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 14: Responsiveness in Performance Auditing: Towards the Best of Both Worlds

Peter van der Knaap

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


Peter van der Knaap Progress and practices must be built on learning from experience. (INTOSAI 2010, 29) INTRODUCTION There is a natural tension between performance auditing on the one hand, and the complex and dynamic nature of public policy on the other. As Vital Put discussed in Chapter 4, performance auditors tend to work on the basis of professional audit norms and criteria that form the basis for performance judgements. Increasingly, they make use of policy objectives, targets, and indicators. Combined, these norms, criteria, policy objectives and indicators tend to become the stable, rather static, frame of reference for the performance auditor. Yet in the complex and ever-changing world in which public policy makers operate, circumstances, knowledge and preferences continuously change. Responsive and responsible policy making is about keeping track of these dynamics, and what we might call ‘responsive performance auditing’ should contribute to this. Such work entails paying close attention to changes in context, knowledge, and stakeholders’ beliefs and preferences, and deciding how to incorporate these changes into performance judgements, conclusions and recommendations for improvement. Responsive performance auditing does not mean that the auditor should abandon traditional criteria for judgement and become merely a passive recipient of other people’s interpretations and criteria. Instead, it should enhance the auditor’s repertoire by adding deliberate consideration of dynamic complexity and change to more static audit procedures, methods, and standards. How can we get the best of both worlds? How can we conduct performance audits so that, on the one hand, we maintain...

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