Academic journal article The Government Accountants Journal

AGA Task Force Report on Performance Auditing

Academic journal article The Government Accountants Journal

AGA Task Force Report on Performance Auditing

Article excerpt

* Each taskforce member served as an individual, not as a representative ofhis or her ofce or ofany other organization. The taskforce report is the work of the group as a whole, and, on some issues, may notfully represent the views that individual members might hold.

AGA Task Force on Performance Auditing Members

James R. Nobles, Chair, Legislative Auditor State of Minnesota

Judith R. Brown, Director of Performance Auditing, Office of the Legislative Auditor State of Louisiana

John A. Ferris, Assistant Inspector General, US Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC.

James R. Fountain, Jr., Assistant Director of Research, Government Accounting Standards Board, Norwalk CT.

Harry Hatry, Director, State and Local Government Research Program, The Urban Institute, Washington, DC.

Bruce Johnson, Assistant Director, Government Information and Statistics, US Genera Accounting Office, Washington, DC.

Sam McCall, Deputy Auditor General State of Florida.

Jerry Silva, City Auditor, City of San Jose, California.

Kurt Sjoberg, Auditor Generel, State of California.

Proposals to make government more efficient and effective are often put forth with great passion and promise. Too often, however, the results are disappointing. There is a large body of literature chronicling the rise and fall of initiatives such as Program-Planning-Budgeting-Systems (PPBS), Management by Objectives and Zero-Based Budgeting.

On the other hand, over the past two decades, a more quiet and evolutionary move to improve accountability and economy in government has occurred, At the federal level, in most states, and in several major local governments, performance auditing has been established as an ongoing overI sight activity.

As people who have been involved in the development of performance auditing, we welcomed an invitation from the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) to form a task force to assess performance auditing's current condition and offer sugestions for its future development.

Since AGA left our charge completely open, our first challenge was to decide where to focus our attention. Though we easily decided that we wanted to go beyond an overview, we did not see obvious "problems" that needed our attention, Performance auditing is still evolving, but we perceived that it has achieved a strong position, Therefore, in the final analysis, we saw our task as identifying issues or questions that could benefit from more discussion.

Stated generally, these are the questions we decided to address:

* How should performonce auditing be defned?

*What is "success" in performance auditing, and what elements are necessary to achieve it?

* What is the best approach to get govemment agencies to maintain better performance data?

* What changes, if any, would make the "Yellow Book" more useful to performance auditors?

* What are the most important chalenges facing performance auditors?

Our method of addressing these questions was simple and straight forward: we discussed them at three separate day-long meetings; we reviewed a wide range of books and articles; and we sought opinions and ideas from fellow auditors through a questionnaire.

The questionnaire was not designed to obtain hard "data" that could be tabulated into clear-cut categories of opinion. Rather, we wanted to get broad insights and ideas from people in their own words. In a sense, we wanted simply to extend the task force's discussions to a larger group.

The questionnaire was, in fact, designed as a discussion guide to parallel the topics covered in our task force meetings, and it was administered largely through extended telephone interviews. Fifty-nine people were invited to participate in the questionnaire and 46 people responded, most by telephone interview, but a few with written answers. Amon the respondents, 16 were at the federal level, 19 at the state, and 11 at the local government level. …

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