Along with parliaments, supreme audit institutions (SAIs) rank among the most important bodies in the horizontal accountability system. As specifically commissioned agencies designated to provide independent and objective assessment concerning the administration and performance of government accounts, programs, and policies, SAIs play a critical role not only in monitoring transparency in the use of public funds but on the prevention of and fight against corruption, making them a natural partner of citizens in exercising public scrutiny. Those activities contribute to strengthening democracy, fostering good governance, and promoting development.
Traditionally, parliaments, assemblies, and other organs of government were the main audience of SAIs’ work. SAIs used to have limited interaction with other nonstakeholders. However, in the past decade, in many countries, SAIs have started to deepen their engagement with citizens to increase the effectiveness and scope of their auditing practices. That effort includes pioneering various citizen engagement models to increase the effectiveness of the audit process and the effect of SAIs’ work to enhance value in their use of public resources. This change has not occurred without challenges. Engaging citizens throughout the audit process is fraught with potential complications because of the formal mandate of SAIs and the general limited experience and capacity of both SAIs and citizens to collaborate in a meaningful and results-oriented way.
The challenges to effective engagement between SAIs and citizens are many raising questions, such as, how can space be opened for SAIs and citizens to interact to enhance external oversight through greater participation, transparency, and accountability? Also, how can the tools and mechanisms be created for SAIs and citizens to interact and jointly work toward improving the audit process? Answering those questions is at the core of this e-guide, which tries to address them in a practical, simple way while reinforcing the growing consensus regarding benefits that the collaboration brings.
We trust that this e-guide will make an important contribution to supporting regional, national, and global efforts to foster SAI– citizen engagement for enhanced external oversight of government public matters. We also believe that the e-guide will support the larger goal of improving governance worldwide to reduce poverty.