China’s first Auditor-General, Mr Yu Mingtao, is turning 100 years old in 2017. He was appointed Auditor-General in 1983 when the National Audit Office of China was established. In a recently published book, he recalled the early days when he, as the new Auditor General heading a new SAI, found the biggest challenge being that “there was no professional capacity to rely on, no working experience to borrow from and no ready laws or regulations to follow, not even theoretical books about auditing was to be found.” Starting from scratch, the National Audit Office of China on the one hand, actively explored ways of audit based on Chinese reality; and on the other hand, intensified international exchanges with foreign SAIs to introduce useful experiences to China. Mr Yu said: -“Experiences of various countries are valuable for us to learn”.
As a matter of fact, even before the SAI was established, China started to learn from SAIs in other countries. In September 1981, Mr Servando Fernandez-Victorio y Camps, then President of Tribunal de Cuentas del Reino of Spain, visited China. As the first head of a SAI visiting China, he talked to a Chinese audience on government auditing, a session the audience described as enlightening. The National Audit Office of China was formally established in September 1983 and joined INTOSAI in the same year, then ASOSAI in the following year. After joining these international organizations, exchanges with foreign SAIs were widely conducted on the platform of international auditing organizations and on a bilateral level. Through these exchanges, Chinese auditors broadened their views, learned and benefited greatly from good practices of other SAIs. Many SAIs provided support and assistance in capacity building to SAI China in this period, such as the SAIs of Spain, Canada, Germany, Australia, Sweden, France, UK, the Netherlands, India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia, to name just some of them. Chinese auditors were sent to study audit practices in foreign SAIs and audit experts from these SAIs were invited to China to train Chinese auditors.
The former Auditor-General of Australia Mr Ian McPhee, once visited China in the 1980s, as a trainer for an audit training programme. When he visited China again in 2011 as Auditor-General of Australia, he brought with him photos of the training programme participants, taken in China. Some of the participants, still working with CNAO, could confirm what an important learning experience this programme had been for them and how they had used the techniques they learned, in their audit projects and therewith achieved better results. With this valuable support and help, the National Audit Office of China made fast progress in government auditing. And the learning helped greatly, not only the National Audit Office of China, but also Chinese local audit institutions. Mr Liu Jiayi, Auditor-General of China, believes that audit theory and practice in China is open and inclusive, and has achieved development by drawing on the experiences and practices of auditing of other countries.
In the National Audit Office of China, we never forgot the assistance we received from other SAIs. At seminars on audit practices, in seminar papers, in books about auditing, authors and auditors, and even past Auditor-General like Mr Yu, mention from time to time, how much we benefited by learning from other SAIs. Successful technical assistance projects with SAIs of Spain and Germany were told by older generation of auditors to the younger generation auditors at their induction training programme in the Office. The National Audit Office of China knows well the value of helping each other and the importance of being open and sharing ideas with others in developing audit practices.
As an ancient Chinese poem says: “We get what we need from others, we should also give what we have to others in need”.
We are very happy to share our good practices with other SAIs. Now the National Audit Office of China maintains friendly exchanges with many SAIs worldwide. CNAO has helped train auditors at the request of some SAIs, including seminars, workshops and training programmes. Initiated by the Auditor-General, the National Audit Office of China also cooperated with the Nanjing Audit University to operate a Master Programme for international auditors to study in China under a Chinese Government scholarship. There has been increasing attention on Chinese audit practices such as IT auditing, accountability auditing, real time auditing, public works auditing and environmental auditing et al. Delivering presentations at seminars or attending discussions with auditors from other SAIs, Chinese auditors have learned a lot from other auditors. As the Head of International Relations, I am often told by my colleagues how they have enjoyed attending and lecturing international training programmes, because interactions with the participants is also a good learning experience for the trainers. The truth is that learning is never one way, the more you share with others, the more you learn.
Over 2000 years ago, a Chinese scholar once said: -“Learning alone without any friends, one is cut off from the world and knows little”.
George Bernard Shaw said something similar “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you exchange ideas, then each of us will have two ideas”. This is exactly how we should learn, learn by sharing with friends and peers, learn by exchanging ideas. The audit community knows this better than many others, for what INTOSAI promotes exactly, is - “Mutual Experience benefits all”.