News from The Hague

Official proceedings alternated with live performances by art students: the IX EUROSAI Congress combined standard ingredients with new elements. Updates from The Hague for participants and colleagues back home.

Four days of official proceedings, work sessions, discussion and knowledge sharing compressed to little over 6 minutes. Watch the video >

Thursday 19 June: official proceedings and closing party

On Thursday EUROSAI participants for the second time convened in the Fokker Terminal for a plenary session. There were 24 agenda items to be presented, discussed and approved, and therefore President Saskia J. Stuiveling urged all speakers to please give short, inspiring presentations. After the plenary session, the EUROSAI Governing Board finalised the documents in the 42nd meeting. The main document, of course, being the conclusions and recommendations of the IX EUROSAI Congress in The Hague.

And the winner is... Lithuania!

At the end of the day Saskia J. Stuiveling presented a special prize to the country organizing the best workshop. An infographic designer will help visualize one of their audit reports. Lithuania was the lucky winner, with the workshop ‘Synergy mindset: working together with other public institutions’. Take a look at the output of their workshop, a cooking book (!).

IT market and selfies

Those who wanted to stretch their legs during lunchtime, could go to the IT market, where countries presented best practices. Or they could have their picture taken at the Young EUROSAI booth.

EUROSAI 2014 – the end

Also, the traditional group photograph of over 200 participants was taken. After the official meetings participants enjoyed the closing dinner at Louwman Museum, home to the world’s oldest private collection of motor cars. There were some exceptional music and dance performances of students of the Codarts Art Academy of Rotterdam. Representants of Italy and Poland – Giovanni Coppola and Jacek Jezierski - thanked the Netherlands Court of Audit for organising and hosting the Congress. According to Mr Jezierski, EUROSAI will have a challenging and inspiring flight out of the Fokker Terminal in the direction of  Turkey during three years.

President Saskia J. Stuiveling invited the eighty staff members of the Netherlands Court of Audit who assisted in making Congress successful to make a “Chinese” parade with a white rose in the direction of the musicians of Gare du Nord, a popular Dutch jazz group which recently ‘re-set’ their band, adding new members for new energy and creativity. In their own words: ‘The challenges of change have far greater appeal than repeating ourselves’. Who would not agree with that, after four days about innovation? At about 23.15 PM the final transfers left for the city centre of The Hague.

Wednesday 18 June: different products for different target groups

EUROSAI umbrella'sEUROSAI impression

During the morning walk from the hotels to Diligentia Theatre the storm-proof umbrellas distributed by the organisation proved very useful.

Young staff’s contribution to innovating SAIs

The plenary session on the third day was opened by Louise van Loon en Jeroen Doornbos from the Netherlands Court of Audit. They were part of the organizing committee of the first Young EUROSAI Conference [link YES 2013] for young staff members of European Supreme Audit Institutions in Rotterdam in November 2013. The results of this conference served as input for the programme of the ninth EUROSAI Congress. To be effective in a rapidly changing world SAIs need to work in a smart way by:

  • Prioritising (5 goals for strategic plans instead of 15)
  • Publishing (ongoing) research while decision-making is taking place
  • Sharing best practices
  • Trying new ways of communicating.

Louise and Jeroen had a serious message: they appealed to the audience to involve young colleagues in the innovation process. They may have a different pace, but you need them. They urged the audience to talk about this back home.

Ms President

In her Wednesday speech Netherlands Court of Audit President Saskia J. Stuiveling stressed the importance of new forms of communicating auditing work. She used a recent website about NATO transparency and public accountability to illustrate this. For six years the Netherlands Court of Audit had been sending letters to Parliament, expressing concern about NATO’s lack of transparency and formulating recommendations. The new approach, compiling all knowledge about NATO in one website which shows how much information is undisclosed, was immediately picked up by press and attracted much attention. It was the same message, but in a new way. 

Frederik Ruys

Visual storytelling

Frédérik Ruys is a former journalist who has become an expert in infographics. He showed some infographics made with Congress data: a map showing where all participants came from, who had travelled furthest (Brazil!) and the male/female ratio per country delegation. In his experience research is 80% of the job of making a good visualization. And it is best to always talk directly with the content expert, the source, not with marketing or communication departments. A good infographic gives you an ‘infogasm’, according to American writer Reif Larsen. Wow, I get it, is the first response, after which the story of the infographic will continue to linger with you. 

