The Good Financial Governance in Africa programme promotes transparency and accountability in public financial management and is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union (EU). Its objective is to foster Good Financial Governance in Africa, more specifically to equip decision-makers in African public finance to use region-specific services, products and further education to improve financial governance.
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It’s often difficult to get the environment on the top of a government’s agenda. There are more immediate crises: The environment is considered a long-term challenge, often neglected by politicians who work in short-term political cycles. Yet, the costs of not preventing pollution and environmental degradation are tremendous. One small and densely populated country in the center of Africa shows that a turnaround is possible and that is Rwanda.
This is where the Working group on environmental auditing of AFROSAI organised its 8th annual meeting, hosted by the Office of the Auditor General of Rwanda. The meeting assembled nearly 60 delegates from 17 African Supreme Audit Institutions to discuss opportunities and challenges for environmental management and the role of SAIs on the African continent. This year’s topic was Good management of pollution and waste to ensure health and wellbeing in African countries.
The global aspect of environmental management was a recurring topic throughout the meeting. In his opening speech the Auditor General of SAI Rwanda Mr. Obadiah Biraro reminded delegates that pollution is a global problem and one which governments must respond to through a joint effort.
This was also the message of the thematic sessions on Waste Management and Pollution where invited experts participated. Delegates heard from Rwandan Government and the City of Kigali, on how it has succeeded in providing waste management services for a growing population, while at the same time raising awareness in the population.
As the continent is currently struggling with finding answers to its waste crisis – less than 5% of the waste generated is currently recycled- AFROSAI and the Auditor General of Rwanda decided to put this topic on its agenda. Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, prides itself to have the cleanest streets in Africa. And while a lot of praise has been given to the government for its capacity to implement change, the role of the Auditor General to improve waste collection through audits can’t be overlooked. Auditors monitor compliance with existing laws and regulations as well as report on government’s performance. Their recommendations lead to more effective and efficient waste management, which can have a positive impact on public health or even on tourism.
One official remembers how essential it was to target the communication to the population. “We showed people in rural areas that plastic was dangerous for their cattle, as they would feed on it. By tailoring our message to them we brought them on board”. A good cooperation between auditors and government, as well as engaging with citizens were key ingredients for change in Rwanda. Rwanda’s turnaround in waste management is a model for many countries in the region. Recently Kenya has followed and banned plastic bags. And many African Supreme Audit Institutions have conducted audits on the topic. A trend that is also reflected in the work done by AFROSAI-E.
Fragile coastal areas exposed to climate change
In addition to exchanging experiences on waste management, African Supreme Audit Institutions also exchanged on other topics, such as the management of national parks or the management of Coastal areas. A representative from the General auditing commission of Liberia, Theophilus Seeton presented the compliance audit on Coastal and Marine Management he led in his country. In support with GIZ a film on the audit was prepared to create awareness. Due to illegal sand mining and the cutting of mangroves, Liberia’s shoreline is left exposed to hurricanes. The intensity of hurricanes has increased with climate change and whole villages have been swept away. Regulating these practices is no luxury, it is a must for the country where 60% of the population lives in low-lying coastal areas.
SAIs committed to lead by example
Change begins at home: Supreme Audit Institutions are aware of that. That’s why the Secretariat of the Working Group on Environmental auditing has developed a green charter detailing what Supreme Audit Institutions themselves can do to reduce their footprint on the environment. The charter includes recommendation on how to save water and power and recommends the use of green criteria when selecting suppliers. Each participating country compiled a list of actions to take to reduce the SAIs’ impact on the environment. At the end of the week, participants visited a Green village to learn about how Rwandan government is providing alternatives for populations living in high risk areas. A Green village is a village that is built on environmentally sustainable practices such as water reservoirs, rainwater harvesting, improved sanitation system and even use of locally produced biogas for clean cooking fuel.