Regional East Africa
The Swedish National Audit Office (Swedish NAO) has a regional cooperation agreement with the SAIs of Kenya (Office of Auditor General Kenya), Rwanda (Office of Auditor General Rwanda), Tanzania (National Audit Office of Tanzania), and Uganda (Office of Auditor General Uganda). The regional cooperation has gradually supplemented and phased out the bilateral cooperation since 2015. The regional initiatives in East Africa are a complement both to the Swedish NAO’s bilateral cooperation projects, and to initiatives through AFROSAI-E. In 2021, cooperation in Regional East Africa was formalised. The current cooperation agreement was entered into in January 2021 and runs until December 2024.
The overall objective of Regional East Africa 2021–2024 is for the target group to strengthen their respective institutional, organisational and professional capabilities to conduct and communicate audit in accordance with international standards. The focus is on strengthening leadership, including HR, quality assurance and control, auditing standards, internal and external communication.
The main focus of the cooperation between the Swedish NAO and the SAIs in Regional East Africa covers:
- performance audit
- quality assurance and quality control
- IT audit
- leadership development.
Since 2015, before the regional cooperation was formalised as a project, the Swedish NAO has supplemented its bilateral cooperation with the SAIs of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania with some joint activities. This has been done on a relatively limited scale corresponding to 1–3 operations per year. Some of these activities also involved the Rwandan SAI. The aim of the regional support was then to provide support in areas such as internal and external communication, quality assurance and quality control and performance audit. These areas have been formalised since 2021 as a cooperation project within Regional East Africa.
Regional cooperation is relatively developed and the SAIs have good communication with each other. As regards the conditions of the respective SAI, Kenya is able to audit central and regional administration, courts and the public funds allocated to political parties. The SAI has a broad mandate to audit the use of public funds in Kenya, but faces challenges as regards the premises for fulfilling the mandate and achieving an impact for their audits. Nor does the SAI of Kenya have full financial independence because the budget is decided by parliament, but sometimes not all budgeted funds are paid out, which is a common problem in African countries.
The SAI of Uganda is mandated to conduct financial audits, performance audits, IT and other audits as well as forensic investigations. The SAI’s mandate includes audits of a large number of auditees at central, regional, and local level.
The SAI of Tanzania has a mandate to audit all public funds and is thus a relatively strong institution. The mandate covers ministries, municipalities, public agencies and other bodies as well as donor-funded projects, the court system and the national assembly. However, the SAI of Tanzania cannot audit the president’s office, the military and the anti-corruption authority. Their financial independence is partially met according to the latest PEFA assessment in 2017. This is since the finance ministry gained increased influence over the SAI’s budget. There are also certain restrictions linked to a system of mandatory rotation of posts within the state administration, which negatively affects the staff turnover of the SAI. This makes it difficult to influence recruitment and retain competent staff.
Under the constitution of Rwanda, the SAI of Rwanda has a mandate to audit state revenue and expenditure, public corporations, supranational organisations and central government projects. They are mandated to carry out financial audits, accounting audits and performance audits. The SAI must report annually to parliament.
The SAI’s Degree of Independence
The World Bank’s SAI Independence Index is an index of SAIs’ independence. The index is designed using a ten-point scale where 0 is low and 10 is high. The index for the region in 2021 was in the interval 6.0–9.5. Tanzania’s SAI was in the range 6.0–7.5, placing the SAI in the category of “moderate independence”. The SAIs of Kenya and Rwanda were in the range 8.0–8.5, which places them in the category “substantial independence”. Uganda’s SAI was in the range 9.0–9.5, placing the SAI in the category of “high independence”.
As the regional cooperation is new, there are still no results in line with the objectives that can be linked to the cooperation project.
In 2015, regional cooperation support was launched as a complement to the bilateral support already provided to the member states in the region. Rwanda received bilateral support in 2004–2008 and was added to regional cooperation later than the other member states.
Cooperation within Regional East Africa is based on identified needs, ideas received and/or concrete proposals from one or more SAIs within the target group. The Swedish NAO has a proactive role and supports the target group in developing proposals and motivating them by paying attention to the target group to link the ideas and/or proposals to a broader context. For example, AFROSAI-E’s strategic plan 2020–2024, the SAI’s strategic development plan, a project plan that governs a SAI’s cooperation with the Swedish NAO and/or other partners.
The Swedish NAO and the target group are completing the formalisation of the second phase of the Regional East Africa cooperation. During the current period, the partners have also carried out a small number of activities, mainly within the framework of the project components performance audit, quality control and quality assurance and communication.
The Swedish NAO’s Regional East Africa cooperation will lead to participating SAIs producing more analytical and reader-friendly reports, having better follow-up of how they are used and performance audits that have an impact, as well as development of methods.
Good internal communication is an important component enabling a SAI to conduct and communicate activities in accordance with international principles. The Swedish NAO and our partners have therefore agreed to focus the cooperation on: development and use of strategic and operational communication plans, strengthening the target group’s ability to communicate with parliaments and other stakeholders, in plain language, with a view to writing reading-friendly and relevant reports. We have also worked on plain language in order to write reader-friendly and relevant reports.
An important part of addressing the institutional conditions for achieving a high standard in the planning, implementation, reporting and follow-up of audit operations is to establish quality control and quality assurance. Therefore, the Swedish NAO and its partners have agreed to focus the cooperation on mapping existing quality control and quality assurance, thereby improving the quality of quality assurance reports.
Costs of the Swedish NAO's cooperation that are charged to international development cooperation.
Source: Swedish National Audit Office Annual Reports for 2019, 2020 and 2021 and budget for 2022.
Brief Facts about Regional East Africa
Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda are all members of the African Union (AU), whose Agenda 2063 sets out what the AU and its members strive to achieve in the long term. One of the objectives is for the region to be characterised by good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.
The countries involved in the cooperation are characterised by varying degrees of restrictions on democracy. There are tendencies in Kenya to restrict freedom of expression and citizens’ rights and in recent years there has been more restrictive legislation for the media. Democratic space in Tanzania has decreased and there are negative developments in respect of human rights and the rule of law. In Uganda there are shortcomings in democracy with violations of human rights and harassment of opposition politicians. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rwandan government was criticised for using the pandemic to limit the opposition. According to Transparency International 2021 Corruption Index, countries in the region rank in a range from Rwanda 52, Kenya and Tanzania 128 to Uganda ranking 144 out of a total of 180 countries.
Kenya is, according to Official Development Assistance, a lower middle-income country, while the three remaining countries are defined as least developed countries. Kenya is the largest economy in East Africa and is a centre of finance, IT and transport in the region. In Kenya, however, 80 per cent are still living in poverty. Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have experienced good economic growth in recent decades, but due to external factors, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic, the countries have experienced negative growth. Poor infrastructure and widespread corruption also explain shortcomings in economic development in Tanzania and Uganda. Rwanda, which became a member of the cooperation later, remains a poor country and receives a lot of assistance from the outside world. Despite this, the country has well-functioning state finances and tax collection, as well as relatively low corruption in the country.
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