Seminars and workshops

Wednesday was the second and last day of seminars and work sessions, many of which were organised by participating countries. Sessions took place in several places along Lange Voorhout, including the British Embassy and the Supreme Court. New work forms were used to create interaction. At the end of each session participants were asked what they would take home. Mindmaps, hand-outs and other relevant documents will later also be published on this website. 

Plenary wrap-up

Jerre Lubberts of World of Minds points out the advantages of two brain halves working together. It will help with problem solving and when looking for new ideas. As he had shown Tuesday, most employees tend to have a left brain bias. What is the solution? The left should not criticize solutions by the right brain half, otherwise it kills the creative process. Ideas come in a string, after a weak idea a brilliant idea might follow, but only if the process is not interrupted by the left (criticizing) half of our brain. He urges everyone to always carry a notebook to jot down ideas.

Saskia J. Stuiveling rounds off by commenting on mindmaps of the work sessions. She observes there are parallel societies. Those up to 35 years, who are diginatives and grew up with the web and Google. People between 35 and 50. And those over 50. She believes in different ways of communicating with different people. The Netherlands Court of Audit, for example, is now experimenting with breakfast tables: talking about a report or an actual social, financial or audit item instead of only reading about it.  As a closing remark she advises the audience to look after people with new ideas. “If you go back home your brain may be right-biased, your colleagues are probably still left-biased and may criticize you.”

Tuesday 17 June: possibilities instead of problems!

On the second day of the Congress all participants gathered in the beautiful Diligentia Theatre opposite the Netherlands Court of Audit’s offices. Diligentia also hosts the living room where participants can relax and meet during the day till 23.00 and watch World Cup matches. In pitches the new heads of delegations of Russia and Israel informed their colleagues of their expectations of EUROSAI and the Congress.

Yes-but show

And now for something completely different. After a brief theoretical explanation about employees’ tendency to predominantly use the left side of their brain, ignoring the creative and holistic part, the theatre floor was given to two splendid actors of the Yes-but show. In hilarious sketches they poignantly showed the audience the deadly effect of the yes-but way of thinking. (Did you win a prize being one out of only 7 contestants? That is not much. And all you got was an exchange cup? Which you will have to return? And do you realize it was not you winning, but actually your horse which brought you the victory? Imagine the winner shrinking in the light of these remarks.)

There are only facts, no problems

Some explanation about the difference between the destructive yes-but and the constructive yes-and way of thinking. We like to focus on what is missing and create a problem, but had much better see and embrace what is there and what you can do with it. In the show, this ability is called ‘flipthinking’: how to transform a problem into a chance. The benefits? Possibilities, new solutions!

A yes-but free life

Should you from now onwards say ‘yes’ to everything? No, because yes-but also pays the bills, for example in the case of policemen, lawyers and … auditors. Next time colleagues approach participants of the Congress with a new idea, participants will know how to respond (‘yes!’). And hopefully, they will become proficient in flipthinking.

Read more about Yes-and >

Let’s work!

Off to seminars and work sessions of participants’ own choice, in and near the Netherlands Court of Audit. Mindmaps, hand-outs and other relevant documents from these sessions will later also be published on this website.

Plenary wrap-up

At the end of the day participants came back to Diligentia to discuss their experiences. Part of their input had already been put into mindmaps. These mindmaps were projected on a screen and formed the starting point for debate. Someone from the audience explained what she would like to take home after joining the Innovation PowerBoost work session. She was inspired by the tools given to think out of the box and argued that participants now also take a next step. For example, by challenging an earlier chosen direction or strategic plan if the context has changed.

Small SAIs or does size matter?

As a result of work session How ISSAI-proof is your SAI?, there was some debate about the question if smaller SAIs should be given more guidance in implementing ISSAIs. What is the definition of a smaller SAI? One person commented that on the basis of the first two Congress days, every SAI had had excellent ideas to offer and benefit from. The size of the SAI does not matter. After which participants were free to spend the remaining afternoon and evening as they wished.

