About the Author
Blaine Jenner A. Bilalat
A Certified Public Accountant, Certified Information Systems Auditor, and the current head of the Data Analytics and Continuous Auditing Unit of SAI Philippines.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not been kind to the world. For more than a year and counting, the pandemic has and continues to incapacitate businesses, industries, and governments, and managed to single-handedly put the entire world’s economy on the worst slumps and downward spirals since World War II. With the arrival of vaccines in many countries, the end of the pandemic may soon be at hand, but the road to recovery may still take a decade should history repeat itself.
Unlike the World War Era however, we in the 21st century now have something that enables us to cope with the adverse effects of the pandemic to our ability to move and progress. That “something” is digital innovation.
Digital Innovation has provided the ways and means to collect relevant data, transform it into useful information, and feed it to the people whose actions determine the fates of entire nations, and do all of it in real-time. This has allowed governments and decision makers to monitor the pandemic as it happens, leading to pre-emptive and corrective actions being made instantly to respond to it.
From the perspective of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), digital innovation has resulted in the introduction of new, creative, and more effective ways of doing audits. The most notable of these is the move from paper-based to digital audits and the obsolescence of sampling methodologies due to the availability of technology nowadays that can enable the auditing of entire populations. The rate by which audit solutions have come out over the last decade is so unprecedented that the speed of modernization for SAIs now boil down to two things: the availability of SAI resources to acquire these technologies; and its effectiveness in acquiring new skills and exploring new disciplines. The boundaries of Information Technology, Accounting, Statistics, Law, and even Social Sciences are starting to fade when it comes to audit practice that auditors of the future may need to become multi-disciplinary to stay relevant and effective.
SAI Philippines knows this well. With the government spending as much and as fast as they can for COVID-19 relief and response, SAI Philippines turned to digital innovation to keep up with the government’s efforts. SAI Philippines launched several enabling projects in the past year geared towards helping make audit work possible and easier for state auditors who are working almost exclusively at home. SAI Philippines is set to do greater things through the use of cloud computing and business intelligence (BI) solutions, thanks to the financial assistance from SAI partners.
Through digital innovation, SAI Philippines is set up to perform financial and compliance audits, especially on the COVID-19 response funds. Monitoring of fund utilization and the compliance of each implementing agency to the requirements of the law pertaining to the use of these funds can be done in near real-time through dashboards, interactive reports, and the use of the BI platform for collaborative and seamless analysis of relevant fund data submitted by these agencies electronically. What usually takes days, weeks, or even months to do using antiquated auditing methods, can now be done in a few mouse clicks through the help of technology.
If there is anything positive that came out of this pandemic, it is that it accelerated and fomented digital innovation. Once the pandemic meets its inevitable end, we may see a new generation of SAIs that are significantly more capable, relevant, resilient, and effective in staying true to their mandates.