Contributing to Accountability in Democratic Government
Edited by Jeremy Lonsdale, Peter Wilkins and Tom Ling
Chapter 11: On the Effects, Lack of Effects and Perverse Effects of Performance Audit
Frans L. Leeuw INTRODUCTION Van Loocke and Put (Chapter 9) and Funkhouser (Chapter 10) have considered the evidence that performance audit has an impact. This chapter provides comments on the impact of performance audit and, in particular, looks further at one aspect of impact mentioned towards the end of Chapter 9: the evidence of side-effects and perverse effects. As seen elsewhere in this book, during the past 25 years there has been a sharp increase in the attention that society has paid to the effectiveness and efficiency of government organizations and their policies. Important instruments used for this have been cost-benefit analysis, evaluations, performance audits and performance measurements, as well as inspections, reviews and oversight activities. The objective of using these instruments has been not just to gain insight into the efficiency and effectiveness of government policies (and organizations), but also to contribute to the promotion of these goals, as well as to scrutinize, check, regulate and verify (Hood et al., 2004; Gray and Jenkins, 2007). Lonsdale and Bemelmans-Videc (2007) argue that ‘the growth of scrutiny is a striking feature of late twentieth century bureaucratic life . . . New ways of holding bodies to account are a growth business; there is more information available and more people involved in scrutinising others.’ Power (1997) has described what he termed the creation of an ‘Audit Society’, and such developments can also be seen in the increase in the budgets of audit offices (Martin, 2005), the expansion of performance measurement, target setting and reporting practices...
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