SIGMA Papers

SIGMA (Support for Improvement in Governance and Management) is a joint initiative of the OECD and the EU, principally financed by the EU. SIGMA Papers is a series of specialised reports that are focused on particular issues in governance and management, such as expenditure control, administrative oversight, interministerial co-ordination, public procurement and public service management.

Available in French (see link below) and other languages.

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Achieving High Quality in the Work of Supreme Audit Institutions

This paper focuses primarily on the issue of how to achieve high quality in the audit process. In addition to describing the types of procedures needed to achieve quality, however, it discusses basic principles and those matters of institutional management that create an environment that encourages high quality in an SAI’s work. Audit quality is obtained by a process of identifying and administering the activities needed to achieve the quality objectives of an SAI. All types of SAIs need to understand the benefits that can be realised once audit quality is made a top priority. Improving audit quality requires a systematic SAI-wide approach. Piecemeal efforts by individuals and individual audit teams are not enough and will not work. There are no quick fixes to be obtained where audit quality is concerned. SAIs need to proceed methodically in an organised way to fix each quality issue and problem in turn. As new problems will always emerge, this should be a continuous process for the SAI. It is also evident that most audit quality-related problems are mainly the result of poor management of the audit process or of the SAI itself. Ensuring high levels of quality in an audit organisation involves a succession of detailed steps that must be taken over a period of time. In fact, it is a never-ending process of continual improvement. The first requirement is to define the standards of quality and then to put quality control procedures in place that will ensure that these standards are met. These procedures need not – and should not – suppress the initiative and good judgement of the auditor in adapting to particular circumstances. However, if the auditor judges that it is necessary to depart from the usual audit techniques, it is incumbent upon the auditor to demonstrate the necessity of doing so, and to show that the approach he or she has chosen is capable of satisfying the audit objectives.

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