INTOSAI Development Initiative

Supporting effective, accountable and inclusive Supreme Audit Institutions

Meet IDI Board Member, Åse Kristin Hemsen (Deputy Auditor General of OAGN)

Part of IDI's "Meet our Board Members" series

Meet our Board Member: Åse Kristin Hemsen

An IDI Board member since 2018, Åse Kristin Hemsen is Deputy Auditor General at the Office of the Auditor General of Norway (OAGN) with responsibility for financial and compliance audits. She has also been the chair of the Forum for INTOSAI Professional Pronouncements (FIPP) since 2018.

Åse got her master’s degree in business and administration from the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) in 1994. Following a first role as a financial auditor with Deloitte, she started working with the OAGN in 2005. In 2015, she started an executive master’s degree in public sector auditing, again with NSE. The degree included both auditing, microeconomics, public law and accounting.

Says Åse, “I am really proud to be a member of the IDI board. Before I joined, I was enthusiastic about the way IDI helped SAIs around the work implementing the standards. After joining the IDI board, I now see how vital IDI is in INTOSAI and for SAIs around the world.”

 

With the extraordinary IDI Board Meeting approaching on 17 June 2021, we asked Åse some questions.

 

You’re an IDI Board member, chair of FIPP and a member of other teams and working groups. Tell us about some of your collaborations in auditing standards.

Through my engagement in standard setting for more than 10 years, I have been introduced to highly competent people around the world with a strong passion not only for standard setting but for supporting SAIs in developing their audit practice and providing value and benefit to citizens. I am grateful for the opportunities that I have been given to learn from the best in different INTOSAI bodies, regions and SAIs around the world.

In my early days with the OAGN I had strong mentors who encouraged me to engage in standard setting and helped me see that engaging in development of auditing standards is one small contribution to a better world. High quality audit standards are one important prerequisite for providing value and benefit for citizens around the world, and to hold public sector officials accountable.

Together with two colleagues from the OAGN, I wrote a thesis on materiality in public sector auditing. “In the heart of auditing” argues that a cross-disciplinary perspective, drawing upon relevant theory from both auditing, economy, law and political science, is necessary in order to develop the concept of materiality in public sector auditing. We also developed a “materiality map”, illustrating the multi-dimensional perspectives of the concept of materiality in public sector auditing. I use this materiality map when discussing potential compliance audits in my current position.

I joined the Financial Audit and Accounting Sub-Committee- FAAS in 2010 and was part of the team developing ISSAI 4000 when Norway was chair of the Compliance Audit Sub-Committee (CAS). I was the OAGN representative in the Norwegian Institute of Public Accountants, and also worked closely with the board of municipality audits. In 2018, I joined the Forum for Professional pronouncements (FIPP) and later that year I took over as chair. FIPP is responsible for approving new and updated pronouncements on behalf of INTOSAI. My motivation for taking over was further to professionalise standard setting in INTOSAI.

 

As the FIPP chair, we would love to know your thoughts on how important auditing standards are for the work of SAIs.

During my years with the methodology department in the OAGN I have been involved in standard setting both nationally and internationally. These standards express the “hurdle” that SAIs need to cross and the common understanding of quality between INTOSAI members. For some SAIs the standards are very ambitious and a challenge to comply with, while other SAIs already comply and work to develop their audit practice further. In FIPP we have representatives from different SAI models, regions and mandates as well as members covering different areas of expertise. This is to ensure that FIPP as a group covers different audit practices, but more importantly, is able to consider the needs of SAIs operating in very different contexts.

The standards are important for at least two reasons: they represent the quality that all SAI reports should live up to and, in expressing compliance with them, they provide stakeholders with an understanding of how SAIs work and how conclusions are drawn. SAIs can use the standards either directly by implementing the ISSAIs or by referring to the principles and develop or use own national standards. Stakeholders around the world will know what to expect when it comes to quality when they read an audit report from two different SAIs referring to the ISSAIs.

If the standards are not implemented or understood they are of little value to the SAIs and the public sector auditors - so I think of auditing standards as one ingredient in a mix that also includes capacity development and knowledge sharing. It is really inspiring to work together with all the three Goal chairs of INTOSAI in order to support SAIs all around the work in their ambition to improve their audit practice.

I believe INTOSAI has taken some giant steps in becoming a professional standards setter. We have focused on transparency so that our stakeholders understand how standards are developed and to enable all INTOSAI members to engage in standard setting by giving input and feedback.

Sharing knowledge between SAIs and regions is very important. I also appreciate the work the Working groups of INTOSAI have done to develop guidance and other supporting material within their area of expertise. Through these working groups INTOSAI members are able to learn from each other. The guidance produced by these working groups is important for many SAIs, both as a support when implementing the ISSAIs but also as an inspiration to audit subject matters that can prove important for stakeholders.

Capacity development is also important for INTOSAI and I am also very impressed by the way the Capacity Building Committee (CBC) is working to develop standards and guidelines for developing competency framework and competency pathways for SAIs. I believe these pronouncements will provide evident support to SAIs in further developing their auditors’ competence.

 

How does IDI support SAIs to apply auditing standards, in your view?

Through a comprehensive set of work streams IDI is supporting SAIs around the world both in implementing the standards and in developing professional, independent, relevant and well-governed SAIs - all vital elements to ensure trust from stakeholders and to deliver audit results that are considered important and add value and benefit to citizens.

In my role as head of financial and compliance audits, I am particularly focused on how to develop competent staff. I am very eagerly looking forward to the IDI Professional Education for SAI Auditors-Pilot (PESA-P) which I believe will prove useful and important when educating newly recruited auditors and get them up to speed.

When I joined the OAGN I had no intention to become a leader. Luckily, I had mentors around me to challenge me and support me to develop and to lead me in this direction. I wish there had been a SAI Young Leaders (SYL) programme for me at that time. SYL is another IDI initiative that supports young leaders and encourages them to apply auditing standards. Meeting the first group of SYL participants in Cape town in 2019 was so inspiring and I hope to meet some of them again in different INTOSAI bodies in the years to come. We have many ambitious young people in OAGN and I hope some of them will be part of the next group of candidates. SYL is a very ambitious program that I, as an IDI board member, promote everywhere I go. 

For FIPP, IDI is an important part of the feedback loop as IDI provides FIPP with insights on how SAIs understand the standards and where challenges in improving them lie. The standards also need to address the needs of the SAIs and IDI is, in my opinion, one of the INTOSAI bodies with the best overview of what SAIs need to deliver high quality audits. Through IDI, FIPP gets important feedback about needs that INTOSAI members might have and that require new or updated pronouncements. I therefore appreciate the close relationship between IDI and FIPP. This close relationship is possible both because I am an IDI board member and because IDI has a seat in FIPP.

Before I joined the IDI Board, I was enthusiastic about the way IDI helped SAIs around the work implementing the standards. After joining, I now see how vital IDI is in INTOSAI and for SAIs around the world.