Performance Auditing

Performance Auditing

Contributing to Accountability in Democratic Government

Edited by Jeremy Lonsdale, Peter Wilkins and Tom Ling

This state-of-the-art book examines the development of performance audit, drawing on the experience in a number of different countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

Chapter 3: Selection of Topics

Vital Put and Rudi Turksema

Subjects: economics and finance, public sector economics, politics and public policy, public policy

Extract

Vital Put and Rudi Turksema INTRODUCTION Chapter 1 noted that the right to choose what to audit, how to audit, and subsequently what information to make public, is at the core of what gives Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) their unique position. It is a key part of the independence that Jan-Eric Furubo described as ‘fundamental’ to auditing. This chapter considers a key aspect of this unique position – the selection of performance audit topics. SAIs’ ability to select independently the topics for performance audits enables them to ask inconvenient questions to those in power, to focus on issues they consider of importance, and it also ensures that SAIs are ‘political’ players, in the sense that their work helps to influence decisions about resources (Lonsdale, 2010). At the same time, study selection is one of the most challenging aspects of auditing. It is often not clear what audit clients expect from auditors or whether stakeholders, and those reading the reports, find performance audit reports useful or are able to use the information and recommendations contained within them. In the field of evaluation, Weiss (1998) and Patton (1997) have suggested that, from the viewpoint of effectiveness, it helps if evaluators give significant weight to the considerations of their stakeholders when undertaking their work. On the other hand, too much responsiveness raises questions about independence and might negatively affect the credibility of those doing the work. This is particularly the case for auditors and as a result, the issue of what to audit turns...

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