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 10: Accountability, Performance and Performance Auditing: Reconciling the Views of Scholars and Auditors

Mark Funkhouser

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


Mark Funkhouser Drawing on the limited empirical evidence available, Van Loocke and Put concluded that performance audit can and does have impact, although it varies considerably from project to project. This view tallies with that of many performance auditors, who believe that performance auditing can play a critical role in effective democratic governance by strengthening accountability and improving performance. However, these beliefs seem to be flatly contradicted by the work of a number of academics such as Behn (see Behn, 2001) and Dubnick (see Dubnick, 2005), two of the most well-respected scholars in the field of accountability and public management. This chapter aims to examine, understand and reconcile the differences between the views on accountability, performance, and performance auditing held by Behn, Dubnick and other scholars and the views held by many of the auditors. THE BANE OF PERFORMANCE AUDITING As has been observed elsewhere (Funkhouser, 2008), despite its connections with ‘new public management’, leading public management thinkers and practitioners have generally ignored performance audit. Where they have commented, their views have tended to be negative and they have ‘employed a range of arguments, from democratic theory to extensive empirical evidence, to persuade us that performance auditing’s impact on public organizations is at best benign, and at worst malevolent’ (Funkhouser, 2008). In Rethinking Democratic Accountability (2001) Robert Behn offers a scathing denunciation of performance auditing. In a section entitled ‘The Bane of Performance Auditing,’ he writes: 209 M2592 - LONSDALE PRINT.indd 209 20/04/2011 09:33 210 Performance auditing The...

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