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In what way does a country best ensure the well-being of its population?

Professor Bo Rothstein and PhD Student Marcus Tannenberg from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, have written a report for the Swedish Expert Group for Aid Studies which analyses the concept of Quality of Government and how it relates to the development of countries. The central theme of the report is that if we are mainly concerned about peoples’ well-being, we should focus our development efforts on the public institutions in a country and the quality of the services they deliver.

There is ample evidence that factors such as rule of law, control of corruption and administrative competence (“the output side of government”) correspond positively with quality of life indicators such as infant mortality and life expectancy. According to the authors, donors rather tend to increasingly spend aid funds aimed at improving the democratic governance of developing countries (“the input side of government”). A reason for this is to increase the legitimacy of government, the main argument being that if all components of the electoral process are fair, the outcome is considered legitimate. The authors, however, point to studies that show a stronger connection between quality aspects of government outputs and peoples’ perception of the legitimacy of the government. In short: donors should focus on the exercise of power, rather than the access to power in order to improve the lives of its citizens.

This carries a positive message to the INTOSAI community, since public auditing forms part of the output side of government. Supreme Audit Institutions are also referred to as one of five suggested focus areas for the international donor community, in order to improve the quality of government in developing countries, together with taxation, meritocracy, universal education and gender equality. In terms of auditing, initial research indicates that the competence and skills of auditors have a large impact on the quality of auditing, together with independence and external communication of audit findings. This suggests that we should continue to regard support for Supreme Audit Institutions as a top priority in the development of national administrations. For CBC, these findings support both the general ambitions to promote the capacity development of Supreme Audit Institutions and the specific ambition of INTOSAI to explore  feasibility and options for undertaking a process for certification of auditors.

Please see the full report:


by Oskar Karnebäck

Swedish National Audit Office