Contributing to Accountability in Democratic Government
Edited by Jeremy Lonsdale, Peter Wilkins and Tom Ling
Chapter 2: Performance Auditing: Audit or Misnomer?
2. Performance auditing: audit or misnomer? Jan-Eric Furubo Performance auditing is thus something of a misnomer. Performance auditing is an evaluative activity of a particular sort whose name happens to include the word ‘auditing’. (Barzelay, 1996.) The importance of performance auditing is explained in textbooks, constitutional discussions and international agreements.1 It is easy to find powerful advocates such as the World Bank, OECD and the European Union and, as we have just seen, it is now regarded as an important part of the architecture of democratic states. On the other hand, we can find just a handful of books and no journal specifically about performance auditing. We also observe the absence of societies and international meetings for professional discussion about performance audit (although there has been an initiative to found an international centre for performance auditing in the USA in 2009). In contrast, other parts of the democratic structure are subject to seemingly endless discussion. One possible explanation for this situation is that performance auditing has always been defined by an institutional context. When performance auditing is considered, the discussion centres on what is actually done – or sometimes what is said to be done – in institutions tasked with conducting performance auditing at a certain governmental level (national, state, municipality). Traditionally, though, many of these institutions have been wary of opening themselves up to too much scrutiny of how they operate (Pollitt et al., 1999). Such a point of departure is tricky. It means that we cannot debate performance auditing in...
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