In its international appointments of external auditor, the Cour des comptes is usually asked to audit the financial statements of organisations and to issue an opinion according to which the statements present fairly the financial position of the organisation and have been drawn up in accordance with relevant accounting standards. In addition, the Cour is frequently asked to determine whether operations are conducted in an economical, effective and efficient manner.
The First President of the Cour currently exercises the duties of external auditor of the following international organisations:
- UNESCO (1st term for the 2006-2011 financial years and second term for the 2012-2017 financial years);
- OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2008-2011-extended for the 2012-2013 financial years; term renewed for the 2014-2017 financial years);
- CTBTO (Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, 2009-2010 renewed for the 2011-2017 financial years);
- ICC (International Criminal Court, 2012-2015; term renewed for the 2016-2017 financial years).
- WFP (World Food Programme, 2016-2022).
In the course of the last 30 years, the Cour has acquired extensive experience in the external audit of international organisations. In particular, it was the external auditor of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and of the World Food Programme (WFP) (1994-2001) and a member of the United Nations Board of Auditors (2001-2009). Recently the First President of the Cour, was the auditor of Interpol (2005-2010), International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF, 2007-2013), International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao, 2007-2013), World Trade Organisation (WTO, 2008-2013), European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat, 2008-2012), the Council of Europe (2009-2013).
The role of the external auditor is specified in the Financial Regulations of international organisations as well as in the call for candidatures. Generally the duties of the external auditor are twofold. They consist on the one hand, of auditing the Organisation’s annual financial statements, on the other hand, of examining the performance of the Organisation’s management and administration. With respect to financial audit, the audit is intended to provide an independent opinion, indicating whether, in all of their significant aspects, the financial statements present fairly the Organisation’s financial position, in accordance with the relevant accounting standards, generally the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (Ipsas). Apart from its responsibility as financial auditor, the external auditor’s role is to assist the Executive Board, by means of its performance audits, in order to determine whether the managers of the international organisation have put systems and practices in place likely to provide a reasonable level of assurance that the organisation’s financial, human and material resources are maintained and protected, that operations are conducted in an economical and efficient manner and that the organisation fulfils its duties in an effective manner.
The audits are conducted in accordance with the International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (issai), the Guidelines for Good Governance (IntosaiI GOV) issued by the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (intosai) and the International Standards on Auditing (ISA) developed by the International Auditing and Assurance Standard Body (IAASB). Every year, the Cour des comptes takes part in the intosai Professional Standards Committee of the intosai and in the Joint Panel and Technical Group of External Auditors of the United Nations, in order to harmonise any divergences that may arise with regard to the application of standards between external auditors.
All of the audits undertaken, whether these are financial or performance audits, are organised by means of a strategic approach based upon three essential objectives: understanding the entity, assessment of the internal control system, and identification of major risks in order to plan the audit work accordingly. Annual audit plans summarising The Cour’s strategic auditing approach and plans of work are presented to the international organisations governing bodies as well as the consultative bodies such as the Audit Committee.
At the end of each audit, the organisation always is given an acceptable period of time in order to raise objections, in a justified manner, to the auditors with regard to the facts and data presented in the Cour draft reports. After any corrections and incorporation of the management’s formal comments in the most appropriate manner, a definitive final report is drawn up for presentation to the governing bodies.
The results of the audit are distributed to the governing bodies by means of reports on the financial audits and on the performance audits. Management letters are also sent to the Management.
the International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (Issai)
the Guidelines for Good Governance (Intosai Gov) issued by the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (Intosai) and the International Standards on Auditing (ISA) issued by Ifac