Parliament and Supreme Audit Institutions
Rick Stapenhurst and Jack Titsworth
Building strong accountability institutions is a key challenge of development and is critical to controlling corruption. Among state institutions, the supreme audit institutions (SAIs) play a central role because they help promote government accountability and transparency through sound public financial management.
SAIs are national agencies responsible for auditing government accounts. Their constitutional mandate, reporting relationships, and effectiveness vary from country to country and, within countries, according to current government policies, but their primary purpose is to act as overseers of governments’ management of public funds, as well as the quality and credibility of reported government financial information.
Given this mandate, SAIs are well situated to help curb corruption. In many countries, they are viewed as the independent watchdogs of the public interest, and their audits are often potent deterrents to waste and abuse of public funds. They help reinforce the legal, financial, and institutional framework of public finance that, when weak, allows corruption to flourish, and they act as the anchor of a predictable framework of government behavior that reduces arbitrariness in the application of rules and laws.
This chapter discusses the role of SAIs in promoting accountability and transparency in government and thus, in curbing corruption. The first section reviews the different types of SAI, the different types of audit, and the role of audits in the budget process. The second section considers the nexus between the different types of SAI and national parliaments. The third section reviews the conditions for success of SAIs and SAI limitations, while the fourth section more explicitly examines the role of SAIs in curbing corruption.1
There are three principal auditing systems that are practiced around the world: the Westminster, the audit board, and the Napoleonic. In the Westminster system, used
1 This chapter updates and expands Stapenhurst and Titsworth (2001).