17. The public-sector audit environment is that in which governments and other public-sector entities exercise responsibility for the use of resources derived from taxation and other sources in the delivery of services to citizens and other recipients. These entities are accountable for their management and performance, and for the use of resources, both to those that provide the resources and to those, including citizens, who depend on the services delivered using those resources. Public-sector auditing helps to create suitable conditions and reinforce the expectation that public-sector entities and public servants will perform their functions effectively, efficiently, ethically and in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations.

18. In general public-sector auditing can be described as a systematic process of objectively obtaining and evaluating evidence to determine whether information or actual conditions conform to established criteria. Public-sector auditing is essential in that it provides legislative and oversight bodies, those charged with governance and the general public with information and independent and objective assessments concerning the stewardship and performance of government policies, programmes or operations.

19. SAIs serve this aim as important pillars of their national democratic systems and governance mechanisms and play an important role in enhancing public-sector administration by emphasising the principles of transparency, accountability, governance and performance. ISSAI 20 – Principles of Transparency and Accountability contain guidance in this regard.

20. All public-sector audits start from objectives, which may differ depending on the type of audit being conducted. However, all public-sector auditing contributes to good governance by:

  • providing the intended users with independent, objective and reliable information, conclusions or opinions based on sufficient and appropriate evidence relating to public entities;
  • enhancing accountability and transparency, encouraging continuous improvement and sustained confidence in the appropriate use of public funds and assets and the performance of public administration;
  • reinforcing the effectiveness of those bodies within the constitutional arrangement that exercise general monitoring and corrective functions over government, and those responsible for the management of publicly-funded activities;
  • creating incentives for change by providing knowledge, comprehensive analysis and well-founded recommendations for improvement.

21. In general, public-sector audits can be categorised into one or more of three main types: audits of financial statements, audits of compliance with authorities and performance audits. The objectives of any given audit will determine which standards apply.

INTOSAI ref. Fundamental Principles of Public-Sector Auditing(pdf) (ISSAI-100).
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