Participation During the Audit

Participatory audit

Participatory audit is a mechanism for citizens’ active participation in public oversight. It directly involves citizens and civil society groups in the audit process. Participatory audits are based on a collaborative framework between civil society and SAIs, in which CSOs provide useful, qualified, and well-supported information about the quality of services provided by state agencies. CSOs tend to focus on service provision, are close to direct users, and can monitor specific aspects in the field, which can enrich the auditors’ understanding of the situation.

An example is the implementation of social security programs. Those who can attest to the effectiveness and transparent implementation of such policies are, without a doubt, the direct beneficiaries. Whether individuals or organizations, civil society can cooperate with oversight institutions, creating an environment for dialogue while increasing public confidence in the work performed by regulatory agencies as efficient monitoring entities.

However, those participatory practices are particularly relevant at a local level rather than at a national or centralized level, and they are traditionally more suitable for performance audits rather than financial or compliance audits.

Goals of the mechanism

  • To improve the quality of audit reports through incorporation of relevant data gathered by CSOs working in the field
  • To generate appropriation of audit results by local CSOs that will demand accountability
  • To raise awareness among the population of the importance of public oversight for improving the efficiency of public services.

Step by Step

1. Identify subjects of audit
  • Select the entity and program that will be audited using a participatory methodology.

  • Identify any network of CSOs that are already working on social accountability issues.

2. Plan within SAI
  • SAI needs to determine the nature and scope of the audit and how CSOs will be involved.

  • SAI and the working group will develop an operational guideline. For a sample operational guideline, please refer here

3. Hold SAI—CSO buy-in meeting
  • Once the scope, entity, and method of participatory audit is decided (through previous two steps), SAI will identify CSOs that could participate.

  • SAI invites the CSOs for a meeting and determines whether they are interested in collaborating with SAI.

4. Draft and sign an MOU
  • Interested CSOs might be required to enter into a formal agreement with SAI (to maintain secrecy of the audit findings, for instance) and define responsibilities and conditions of participation.

  • SAI should elaborate a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed by both parties. For a sample MOU, please refer here.

5. Provide capacity building
  • SAI holds a training session to introduce the participatory audit program, explain what kind of support SAI is seeking from the CSOs, and train them on the basics of audit.

6. Together, plan audit
  • At this stage, SAI should organize a consultation meeting with working-group members and develop the data-gathering tools, a detailed plan on the site visits, and so forth.

7. Gather data

  • At this stage, a joint audit team will be formed comprising SAI members and CSOs, and they will jointly go to the auditee’s location to collect data (through a focus group or through surveys). In that way, SAI can be sure of the quality of the data collected during the process.

8. Write report
  • At this stage, CSOs can be requested to provide input to the audit report. However, SAI must do quality control on the content, and all CSO inputs will only be added after clearance from the SAI staff.

9. Monitor audit recommendations
  • The same set of CSOs can be involved in monitoring the status of recommendations (that is, whether the auditee has actually implemented the recommendations made through the participatory audit process).

Who can participate Challenges and responses Cases
  • CSOs

  • Direct beneficiaries of public services

Challenge: Enhancing effectiveness


  • Workshops and training activities aimed at CSOs to empower them in audit approaches

  • Regular communication and feedback between the audit team and citizens taking part in the audit exercise

Challenge: Building commitment


  • Setting clear objectives and sharing expectations at the beginning

  • Unveiling risks of political capture

Challenge: Follow-up


  • Establishing a comprehensive plan for sustainable collaboration toward citizen monitoring of auditee’s compliance with audit recommendations



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