Auditing the auditors - International Standards to hold Supreme Audit Institutions to account

Filed under - Accountability

Published on 22 March 2010 as a U4 Helpdesk answer
Are there internationally agreed-upon standards or guidelines with respect to external audits on SAIs? If external audits are not allowed by law, how are SAIs held to account?

Purpose

Donor support - for example through core funding - to government institutions, including Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), often requires that external financial audits are conducted periodically to ensure sound financial management by the institution in question. In some cases, external audits of SAIs may not be permitted by law. We are currently supporting a SAI in a developing country. There is a need to ensure that this SAI has sound financial management, but applicable laws do not allow for external audits.

Content

1. Formal Mechanisms for the External Audit of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs)
2. International Standards of SAI Accountability Mechanisms
3. Broader Accountability of SAIs
4. Conclusion
5. Further Reading
6. References

Summary

There are no internationally agreed guidelines for the external audit of SAIs. The possibility and scope for external audits are determined by the constitutional and legislative frameworks of each country and vary from case to case. The International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) provides international guidelines on key principles for SAIs, although these guidelines do not address the process of external audit. In addition, INTOSAI encourages peer reviews of SAIs and a sub-committee of the organisation is currently drawing up guidelines to standardise this process. The existence and strength of wider accountability mechanisms for SAIs need to be examined on a case-by-case basis since these mechanisms are tied to the particular legislative frameworks and organisational set-up that apply in a given country. There are three broad models of organising SAIs: the Westminster model, the Board or Collegiate model, and the Judicial model, each with different implications for the applicable accountability structures. Irrespective of specific characteristics, however, SAIs are usually held to account either by the legislature or the judiciary.

Author(s): Ben Clench, Transparency International, bclench@transparency.org
Reviewed by: Dieter Zinnbauer, dzinnbauer@transparency.org
Publication date: 22 March 2010
Number: 238

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Country / Territory - International   
Region - Global   
Language(s) - English   
Topic - Accountability   |   Poverty and development   |   Tools   

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