is spearheading with the cooperation and friendship that binds Mali and Canada) is a long-term undertaking, one that requires continuous effort and reinforcement.
Bill 2012-009, enacted on February 8, 2012, replacing and repealing Bill 03-030, enacted on August 25, 2003, instituting the Auditor General of Mali
- Office of the Auditor General of Mali's 2007-2011 Strategic Plan
- Office of the Auditor General of Mali's 2012-2018 Strategic Plan
- Office of the Auditor General of Mali's 2004-2010 Progress Report
- Office of the Auditor General of Mali's annual reports between 2005 and 2015
- Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Canada and the Government of Mali concerning support for BVG-Mali, January 2008
- Auditor General of Mali's Work Plan
We would like to sincerely thank the following for their assistance in creating this impact story:
- The staff of Global Affairs Canada
- The staff of the Field Support Services Project (FSSP)
- Abdoul Aziz Aguissa, Secretary General of the Office of the Auditor General of Mali
- FatoumataBintou Samaké Bouaré, President of WILDAF-Mali
- Julien Bouzon, Team Lead, Economics and Governance, Delegation of the European Union to Mali
- MoustaphaCissé, Attorney, former President of the Malian Human Rights Association (AMDH) and expert serving on the Committee for Institutional Reform;
- BoubacarCoulibaly, Chair of the Committee in Charge of Following Up on the Recommendations Issued by the Group of States Against Corruption, reporting to the Prime Minister;
- SékouDiané, National Director of Financial Control, Ministry of Economy and Finance, former Advisor to the UEMOA Court of Justice's Court of Auditors
- MahamadouDiarra, former Advisor, Program Support Unit, Embassy of Canada to Mali;
- SidiSossoDiarra, former Auditor General of Mali
- IsmaëlDiawarra, Communications Officer, Office of the Auditor General of Mali
- AbdourahimDicko, Examining Magistrate of the Economic and Financial Pole of the District of Bamako's Commune III high courts
- MarounAbouFayçal, former Sector Head in Governance, Canadian-Mali Program
- KloussamaGoïta, President of the SCCS
- Ibrahim Mohamed Gueye, Journalist-Reporter for the Prétoire newspaper
- SalimataDiakitéKonaté, General Public Services Comptroller
- KonimbaSidibé, former Minister, Comptroller General
- Sombé Tera, Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice, former Prosecutor of the Economic and Financial Pole of Bamako
- Amadou OusmaneTouré, Auditor General of Mali
- BoureimaAllayeTouré, President of the National Civil Society Council
The Impact Stories series of Canadian aid in Mali was produced by the Field Support Services Project (FSSP) and in collaborationwith the above-mentioned stakeholders.
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