The Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) have
moved away from bring the closed door
institutions that they used to be previously
and are now meant to be more responsive
towards the events happening around it and
the people surrounding it.
It is not just meant to be a watchdog on the
financial exchequer or the expenditures of the
government but the International Standards
of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAIs)
specifically ISSAI 12 asks of SAIs to be a more
active element of the lives of the citizens of its
country and not just the citizen but other
stakeholders also.
Apart from the “designated” stakeholders
that an SAI has like the government offices
and ministries and Public Accounts
Committee, now an SAI has another
stakeholder with ever gaining importance,
the citizen. With budgets going citizen
centric, development becoming more and
more citizen centric, so are the public
policies, it is in the same stride that the audit
also becomes citizen centric. Keeping this in
mind, the SAI community has introduced the
concept of Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA).
The introduction of this audit is not one way
road. This particular one is two-sided not
only does the SAIs deemed it necessary to
bring in the citizens in the audit loop, the
citizens themselves felt a need to make their
governments more transparent, to hold
them accountable for their actions to
demand better understanding of the public
funds that the government is making use of.
The citizens need to be reassured from time
to time that the government is working in
their best interest. Citizen Participatory Audit
is deemed to be the best tool available at
present to deal with the demands of the
citizens on one hand to address the concerns
of citizens and on the other hand to ensure
that SAIs perform their duties towards the
citizens.
What is CPA?
CPA, Citizen Participatory Audit, is as the
words say, an audit technique that brings
together the citizens and the auditing
institution together to hold the government
accountable for its actions, programs,
policies, and functions and delivering of
public services while at the same time
increasing transparency in all these areas of
the government. Although the name, CPA,
only points towards the involvement of
citizens yet it implies a broad category of
other stakeholders like the civil society
organizations, academic groups, community
organizations and groups and even Non-
Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
Through CPA, a constructive form of
engagement is created between the SAI and
the community and citizens, to be used for
positive end results (like improved service
delivery, protection of rights and promotion
of community's welfare).
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Eirij Rubbani
Deputy Director
SAI Pakistan
A Case for Citizen Participatory Audit
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How does CPA work?
The work process of a CPA varies from SAI to
SAI but the basic idea behind it does not
change. A CPA is all about making financial
information of the government accessible to
the people of the country. It starts with
enabling citizens to view the resources that
the government has allocated to the projects
of the community. Citizens are then included
in the audit team. These citizens are identified
through a community based organizations.
The main selection is to be done by the SAI is
that of the CSO or the community based
organization. The further selection of the
citizens is done through these COSs. These
citizens are then trained in auditing function
and thus they can help first in setting the
audit agenda and then the audit itself.
At times, there are no CSOs available in the
community and in such cases an NGO based
network can be used to reach out to the
people. If no suitable person can be
identified, then the NGOs and their reports of
the works done for the welfare of the people
and their representatives can be used to set
audit agendas and conduct further audit. The
most important phase is that of post-audit
one, the time of post-audit assessment and
implementation of recommendation. It is at
this stage the citizen and its participation is of
utmost importance.
Institutionalizing Citizen Participatory Audit
Citizen Participatory Audit is a step ahead
from the usual audits that an SAI conducts
and has been conducting over a period of
years. It is an ideal that can have difficulties in
its initial implementation, not only for the SAI
and its staff, the government but also for the
citizens and civil organizations. Hence it
should be done in a phased manner, starting
with a pilot project and then institutionalizing
it further to make it a permanent part of the
SAI's system. Before conducting a CPA, the
two basic principles that constitute a CPA
should be kept in mind, one that it is
participatory in nature and two that it is a
performance audit. Once any confusion
related to this has been cleared; the initial
planning of CPA can begin. The pilot project
should include making of criteria for selecting
the government project and a criteria for
selecting the citizen and the community
organization or CSOs.
