Seminar on Joint Environmental Audits

On 2-3 October 2002, II European Seminar on Environmental Auditing was held by the Supreme Chamber of Control as Coordinator of the EUROSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing at Goławice.

The aim of the Seminar was exchanging experiences in the field of international environmental auditing, with special focus on planning, implementation and publicizing findings of joint environmental audits. The Seminar was divided into 2 plenary sessions, first of which was devoted to exchanging experiences in international audit of sea water protection, while the second – to other parallel audits implemented by the Group.

Representatives of the SAIs from 28 countries (including 22 countries – members of the EUROSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing, accompanied by delegations from Israel, Germany, Turkey, the Ukraine, Hungary, i.e., countries which are not Group members, but cooperate with the Group, and the SAI of the People’s Republic of China as Coordinator of the ASOSAI Working Group) participated in the Seminar. They were accompanied by representatives of the IDI (INTOSAI Development Initiative) as well as OSPAR and HELCOM Committees.

Mr. Mirosław Sekuła, President of the Supreme Chamber of Control, opened the Seminar, by way of greeting all the guests and stressing that the Seminar in a matter-of-fact and professional way contributes to implementing INTOSAI and EUROSAI objectives in the area of environmental audit methodology development, designed to improve the condition of the environment at global, regional and national levels. Having passed his wishes of interesting and fruitful discussions, Mr. Sekuła invited special Seminar guests to speak. Mme Senator Apolonia Klepacz, member of the Senate Committee for Environment Protection presented the ways and results of using SCC information materials dealing with completed environmental audits by the Parliament, while Mr. Stanisław Żelichowski, Minister of Environment, informed about the scope of competencies of Minister of Environment in Poland, and task implementation, in particular, in the area of sustainable development.

Messers Krzysztof Zaręba, Chief Environmental Inspector, Jerzy Pietrewicz, President of the National Fund for Environment Protection and Water Management, Józef Kozioł, President of the Environment Protection Bank, also attended the Seminar.

The first plenary session chaired by Messers Oiving Berg-Larsen (Norway) and Chris Shapcott (UK) was devoted to exchanging experiences at the stage of planning, conducting and publicizing findings of international audits of sea protection. Coordinators of parallel audits carried out under the Working Group scheme in the three years of its existence focused on observance of sea convention provisions presenting their observations and comments. A representative of the SAI of Norway spoke about auditing the OSPAR Convention, a representative of the SAI of the Netherlands – about the MARPOL Convention, and a representative of Poland – about auditing the Helsinki Convention.

Next, by way of continuing of the issue of auditing sea water protection (recognized as a priority in Group’s activity between 1999 and 2002) national audit findings in this area were presented along with experiences acquired on this occasion. The discussion held in this part of the session involved representatives of the SAI of Cyprus, France, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Russia, the UK and Turkey. A delegate of the SAI of Israel highlighted the need for unity in pursuing the goal of common interest, i.e. environment protection, not only on the European scale, and of overcoming all existing barriers to that end.

Contents of presented papers and voices in the discussion clearly indicated that efficient organization of parallel environmental audits requires meticulous preparations. Making detailed agreements at this stage regarding the scope, deadlines and ways to present findings or observations by particular SAIs would permit to hold, summarize and publicize such audits in a better and more efficient way.

In the subsequent part of the first plenary Seminar session Messers Alan Simcock, Chairman of the OSPAR Commission, and Mieczysław Ostojski, Executive Secretary of the Helsinki Committee (HELCOM) spoke. The OSPAR Committee is an organ established to coordinate implementation of the OSPAR Convention, aimed at preventing environment pollution and protecting seawaters in North-East Atlantic. While the HELCOM Committee is an organ coordinating implementation of provisions of the HELCOM Convention designed to provide complex protection to sea environment in the Baltic Sea area. Representatives of Committees of OSPAR and HELCOM presented key problems and tasks connected with implementation of both Conventions and informed about ways and results of using international audit findings achieved within the framework of activity pursued by the EUROSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing. They remarked that international audits contributed to greater effectiveness in enforcing convention provisions and indicated the need to continue them in future. It is necessary to stress that the presence of high rank representatives of both Committees was an expression of their recognition of importance of cooperation with the Working Group.

The second plenary Seminar session chaired by Mr. Zbigniew Wesołowski, Vice-President of the SCC, was devoted to exchanging experiences related to planning, conducting and publicizing findings of other international environmental audits. Audit of implementation of the convention designed to protect the Danube River was presented by a representative of the SAI of Romania. Audit of protection of waters in the Baltic Sea catchment area was presented by a representative of the SAI of the Czech Republic, while parallel audit of functioning of the Pieniny National Park was presented by a representative of the SCC from Poland. Audit of use of foreign financial resources destined to fund environment protection activities was carried out by the SAIs of Austria (the donor) and Hungary (the beneficiary). Both SAIs did not develop a joint audit report, but exchanged information contained in both national reports. The strength of this audit approach consists of limiting procedures connected with audit coordination.

Representatives of the SAIs of Bulgaria, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, the Ukraine and Italy spoke in discussion devoted to European environmental audits. Their utterances concerned both national and international environmental audits in recent three years. The SAI of Russia presented topics for international audits, which they proposed to be covered in the Working Group program.

Seminar sessions were summarized by Mr. Zbigniew Wesołowski, Working Group Coordinator and Vice-President of the SCC. He highlighted the spirit of frankness created at the Seminar, which was proven by openness in presenting problems and difficulties encountered while implementing and performing international audits, developing joint final documents, and publicizing findings. He stressed attention paid by particular countries to implementation of audits taken up for the shared benefit of the environment. He pointed to animation in international cooperation in this area expressed in terms of increasing numbers of environmental audits as well as the ever growing number of the SAIs involved in this cooperation, also in support of joint audit undertakings to be performed by countries which so far had no tradition or competence to pursue them on their own On concluding the Seminar sessions Mr. Zbigniew Wesołowski, Coordinator of the EUROSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing thanked Seminar participants, in particular those who presented papers and spoke in the discussion, for their active involvement and informed that conclusions drawn from the Seminar would be used in Group work.

On 3 October, 2002, after conclusion of the Seminar, the annual meeting of Coordinator of the EUROSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing with Sub-Coordinators was held at the SCC headquarters in Warsaw. Issues related to 2003 Group Workplan were discussed in the course of the meeting, with further specification postponed until 30 November 2002. It was also decided that Group activity in the Seminar format would be continued, and the next event (to be devoted to waste management) would be held in December 2003. On top of this, a representative of the SAI of Norway presented a short report and a handful of impressions from the Earth Summit in Johannesburg (Republic of South Africa) dwelling of the challenges faced by the Group in connection with decisions made there in order to improve the condition of the natural environment.
In the course of the meeting held with representatives of the SAI of China, which is the Coordinator of the ASOSAI Working Group, proposed formats for their co-operation with the EUROSAI Working Group was outlined. ​