In the past couple of years, consensus has been growing regarding citizen engagement as a key mechanism to help governments attain improved development outcomes and results. That general agreement has spread across public sector institutions all over the world, including supreme audit institutions (SAIs). Given the importance of SAIs in scrutinizing government financial information and in ensuring transparency and accountability in the use of public funds, the potential benefits of citizen engagement are enormous, as demonstrated in real cases and in academic literature. Governments increasingly recognize that engaging citizens and leveraging their capacity can considerably enhance the overall effect, relevance, and legitimacy of audit processes.

Despite the growing recognition of the benefits of citizen engagement, SAIs have had limited interaction with citizens in countries around the world. That phenomenon exists partly because citizens and civil society organizations (CSOs) lack an understanding of SAIs’ role and capacities, and vice versa. Many SAIs and CSOs are not sure why they should engage with each other—or if such engagement is even possible, given SAIs’ formal mandates—and what the benefits would be from collaboration.

Given that context, this module introduces the reader to an overview of a framework for citizen engagement in the audit process by delving into the various challenges and opportunities for such engagement. The text further proposes that greater interaction between SAIs and CSOs is likely to lead to complementarities that will consequently result in stronger budgetary oversight from both institutions. This module offers readers a basic understanding of the technical aspects of various external audit concepts and provides guidance to help them understand the overall accountability system in a given country. Also, the text touches upon how the global authorizing environment can act as a facilitator to help national SAIs systematically integrate citizen engagement in the oversight of public finances. Keeping that purpose in mind, this module elaborates on various comparative international legal frameworks and how they can help SAIs advance that agenda in their specific country context.

Finally, the text discusses the methodological tool for conducting an action-oriented assessment of the readiness of both SAIs and CSOs to design, mainstream, and evaluate citizen engagement in the audit process.

Learning Objectives

At the end of module 1 you will be able to:

  • Describe the importance and the key benefits of SAI–citizen engagement;
  • Identify the key international legal framework and standards and describe how they can support the national enabling environment for advancing a strategy on SAI–citizen engagement;
  • Explain the mandate and work of SAIs and CSOs and their common goals to strengthen external oversight of public financial management (PFM);
  • Understand the characteristics of the audit process; and
  • Use the assessment to evaluate the SAIs’ and CSOs’ readiness to engage.

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TPA Initiative – ACIJ (2013): “Audit Institutions in Latin America. Transparency, Citizen Participation and Accountability Indicators”.

Cornejo, C., Guillan, A. & Lavin, R. (2013): “When Supreme Audit Institutions engage with civil society: Exploring lessons from the Latin American Transparency Participation and Accountability Initiative”, U4 Practice Insight Nº5, Bergen, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre - Chr. Michelsen Institute.

O´Donnell, Guillermo (2001): “Horizontal. Accountability: The legal institutionalization of mistrust”, Buenos Aires, PostdataN°6, pp. 11-34.

OECD (2013): “Citizen Engagement and Supreme Audit Institutions” (Stocktaking Report: DRAFT).

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INTOSAI (2013): “Beijing Declaration”.

OLACEFS (2013): “The Santiago Declaration”.

INTOSAI (2010):“Principles of transparency and accountability”,ISSAI 20.

INTOSAI (2010):“Principles of Transparency and Accountability - Principles and Good Practices”, ISSAI 21.

INTOSAI (2007): “The Mexico Declaration on SAI Independence“, ISSAI 10.

OLACEFS (2009): “Asuncion Declaration”.

INTOSAI (1977): “Lima Declaration”.

UN (2011): Resolution A/66/209 “Promoting the efficiency, accountability, effectiveness and transparency of public administration bystrengthening supreme audit institutions”.

UN (2003): “United Nations Convention against Corruption”.