Then the extent of involvement of the
citizens and CSOs should be determined in
the planning of audit, the actual conduct of
audit and the post-audit activities. Once the
audit has been conducted, the participation
of citizens and CSOs in implementing the
recommendations is important and devising
of protocols for this should be done through
a mutual agreement between the SAI and the
citizens/CSOs.
These steps, explained above are a point-by-
point explanation of institutionalizing the
CPA within the SAI. SAI has to keep in mind
that initially there might be a cost associated
in training the citizens/CSOs for their
proposed roles in CPA.
There might be a need to conduct multiple
sessions to explain the intricacies of audit, a
feedback loop that makes room for future
activities and the extent of sharing of
sensitive information with people along with
confidentiality of data being shared. It is good
to know how public funds are being utilized
towards what end but certain data has to be
kept condential. It is through the
institutionalizing process that SAIs
determines what information falls in the
public domain and what doesn't.
CPA worldwide
Social Audit in Kenya
One form of conducting a CPA is though a
social audit. Engaging of youth for the
purpose of social audit has been an effective
strategy in Kenya. The process started by first
organizing of communities into civic
constituencies. Then the information
regarding public funds and projects were
t h e n s h a r e d w i t h t h e c o m m u n i t y
organizations through which the people
realized the various inconsistencies in public
funds and gaps in service deliver. After this
social audit teams were made and they were
given trainings related to the tools they
would be using in social audit. The data was
collected, audit conducted and a report was
generated. They also created a feedback loop
f o r a c o n t i n u o u s m o n i t o r i n g o f
implementations of mutually agreed
improvements in the government projects
and how best the community would benefit.
CPA in Philippines
In the year 2012, SAI Philippines initiated the
concept of CPA in its audit ambit, terming it as
a successful venture. The project was
initiated by the Affiliated Network for Social
Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific
(ANSA EAP) in collaboration with their SAI,
the Commission on Audit (COA). The aim of
the project was to find a model working
arrangement for partnership between
government auditors and the citizens and
their groups. The aim was to enhance the
public audit process and its impact. The end
result apart from the audit was that it paved
the way for a continued system for such
collaborations through setting of shared
agendas.
The Case for Citizen Participatory Audit
It is an established fact that the SAIs plays a
very critical role in holding the governments
accountable while keeping an eye on the
accounts of the governments and the
performance as well. Given such a mandate,
SAIs are a natural partner of the citizens when
it comes to exercising public scrutiny. The
citizens of today are empowered ones and
tend to involve themselves directly in the
activities of the government, seeking results
in the form of better policies and improved
service delivery. Citizens have also taken
upon themselves to express their satisfaction
or dissatisfaction over government and its
use of public funds, to ending corruption and
they have devised their means to express
their trust or distrust over the government
and its ability (or inability) to act in the best
interest of them, often at times taking to
streets to express these things. The
technology of today has made access to
information very easy for the citizens and this
is one reason for the greater awareness of
them. This distrust and this demand of the
citizen of greater participation can be best
channelled by an audit institution towards
positive results. The SAI can balance the
demand and the requirement of the modern
government of transparency and openness
through a planned citizen participatory audit.
CPA makes the public audit process more
relevant and transparent, while at the same
time makes an SAI more eective in
performing its operations and functions. It
est ablis hes a li nk betwe en vario us
stakeholders of the SAI, including the SAI
itself, enabling it to function in a holistic
manner. As an SAI aims as increasing the
benefit for the citizens, CPA is the external
audit tool means to do so.
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CPA can also be used as means to enhancing
the engagement of citizens with the state,
giving people ownership of the benefits they
desire from the state and empowering them
through a coordinated, disciplined and
educated approach instead of going about
things as a mob.
Conclusion
People behave according to the information
they have at hand and the more the
information the more the awareness, which
can result in behaviours that are not suited
for larger public good. CPA is a means that
can give equal benefits to all the parties with
in a community, the citizen, the state, the
government and the audit institution. It is
better to go about ensuring and demanding
rights, transparency and change through an
educated, mutually benecial method. A
Citizen Participatory Audit ensures all this.
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