Contributing to Accountability in Democratic Government
Edited by Jeremy Lonsdale, Peter Wilkins and Tom Ling
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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