 

Monday 16 June: meetings and disruption

The 41st Governing Board meeting took place at Fokker Terminal, a former hangar. Students of the Royal Academy of Art The Hague transformed the enormous site into an intimate setting, creating various areas with tubes hanging from the ceiling. The Congress being paperless, participants were invited to bring their laptops and consult documents online behind special desks.


Spectacular opening

After the Governing Board and a lunch for all delegates, the Congress was opened in a spectacular way. Six singers, students of Codarts, the Rotterdam-based professional dance and music academy, invited the participants to take a seat for the first plenary session. Two modern dancers moved through the hangar, their choreography streamed at the same time at the large tube above. To the beat of drums the EUROSAI crystal object was symbolically given to Dutch Court of Audit president Saskia J. Stuiveling by Guilherme d'Oliveira Martins of the Tribunal de Contas in Portugal. It marked the transfer of the EUROSAI presidency from Portugal to the Netherlands for the period 2014-2017.

First plenary session

Saskia J. Stuiveling welcomed everyone and invited Guilherme d'Oliveira Martins to look back on his experiences with the EUROSAI presidency from 2011-2014. Next, EUROSAI Secretary-General Ramón Álvarez de Miranda summed up activities of the past three years, including publications, the new web site and the work of goal teams, working groups and taskforces.

Disruptive keynote speech

To get everybody in the mood for the theme of the ninth Congress, innovation, former British Telecom CEO Ben Verwaayen gave an inspiring and provoking speech. His main issues, uncomfortable as they may be:

'You are at the top of the mountain, but at the wrong mountain'
Ben Verwaayen argues that his audience of 220 auditors belongs to the establishment, they are all bosses, which makes them inclined to preserve the status quo. They try to perfect the way they operate, instead of questioning what they do. His definition of good leadership is 'stimulate change, also if it is not in your personal interest'.

'Ask yourself: is my work relevant, transparent and interactive?'
Today anyone can access any type of information anytime anywhere. This changes everything and affects the auditing system. Auditors have to compete with the mobile phone, which offers users access to internet, (open) data and data mining. What people want to know and how they judge, is changing. Authorities like supreme audit institutions are no longer trusted. Instead, people turn to friends and others nearby for opinions or recommendations.

'If bosses approve of innovation, it's not innovation'
Verwaayen has the opinion that the establishment, predominantly in their fifties and doing what they have been doing for a long time, is unable to grasp what goes on in the young minds. It is hard for them to see the wind of change. They are the main obstacle to innovation. If they approve of innovative ideas, the ideas cannot really be innovative. A remark which caused a burst of laughter in the audience, including Dutch SAI president Saskia J. Stuiveling.

Opposition

Fortunately and as desired, Ben Verwaayen created quite a stir. One person objected that surely a brand such as Coca Cola has been successful with the same product for 50 years. At which Verwaayen responded that in a month Coke Green will be introduced in the United Kingdom. Coca Cola was forced to change its product due to the Mayor of New York's campaign against obesity and large soft drinks. Suddenly, through an outside force, Coca Cola had become a hated brand and had to react.

Other participants objected that audit institutions indeed are accessible and transparent, one remarking that the debate did not add up to much. Verwaayen had first better gain more experience with public sector activities and only then debate with auditors. Verwaayen concluded by saying that he did have public sector experience and that he had especially been asked to give a perspective from outside.

Closing act

Forty Codarts students performed a closing dance to the beat of their sneakers. After which heads of delegations departed for a special audience with His Royal Highness King Willem-Alexander at Noordeinde Palace.

Welcome reception & sculpture exhibition

At the end of the first Congress day everyone was welcome for drinks and food at Lange Voorhout. The reception included a walk along contemporary French sculptures, a temporary open-air exhibition by Museum Beelden aan Zee.

Sunday 15 June: arrival and excursions

The introductory programme for Sunday included an excursion to Madurodam, miniature Holland, and a trip through Westland, an innovative agricultural area. The day was concluded at Carlton Beachclub in Scheveningen.