Contributing to Accountability in Democratic Government
Edited by Jeremy Lonsdale, Peter Wilkins and Tom Ling
Chapter 4: Norms Used: Some Strategic Considerations from The Netherlands and the UK
Vital Put INTRODUCTION What does the word ‘performance’ in performance audit mean? According to Pollitt (1999, 2003) performance auditors draw on notions of ‘good management’, yet the source and nature of these models of ‘good management practice’ tend to remain opaque (Pollitt et al., 1999, 204–5). This issue was identified by Pollitt and colleagues as meriting further research, and the object of this chapter is to examine further what Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) consider as ‘good performance’. This chapter is based on detailed research designed to describe, characterize and explain the norms used in performance audits of SAIs. It is mainly based on a content analysis of audit reports of the Dutch Algemene Rekenkamer and the National Audit Office (NAO) in the United Kingdom. Both SAIs describe the norms they use in guidance or brochures. In the Algemene Rekenkamer’s document (Algemene Rekenkamer, 2005) the most important norms are described at a high level, whilst the norms used by the NAO are explained in several goodpractice guides and in the section ‘Guidance & Good Practice’ on their website. However, we prefer here to make use of an analysis of audit reports as this provides unobtrusive evidence and captures the norms that were actually applied. The performance auditing manual of INTOSAI defines norms (‘audit criteria’) as: reasonable and attainable standards of performance against which the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of activities can be assessed. They reflect a normative (i.e. ideal) model for the subject matter under review. They represent best or good...
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