International legal framework and standards supporting SAI-citizen engagement

Context and evolution of the international legal framework

Over the past few years, the international community has increasingly recognized the prominent role of SAIs. That recognition has resulted in the drafting of frameworks for independent government auditing and highlighting its importance for good governance, strengthened accountability, and the attainment of development goals. Principles on SAI independence set forth by the Mexico Declaration (INTOSAI 2007) gained further recognition with the UN Resolution A/66/209 (UN 2011)—also with the most recent resolution A/69/228 (UN 2014)—as a growing number of experiences of SAI—citizen engagements have emerged.

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly “recognizes that supreme audit institutions can accomplish their tasks objectively and affectively only if they are independent of the audited entity and are protected against outside influence”

UN Resolution A/66/209
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In 2007, International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) established a joint platform with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and the International Budget Partnership (IBP) to foster collaborative practices that increase public participation in the audit process. Through the International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAIs) numbers 12, 20, and 21. INTOSAI acknowledged that oversight institutions can make a difference in the lives of citizens and are essential to promoting good governance and fostering development. Oversight institutions thus become role models for other state institutions in terms of active transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement.

“Acting in the public interest places a further responsibility on SAIs to demonstrate their ongoing relevance to citizens, Parliament and other stakeholders. SAIs can show their relevance by appropriately responding to the challenges of citizens, the expectations of different stakeholders, and the emerging risks and changing environments in which audits are conducted. Furthermore, it is important that SAIs have a meaningful and effective dialogue with stakeholders about how their work facilitates improvement in the public sector.”

ISSAI N°12 (INTOSAI, 2013)
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At the regional level, SAI organizations such as the Organization of Latin American and Caribbean Supreme Audit Institutions (OLACEFS) have also identified transparency, participation, and accountability standards as crucial areas in which SAIs need to improve. To support that agenda, OLACEFS issued a series of declarations that highlight the importance of active citizen engagement as an integral part of the social accountability system and that promote increased collaboration between SAIs and civil society throughout the audit cycle.

"OLACEFS will facilitate the development of diverse forms of relationship and good practices in the managing of and collaborative work with citizens and civil society, especially in facilitating their complaints, providing useful and accessible information based on open data and including them in the audit cycle, thus delivering and complementing the Declarations of Cartagena de Indias and Asuncion and ISSAl 1,10,12,20 and 21."

Santiago Declaration on governance, the fight against corruption and public confidence. (OLACEFS, December 9, 2013)

The existence of a legal framework supportive of citizen engagement has created an enabling environment for increased collaboration, as it has paved the way for the institutionalization of that agenda within SAIs.

For instance, in Latin America, the Cartagena de Indias Declaration (2006) set the baselines for future engagement by acknowledging the importance of advancing citizen participation opportunities in public oversight—namely, by receiving citizen complaints—as a way to exact transparency and fight corruption. In 2009, the Asunción Declaration marked a milestone in participatory fiscal control, as it portrays a more comprehensive approach to SAIs´ mission—as agents that can help improve the formulation and improved management of public goods and policies toward citizen welfare. The declaration encourages SAIs to foster interaction with external stakeholders—given their role within the broad accountability system—and promote active participation by civil society. In that vein, acknowledging that participation is an overarching principle that affects the fiscal control and helps to generate greater public value, in 2009 the OLACEFS´ Committee of Citizen Participation was created, with the overall goal of allowing cooperation schemes that promote citizen involvement in the oversight of public administration, as well as joint participatory exercises through projects of transnational coverage and effect. By that time, only a few SAIs had advanced citizen engagement (most notably, Colombia) and championed this agenda through capacity building and peer assistance.

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TPA Initiative – ACIJ (2011): “Diagnostic Report on Transparency, Citizen Participation and Accountability in Supreme Audit Institutions of Latin America”

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).

UN (2013): “Citizen Engagement Practicesby Supreme Audit Institutions”, Compendium of Innovative Practices of Citizen Engagementby Supreme Audit Institutions for Public Accountability.

INTOSAI (2013): “The Value and Benefits of Supreme Audit Institutions – making a difference to the lives of citizens”,ISSAI 12.

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”.