Success Story of Project Localization: Certification Training for Montenegrin Internal Auditors

April 28, 2020 by Aleksandra Tekijaški

After a successful completion and takeover of internal auditors’ certification training (TIAPS) by the beneficiary institution, the Ministry of Finance of Montenegro, the pride on this achievement has brought together our minds to share our experience as to how the magic has happened. Actually, was it just a piece of magic or rather a concrete effort that is worth analyzing?

My professional journey through development cooperation in the area of Good Governance, specifically transparency and accountability, has been people and process oriented. Practitioners, as well as academia, describe development of Good Governance principles and their habituation in public administrations as a long-standing process. Besides its procedural connotation, I have asked myself for so many times what are decisive factors of change in my industry.

A sparkling star in my recent career path was a project-based certification training of internal auditors in Montenegro, where the results were exact and did not need much description, where the progress was recognized by all stakeholders and where the sustainability was evident both from its legal and factual sides. During this successful project, I tried to capture factors that, to my knowledge, made the outcomes and results sustainable and thus brought us to our goal.

This trilogy is dedicated to our joint success in achieving sustainability of certification of internal auditors training, after seven years of project-based trainings. I will outline my personal view in my capacity of implementing party representative, whilst the representatives of beneficiary and one co-donor will also reflect on their experiences on how did we arrive to a sustainable outcome of our project.  

Product, Product, Product.

The package of our learning initiatives included certification training by CIPFA materials, with the learning method and tempo specifically adapted to Montenegrin public administration. A prelude to certification course was the training of trainers that enabled local experts teach in local language. Following the certification program, students were assigned to hands on training provided in local language by the Slovenian experts, who have openly shared on practical cases all the bliss and dark dungeons of auditors’ profession. Participation at workshops in Ljubljana was the crown recognition for the new certificate awardees’ membership in the regional, if not global, family of internal audit practitioners. The Localization working group was a constant work of strategic progress that rolled off in parallel to technical knowledge and skills’ transfer.

Goals, goals. And Goals.

When Ms Krsmanović, the Montenegrin Central Harmonization Unit Head, visited us to express the need for the certification training, she was more than a representative of her Ministry and she was more than a technical expert- because at that time she was charged with both capacities. She was, above all, a member of our peer network, who knew what she can expect from us and who was determined to get the best of the modern approaches to learning and internal audit capacity development. The goal in its nutshell was on the table- we were there to help set the milestones, indicators and communicate the reformist goal to potential donors. Proper understanding of the goal and setting of indicators was essential for our mutual trust, for our mutual expectations and most of all, standards of the program delivery. Getting back to clearly and fairly set goals was helpful in decisive moments during the project implementation. The goal of adoption of certification program within the Montenegrin public administration system was ultimately important for the pilot generations of students, for whom it was a guarantee that their massive efforts will be formally recognized in due course of time.

The goals were also decisive for the fundraising endeavor. Clear and justified goals made our joint fundraising work straightforward in terms of their contextualization within broader reform frameworks and international development assistance mechanisms.

Institutional Context

Montenegro is a member state of our organization. Membership is more than just a formal, honorary role. It adds the weight to continuity and belonging. Membership allows for top-down participation in programming and delivery of development cooperation projects. It enables us to communicate with our member states on the holistic context of public finance reforms by allowing the fine blend of technical and managerial skills move the mountains. In this case, the membership of Montenegro at the CEF widened the boundaries of the project by additional motivation by the Ministry and each student to gain extra mile and demonstrate country’s capacities on the regional arena. The training outcomes have also widened the project boundaries as the CEF peer network requested the Montenegrin experts to share their formula for sustainable takeover of certification training.

Trust. And Trust. And Trust.

A bridge of trust between us, the Montenegrin counterparts and the donors (Slovenian  Development Cooperation and German Stability Pact Fund) was important drive to sustainability of the entire agency. Mutual trust brings agreed standards into life. Trust allows flexibility without compromising the standards. Trust is an ally in overcoming crises. Trust has helped all of us endure on the way to our common goal: localization of certification training.

The sequence of above enlisted factors can be definitely changed from one case to another. I do not give priority to any of them. It is equally valid to add other factors that I have missed at this point, such as number of project iterations necessary for a steady change, coordination of project activities and outcomes with other development cooperation endeavors, etc. I am glad that I was given the opportunity to fuse thoughts with respected and dear collaborators from Montenegro and donor community. Besides a wonderful professional journey during the TIAPS implementation, I am happy to share with wider audience my observations that capture the factors that made this journey meaningful and successful.

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