Public financial management good practice requires that a body that is independent from the executive often referred to as the supreme audit institution (SAI) but also sometimes called the National Audit Office or the Auditor General conduct evaluations of government budget execution and issue an annual audit report. Because SAIs mandates do not allow them to play an active role in policy processes, CSOs can use the information included in audit reports to build public support for calls to improve systems, enact better policies, and punish those responsible for corrupt actions.
For example, IBP partner, HakiElimu in Tanzania seeks to hold government accountable for management of public funds by publicizing the findings of audit reports from the controller and auditor general. HakiElimu was driven to undertake this effort because they saw that local communities, rather than guilty officials, often suffer the consequences of poor audit reports.
In addition, CSO engagement at the audit stage of the budget process can support legislative efforts to ensure that the executive follow up on SAI recommendations. For example, as part of the Civil Association for Equality and Justices (Asociacin Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia, or ACIJ) effort to combat corruption and increase transparency in Argentina, it routinely analyzes audit reports and tracks the actions taken to implement recommendations made by public audit institutions.
CSOs can support budget evaluation by analyzing audit reports and making them more accessible, but they also can support the audit process by helping to identify problematic policies or programs that should be evaluated by the SAI. CSOs can use evidence that they may have gathered from community monitoring or expenditure tracking exercises to both identify potential audit subjects and supplement the SAIs investigations.
Through Audit Analysis and Engagement, CSOs can:
- Strengthen oversight
- Supplement SAI investigations with evidence generated through budget execution analysis and monitoring
- Support the work of the supreme audit agency by identifying potential audit subjects
- Build pressure on the executive branch to act on recommendations in audit reports
Useful Guides and Publications
Our Money, Our Responsibility: A Citizens Guide to Monitoring Public Expenditures
by Vivek Ramkumar | This IBP guide presents thorough descriptions of the stages of the budget process and various tools and methodologies that civil society can use to influence policy decisions, monitor the effective and efficient use of public resources, and assess budget execution and its impacts. The strength of the guide lies in its detailed case studies of civil society budget work throughout the budget cycle and around the world.
Responding to the Challenges of Supreme Audit Institutions: Can Legislatures and Civil Society Help?
by Albert van Zyl, Vivek Ramkumar, and Paolo de Renzio | This paper explores the challenges SAIs face in detail and suggests how they can overcome some of them by forming and strengthening alliances with legislatures and civil society. It proposes that in circumstances where the legislature is weak, the SAI may need to stretch the letter of their mandate for the benefit of more effective application of public resources to development challenges.
The Role of Civil Society Organizations in Auditing and Public Finance Management
by Vivek Ramkumar and Warren Krafchik | In this paper, the authors argue that greater collaboration between SAIs and civil society organizations can assist SAIs in overcoming some of the challenges they face.