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21 Mar 2016

The Auditor’s Work as an Agent of Change

Nur Ana Sejati, Australia Awards Allison Sudradjat Prize awardee and current PhD candidate in Accounting at Victoria University, previously served as Senior Auditor at the Finance and Development Audit Board, South Sulawesi Representation Office, and was head of the team assisting the government in the implementation of the Government Agency Performance Accountability System.

“There is often a misconception when people hear the word auditor, with most making the assumption that auditing focuses solely on financial aspects even though in actuality, it encompasses so much more,” Nur Ana explained.

“The auditing we carry out help provides assistance for the government in setting tangible objectives in relation to their development goals.  Often the government will, for example, set a goal of achieving better education outcomes but is unclear on how to exactly measure the achievement of that outcome—this is where we come in.”

Nur Ana and her team analysed various aspects of the pertinent region and government agency and gave suggestions of Key Performance Indicators specific to those regions and agencies.  In the case of educational development, for example, one such indicator would be the percentage of high school school students graduating from final year of schooling.

“Having a tangible goal not only helps measure the success rate of each government program, but also serves to prioritise government responses and provides motivation for staff in working towards a clear goal rather than something more abstract,” Nur Ana explained.

Where the results of government programs based on National Budget and Expenditure were less than satisfactory, Nur Ana and her team assisted the agency in auditing and identifying weak points and helped provide suggestions for improvement.

“Funnily enough, despite the misconceptions about the work of auditors I try to correct, I actually did start off as an accountant,” smiled Nur Ana. However, her work focus changed when she came to know several students at the Faculty of Social and Political Science at Universitas Hasanuddin, Makassar, in an English Discussion Club.

“These students had higher ambitions than just practicing their English conversation skills and established MAKES (Al Markaz for Khudi Enlightening Studies) as a platform to discuss more profound subjects and ideas.  The discussions made me realize that I wanted to be an agent of change and to achieve that, I had to broaden my education,” reminisced Nur Ana.

The participants of MAKES all came from low income backgrounds, and English language lessons were accompanied by fried sweet potatoes. “It was the only snack we could afford,” said Nur Ana. The students encouraged each other in their endeavours for higher education and the first student to receive a scholarship left for Australia in 1999. Since then, several more students have undertaken studies at various universities around the world, including Nur Ana.

Knowing that she wanted to help establish good governance in tangible ways, Nur Ana went on to pursue her Master’s in Public Administration at the Australian National University from 2006-2007 under an Australia Awards Scholarship. Those years in Australia became a cornerstone experience for Nur Ana. “It gave me the added skills I needed to assist the government to be able to perform to the best of its abilities,” she smiled.

She was later also granted her second Australia Awards Scholarship with supplementary Leadership Prize and the prestigious Australia Awards Allison Sudradjat Prize to pursue a PhD in Accounting at Victoria University.

Prior to her PhD studies, Nur Ana and a few of her colleagues at the Finance and Development Audit Board in 2012 as a source of reference on regional governance. The name of the website itself means “regional government coffee house”, a reflection of the interaction and dialogue it inspires amongst its visitors. The colleagues also published a reference book on how to manage the regional government’s fixed assets.

Aside from the collaborative book, Nur Ana continues to actively post at www.warungkopipemda. She also published a book on governance in relation to public service practice in Australia, interspersing it with accounts of her PhD studies experience and her children’s educational experience while in Australia.

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