Auditor generals, academics and politicians from Scotland to Bhutan reflect on their role in accountability and improving public services. They also speak about improving public engagement and strengthening scrutiny and public service effectiveness.
In this publication public audit is breaking out. There is unanimous support from authors that it is not enough just to audit the books and make sure financial data are accurate, important though all that is. Audit has to move forward, to test efficiency and effectiveness both in how money is raised, as well as how it is spent. This means a closer examination of delivery, of how the machine of government operates and then the translation of our scrutiny into lasting change and improvement. Auditors must intervene earlier in the processes by which money is allocated to departments then projects prepared. Only that way, the comptroller and auditor general of the UK Parliament argues can problems be nipped in the bud.
Essayists also explore issues such as whether performance audit should be extended to private companies delivering significant public services and how best to manage the expectation gap between what auditors can do and what the public thinks they must do.
A strong case is also made by authors for parliamentary follow through and providing time for debate. Without time for effective parliamentary accountability we run the risk of ‘the dog barking but the caravan moving on’. The consensus is that we don’t just want the parliament to bark. We want it to help drive through change and better performance by those organisations that it holds to account.