Stories from practice

30 May 2018

Auditing the coast, saving the beaches by Markella Koukkoulli from ICPAC

Markella Koukkoulli of the Audit Office of the Republic of Cyprus explains how an environmental audit has raised awareness of threats to the natural treasure trove that is her country’s coastline.

Priority – protecting our beaches

Cyprus’ beautiful and extensive seashore brings hundreds of thousands of tourists and therefore more jobs, facilities and public revenues to our island republic.  But mass tourism can also endanger the very things people come to enjoy: the vistas, plants and wildlife (including endangered or protected species) living on or near the beaches.

Together with my colleagues from the Audit Office of the Republic of Cyprus, I helped conduct a coastal management audit aiming to protect our environment.  It was vital to discover whether public bodies were doing enough to protect the public’s beaches, and equally important that they devise a financial and environmental management plan which would enable them to prevent damage and reduce the impact of existing threats.  I was eager to take part as I have always been particularly sensitive to environmental issues.

Satellite imagery as an audit tool

Led by Senior Principal Auditor Akis Kikas, we zeroed in on vulnerable factors such as coastal erosion, flora and fauna, clean bathing water and management of waste from recreational marine vessels.  We became far more aware of the range of threats to the marine environment, of the risks posed by human interventions, for instance that inadequately designed offshore breakwaters can lead to downdrift coastal erosion.

Though the audit drew on traditional techniques – document review, interviews and questionnaires – it also made use of technology.  We combined satellite images of the whole island with the Government’s own digitized data base of land ownership.  That allowed us to identify buildings which had encroached into the Beach Protection Zone and to determine the extent of coastal erosion.

We joined environmentalists in observing the Sea Turtle Protection Plan in action, locating nests and examining them for hatchlings which had been left behind.  We were even present at the release of a sea turtle rescued from fishing nets.  This was highly motivating work for us all.

Breaking through into public awareness

The audit revealed non-compliance with environmental legislation, inefficient monitoring mechanisms and excessive segregation of duties.  Many of our recommendations were therefore about improving coordination and complying with environmental legislation, for example:

  • transferring implementation of the Sea Turtle Protection Plan’s from external experts to the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research
  • designating coastal areas that are part of the “Natura 2000” network as special conservation areas
  • immediate action against illegal construction in the Beach Protection Zone and out at sea

The audited entities appreciated the aim of the project and were supportive of our work.  There was a lot of media attention and the report continues to be widely cited (publishing it as a free standing document rather than as a section of our annual report helped enormously).  It has led to much greater appreciation of how public audit contributes to social and environmental well-being.

 

 

Related content

EventSustainability assurance under the CSRD: practical implications

22 June 2022

EventCSRD & Corporate Governance: the evolving role of audit committees

20 June 2022

Consultation responseEC’s corporate sustainability due diligence proposal

20 May 2022

EventAudit quality: definition, drivers and indicators

18 May 2022

UpdateSustainability

11 May 2022

PublicationSustainability assurance under the CSRD

10 May 2022

PublicationAudit Quality Indicators: a global overview of initiatives

5 May 2022

Consultation responseLetter to Commissioner McGuinness on European sustainability reporting standards

21 April 2022

PublicationESG Governance

12 April 2022

UpdateSustainability

8 April 2022

EventCSRD: state of play before the final EU negotiations

30 March 2022

UpdateSustainability

11 March 2022

NewsWar in Ukraine – responses from the accountancy profession

9 March 2022

NewsEU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive: a global milestone that will need further clarity

24 February 2022

NewsExecutive directors’ bonuses must be linked with sustainability objectives

16 February 2022

UpdateSustainability

10 February 2022

NewsStronger corporate reporting in Europe – solutions by the accountancy profession

2 February 2022

PublicationSupply chain sustainability assessment

28 January 2022

EventBecause Green Recovery Counts

27 January 2022

UpdateSustainability

14 January 2022

Sign up for our newsletter

* indicates required
Would you like to subscribe to our newsletter?
On which topics would you like to receive news?