Added value and added complexity: the brave new world of public sector auditing

Stream: Panel 30 - Public Policy & Social Justice: Public Sector Autonomy and Accountability 
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm

Abstract

Public sector audit has a long tradition of furnishing assurance regarding public finances. More recently however, auditors are providing independent information on efficiency and effectiveness of public administration processes, programs and forms of decision making. This ‘value adding’ has been framed in terms of improved transparency, accountability, enhanced learning and renewal with the aim to build levels of trust across the sector and the community more broadly. On the other hand, these new audit regimes have been viewed as part of an ‘audit explosion’ which further legitimises the existence of audit agencies. This paper explores the intersection between the independence of audit agencies and the conflicts and complexities that occur through the application of these new roles. The paper draws on three examples of ‘value adding’ commenced recently by different Australian Auditors General. The paper highlights that adding value also increases complexity in terms of the roles, independence, scope and capacity of Auditors General to fulfill their statutory requirements. As providers of independent information on the public sector, auditors operate in the midst of adversarial political and community debates. The paper demonstrates that in each case, there is evidence to suggest these new roles have the capacity to politicise the audit institution. The analysis of the three cases enables the development of a framework to help guide consideration of additional roles for audit institutions and integrity agencies more generally.

Authors

Peter Wilkins (Presenter), Murdoch University
Peter has extensive public sector leadership and management experience and undertakes research and consultancies regarding performance auditing and improvement, evaluation, collaboration, accountability and governance. He is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs at Murdoch University and has served as Western Australia’s Deputy Ombudsman and Assistant Auditor General Performance Review. He is an Associate of BaxterLawley consultancy, Deputy Chair of the Board of Australian Volunteers International, a member of the Australasian Study of Parliament Group and the Australian Political Studies Association, and a Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia.

Yvonne Haigh (Presenter), Murdoch University
Yvonne is a Senior Lecturer, Policy and Governance Murdoch University. She teaches public policy and public sector management at both undergraduate and post graduate levels. Her interest in public policy and politics provided the impetus to write the text: Public Policy in Australia – Theory and Practice, (OUP). Her research brings together the world of political theory and public policy. This interest has led her to explore policy that covers homelessness, young people and crime, housing redevelopment and safety, education, citizenship and public sector corruption. Her current research projects include: renewable energy policy, institutional trust and corruption.