Making Relevant Information Available

Access to information is a necessary enabling condition, though not a substitute, for improved citizen participation in development interventions as well as audit processes. Shaped as a one-way interaction, it can contribute to an informed and effective SAI–citizen engagement, involving other relevant stakeholders when necessary.

In the past couple of years, resulting from technological advances, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have come to play a significant role in this regard, as they provide additional opportunities for engaging citizens and strengthening demand-side capacity. ICTs can help SAIs make data available to the public in real time, which, in turn, allows SAIs to increase their outreach and reduce the cost of engagement because mass dissemination of information in this way is cheap.

What information should SAIs make public?

Audit reports are the main products SAIs should make available to the general public. They assess the extent to which government agencies have embraced standards of efficiency and effectiveness in their duties.

Encouraging engagement entails building a reputation for the work SAIs perform, which ultimately means being transparent and accountable to citizens. Communicating SAI work has value in itself—not only because it contributes to building trust and gaining legitimacy but also because it fosters informed, thereby responsible, involvement in joint initiatives regarding public oversight.

Audit´s Public Consultation System—SAI Mexico

This online tool developed by the Audit Office of Mexico is a user-friendly platform that permits the consultation, usage, reproduction, and storage of data for all audits performed since 2000. It includes search engines and filters to examine information regarding specific audits by audited period, type of audit, sector, and auditee, and it also displays the observations issued by the SAI, their state of processing, and recoveries.

The clear visualization of data through inter-temporal charts and geographical maps, together with the comprehensive and clear information displayed in the platform, make this system a valuable tool to keep the public informed on the enhanced effectiveness of oversight functions.

It is also important to note that the Mexican SAI has organized workshops and training activities designed for journalists and citizens to promote the effective use of this system and to empower citizens in the area of fiscal and budget monitoring.

Audit reports in accessible text— SAI US

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) makes full audit reports available on its webpage, sorted by date, topic, and agency, and includes a one-page briefing on its highlights—stating what GAO audited, what it found, and what it recommended—so that citizens, journalists, and the general public can clearly see the most important highlights of each audit exercise.

A distinctive feature of the GAO´s transparency policy is that audit reports are also presented in accessible text, or open data. This means that the information the reports contain can be extracted and used by anyone.

The growth of ICT emphasizes the importance of making information available in open formats. Doing so ensures transparency but also promotes reproduction of valuable data by third parties, who can scrutinize the data and build applications upon it, fostering citizen involvement in accountability and anti-corruption initiatives.

When performing their audit functions, SAIs get access to government data about public administration (for example, data from the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS), data on status of program implementation). As long SAIs they make this information accessible (adhering to standards of transparency), they can enhance the visibility of their work and promote civic engagement in monitoring the adequate functioning of state agencies.

Infobras – SAI Perú

Infobras is an information system developed by the National Audit Office of Peru. Based on a user-friendly online platform, it enables monitoring of public works implemented on a national level by agencies over which the SAI has jurisdiction.

The website offers highly disaggregated information, which can be tracked through specific search engines, and includes the geographical location of the work, allocated budget, physical and budgetary developments, problems encountered in the implementation, and photos of the work.

Citizens can monitor the evolution of these works (supervising their development and expenditure) through this interactive application, send comments, and attach information and photos.

Overall, this app empowers citizens to embark on monitoring of public services, and it also fosters transparency in government infrastructure management.

“What is your money spent on?” – SAI Costa Rica

Developed by the National Audit Office of Costa Rica, “What is your money spent on?” is a user-friendly platform that provides virtual access to comprehensive, timely, and detailed information on the income, expenditure, and plans of various agencies and institutions subject to public sector audit.

The platform includes search engines and filters (by institution and year) to facilitate access to requested information, and it offers highly disaggregated and clear visualization of data through graphics and charts, displaying statistics and budget implementation over time. Citizens can export, copy, and sort data.

This information system is illustrative of how ICTs can contribute to promoting government transparency and encouraging citizen control over the way public resources are managed and executed.

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