Thematic workshops - TPA Initiative experience in Latin America

Overview: The value of advancing a thematic approach toward effective partnership building

Thematic workshops are a variant of participatory planning meetings, in which the call for participation is centered on a specific area (for example, audit in the health sector).

Most often, CSOs working in the fields of governance, transparency, and accountability are prone to engage with SAIs, as they are more familiar with public financial management and external oversight duties.

Organizations focused on particular areas (health, education, public transport, environment, and so forth) may be not knowledgeable about the role and mission of SAIs, but they definitely have a word to say when it comes to government performance in the areas of their interest. In this sense, engagement with these specific actors can bring about many benefits—to SAIs and CSOs.

What are the benefits of a thematic approach in the implementation of engagement strategies?

  • Engagement strategies encourage the participation of CSOs specialized in particular topics or issues of public interest, thereby allowing a more focused and informed contribution to the audit process.
  • Enhancing commitment from CSOs tends to be more effective when they have clear incentives to participate, just as when audits tackle specific issues that are top priorities of CSOs working in a specific field.
  • A thematic approach can indeed contribute to improve the quality of audit reports with the input of experts and CSOs that have valuable knowledge of the sector and experience in the field.
  • The thematic approach can contribute to developing sustainable relationships with external stakeholders who can engage in audit work along the whole audit cycle (planning, fieldwork, dissemination of reports, follow-up of recommendations).

The TPA INITIATIVE is a regional project that has brought over a dozen CSOs from different countries in Latin America under a shared common interest in fostering transparency, citizen participation and accountability practices (TPA) in Supreme Audit Institutions for the purpose of contributing to the strengthening of public control systems in the region.

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Case: Argentina´s General Audit Office (2013–2014)


  • Promote participatory culture through a mechanism that allows interaction between the AGN (qualified at the planning and execution of audits) and CSOs working in the same field so as to make contributions to improve control in key sectors.
  • Inform CSOs about the importance of control and the nature of SAI work.
  • Share tools that enable the formulation of accurate proposals by CSOs to be incorporated into audit planning.
  • Identify problems of the sector from the analysis of previous audit reports and recommendations.

Workshop with CSOs approaching audits in key sectors: environment, transportation, indigenous communities.

  • Presentation of results of previous audits and recommendations formulated by the SAI.
  • Explanation on how the AGN plans and performs audit processes.
  • Interaction with CSOs and discussion about problems of the sector under audit and how to refine proposals from CSOs to trigger oversight exercises.
  • Suggestions from CSOs to include in the audit plans.

Target group: CSOs working on the sector agenda


  • The audit plan for each exercise is strengthened, leveraging the expertise and experience of CSOs.
  • Technical staff, who rarely get involved in public participation initiatives, have the chance to meet face-to-face with CSOs—who may be unaware of the scope and value of audit products—and mutually share perspectives to improve control over specific sectors.
  • Collaborative work in the planning stage refines audit exercises, with the consequent effect on the quality of the resulting audit reports.
  • Through meeting and discussion, SAI technical staff can gain knowledge and access to valuable reports, documents, and specific studies developed by CSOs in areas beyond the entity´s reach because SAI interaction mainly targets the audited body.
  • Face-to-face workshops allow CSOs to identify partners sharing the same vision on issues of public interest and to access official information of great value to advance their agenda.

Further information: “Thematic Workshops in Argentina”

Case: Paraguay Comptrollers General (2014)


  • Promote an effective strategy toward advancing SAI openness to citizen engagement to increase demand and social ownership of instances of participation by CSOs specializing in sector issues (environment).
  • Generate institutional commitments and trust within the CGR to enhance these instances of interaction with citizens.
  • Promote CSOs´ wide access to information produced by the CGR (in particular, by the General Directorate of Environmental Control—DGCGA), which explains how the entity performs its duties.
  • Create an official channel of communication and liaison between the CGR and CSOs working on environmental issues.
  • Absorb the demands and needs of CSOs about the issue, exploring their perspectives, areas of advocacy, and interests so as to start outlining an agenda for collaborative work.

On-site meeting with CSOs working on environment issues and round tables

  • Presentation of results of previous audits on environment and recommendations formulated by the SAI
  • Explanation on how the Directorate of Environmental Control plans and performs audit exercises
  • Presentation of CSOs´ agendas and interaction with SAI officials to discuss the problems of the sector under audit
  • Round tables to discuss the following issues: (a) whether the DGCGA work could be of interest to CSOs, (b) enabling conditions for all actors to engage, (c) CSOs´ topics of interest that could be linked to the DGCGA agenda, and (d joint actions that could be enhanced in the coming future
  • Presentation of main conclusions of round tables and plan´s design to advance further engagement

Target group:

  • CSOs working on environment issues
  • Academic groups working on environment issues


  • Most participants were knowledgeable on SAIs’ work, though unaware of tasks performed by the DGCGA. However, they were all interested in developing a close relationship because they acknowledged that audit reports generate an overview of the current national reality in environmental issues.
  • CSOs can deploy strategies for monitoring audit recommendations, as well as for identifying possible uses of SAI information on environmental issues.
  • CSOs can act as facilitators of contact with other social actors working at the local level, nonpreliminarily identified by CGR.
  • A partnership between CSOs and CGR can improve results in the following areas: (a) effect on reducing corruption; (b) improvement in the design, management, and monitoring of public policies toward the development of a comprehensive state environmental policy; and (c) awareness raising about environmental issues and what can be done about them, both by CGR and by civil society.
  • Among the proposals for engagement, some of the following were discussed: a newsletter about environment audits; internships for environmental engineers at the DGCGA; annual meetings to share results of undertaken audit exercises; mutual training and technical assistance through workshops, courses, and so forth; joint audits; a participatory planning meeting; feedback mechanisms to garner input from CSOs after audit reports have been drafted; and sharing of methodological tools and approaches to encourage social control.
  • CSOs and the CGR remained in contact after the event and are currently discussing strategies to push forward feasible proposals for further engagement, beyond the on-site workshop.

Further information: “Thematic Workshops in Paraguay”

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