Contributing to Accountability in Democratic Government
Edited by Jeremy Lonsdale, Peter Wilkins and Tom Ling
Chapter 5: The Right Tools for the Job? Methods, Choice and Context
Jeremy Lonsdale Audit is an evidence-based activity. As Flint (1988) puts it ‘In no case can an auditor express an opinion or make a report without making an investigation and obtaining evidence.’ Thus, audit work is directed at gathering the evidence to enable the auditor to form a judgement that can be reported; if ‘there is no evidence an audit is not possible’ (Flint, 1988). The methods used by auditors determine what evidence they uncover, what analysis they can undertake and ultimately what conclusions and recommendations they are able to produce. They are thus fundamental to the value of performance audit work. This chapter considers the choice of methods used by performance auditors at the National Audit Office (NAO) in the United Kingdom. It does so by looking back at developments over a 20-year period, during which time performance audit (known as value for money audit in the United Kingdom) has changed considerably. The starting point for this chapter is the view that a key determinant in the choice of methods in activities such as audit or evaluation is the context in which the work is done. The introductory material for the 2009 American Evaluation Association conference stated: context [refers] to the setting (time and place) and broader environment in which the focus of the evaluation (evaluand) is located. Context can also refer to the historical context of the problem or phenomenon that the program or policy targets as well as the policy and decision-making context enveloping the evaluation. Context...
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