Good governance lies at the heart of the mandate of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) to hold public agencies to account for the way in which they use public resources and for recommending improvements. The key role played by SAIs in good governance is increasingly recognised by global institutions including the UN who see the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) as a key partner in helping achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals which were approved in October 2015. A key goal for the SAI community is Goal 16 and in particular 16.6 to ‘Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
If SAIs are to hold others accountable for their transparency, openness and good governance, SAIs need to be beyond reproach and aspire to be exemplary public sector bodies. If they fail to live up to the high standards of stewardship they demand of others their reputation and credibility will suffer. The paper Governance and Supreme Audit Institutions: Reflections from the UK National Audit Office describes how the UK National Audit Office (NAO) seeks to ensure that its governance arrangements comply with best practices in both the public and private sectors and aims to facilitate wider discussion in the SAI community about what good governance looks like in the context of managing modern SAIs.
The paper describes how in the NAO good governance has evolved, and continues to evolve. It is context specific and what is done in the NAO will not necessarily be applicable or have direct relevance to SAIs operating in radically different situations and working with differing audit models. However, it is hoped that this paper will stimulate debate and reflection – within individual SAIs in terms of whether there are aspects of good governance which their SAIs need to develop and with external partners in terms of what they might expect from SAIs.
by David Goldsworthy Head of International Relations and Technical Cooperation, UK National Audit Office