Stakeholder Engagement in Supreme Audit Institutions
Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) form an important part of the oversight system, holding governments accountable for the use of public funds.
In order for SAIs to achieve their tasks effectively and objectively, they have to be independent of the entities that they audit, and protected against outside influence. At the same time, SAIs strive for greater impact of audit reports, and highlight the value the reports add to the lives of citizens.
The article focuses on stakeholder engagement in Supreme Audit Institutions and suggests that stakeholder engagement is one of the ways how SAIs could enhance the impact of their work. It is based on the survey carried out among SAIs by the National Audit Office of Estonia.
Due to its highly independent profile, stakeholder engagement has not been prevalent among SAIs. Yet, the growing recognition of the advantages of stakeholder engagement has led SAIs to employ strategies of cooperation throughout the audit cycle more frequently. Stakeholder engagement enhances openness and transparency of decision-making. It also fosters stakeholders’ trust towards SAIs and contributes to the improvement of the quality of audit reports. Engagement brings additional expertise to the audit process, new standpoints, and proposals for solving problems that have come out of the audit. Furthermore, it helps to balance conflicting interests and to identify unforeseen consequences of laws and policies.
The majority of the SAIs who responded to the survey asserted that stakeholder engagement was cited in their strategic documents and that they had elaborated guidelines for stakeholder engagement. Moreover, the results of the survey manifest that stakeholder engagement is becoming more institutionalised in SAIs and is moving towards participatory involvement that goes beyond merely disseminating and presenting audit results. This includes gathering the views of stakeholders in the planning stage of an audit and providing feedback at all stages of an audit.
Stakeholder engagement activities often remain unmonitored, which continues to be one of the challenges for SAIs. In the absence of performance targets and indicators it is difficult to evaluate engagement activities, which in turn complicates the assessment whether these activities are reaching the intended goals. This restricts recognising the advantages of engagement.
To conclude, Supreme Audit Institutions around the world are striving towards more active stakeholder engagement based on open communication, which enhances the impact of audit reports and demonstrates the added value the work of SAIs brings more explicitly to the society and the citizens.