International standards framework
Over the past decades, the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) has developed an international standards framework for Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs): the ISSAIs (International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions). The ISSAIs are a set of guidelines for public-sector auditing by SAIs. They deal with both the overall organisation and the performance of each individual audit.
All standards are drawn and endorsed according to a given procedure which also allows interested third parties to write comments and suggestions on draft standards.
The INTOSAI standards on financial audit derive mostly from the International Standards on Auditing (ISA) developed for the private sector by the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB), which is part of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC).
The national SAIs are not required to apply the INTOSAI audit standards. They themselves determine to what extent they will implement them according to their national legislation.
New international standards framework
The ISSAI framework was replaced by the INTOSAI Framework of Professional Pronouncements (IFPP) in September 2019. The IFPP must strengthen the credibility of the INTOSAI standards first by making them compulsory for institutions that declare to be “ISSAI compliant” and then by improving the technical quality of the standards.
The IFPP consists of:
- the INTOSAI Principles (INTOSAI-P), which specify the role and functioning of the SAIs;
- the ISSAI audit standards (International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions), which must be applied by the SAIs that claim to be ISSAI compliant;
- the optional supplementary guidelines called INTOSAI Guidance (GUID).
Implementation by the Belgian Court of Audit
The Belgian Court of Audit works independently in accordance with the international audit standards (Mission Statement, 2004). It decides which procedures and methods it will apply in order to carry out its audits and communicate the results, while complying with international audit standards.
The audit timetable, approach and reports of the Court conform to the INTOSAI standards, i.e:
- audits are based on system analysis;
- public entities are encouraged to apply international standards;
- manuals and procedures are developed and applied;
- the work of other bodies (company auditors, internal audit departments, consultants, etc.) is only used if it complies with the requirements for auditing public entities (Mission Statement, 2004).