Goals of granting open access to information and requiring greater financial accountability are increasingly on government agendas, and strengthening Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) appears to be a necessary step in the satisfaction of these goals.  SAIs are autonomous entities operating externally from the rest of a state’s administration that, by taking advantage of their broad powers to access information, provide an important vehicle for monitoring government budgeting and spending.[1]  They strive to improve public fiscal management and deter maladministration while ensuring the government’s integrity and compliance with budgetary laws, ultimately working to prevent misuse and abuse of public resources.[2]  Even though governments might employ multiple checks and balances, SAIs typically offer the only independent source of information about whether a budget is being implemented in accordance with the law and, increasingly, if governments are delivering services effectively.[3] Despite their importance, SAIs are often challenged by a lack of public awareness of their role and function, lack of financial and technical resources, incredulity about their ability to affect government policy, and the difficulty of reforming entrenched budget politics.[4]


Why are Transparency and Accountability Important?

The values of an open government go hand in hand with those of a democratic society.  Effective citizen participation requires information about how the government is operating.  Furthermore, as public resources become more constrained, governments can benefit from opening themselves to increased scrutiny and tightening audit processes so that citizens are able to see governments are using those resources in the most effective way.  Generally, governments that are open and accountable instill greater public confidence that they are operating effectively and responsively, minimize the potential for corrupt behavior, and maximize the potential for resources to be used in the best way to achieve visible results that address the actual needs of the public.[5]


What is the OGP?

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international coalition committed to fostering transparent, accessible, and accountable governments.[6]  Spearheading the initiative are Brazil and the United States, who were among the first of over sixty nations that are now either full members of the partnership or are committed to join.[7]  In order to become a member, a nation’s executive branch must submit a letter of intent and then develop and submit an action plan that outlines its concrete efforts and commitments to combat corruption, create a government that is more accessible and responsive to the public, and implement policies that strengthen oversight mechanisms and internal accountability standards.[8]


Value of connecting OGP and Supreme Audit Institutions agendas

The OGP, as an international initiative aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in government, is an excellent opportunity to strengthen oversight bodies and increase the role of SAIs in their supervision and oversight of the executive branch and other government institutions.  In many ways, the objectives of the OGP mirror that of the SAIs – while specific plans may take different approaches to reach oversight goals, the underlying conviction in the positive impact of open, accountable government is shared.  Membership in the OGP represents a commitment by a country’s executive branch, which, as the typical center of most of a government’s public services and budgetary processes, often stands to be best served by an active independent auditing agency.[9]

Engaging the SAIs within the OGP agenda would be beneficial for all actors involved: It would contribute in strengthening the sustainability of the OGP agenda, help participating NGOs understand the uses, quality and quantity of the portions of information the government is opening, it would allow the Government to add a technical and impartial actor to debates over the extent of the action plans, and help the government to show a stronger concern in complying with the standards to which it is committing. On the other hand, by participating of these debates on how to enhance the interaction between institutions and citizens, SAIs could acquire experience in the theoretical frameworks and practices that are important steps towards rethinking their mission and strategies


There are three principle ways that SAI’s can articulate with the OGP:

 1. The SAI itself can voluntarily participate in the country’s openness strategy and actively work with the government to implement reforms and strengthen its oversight capabilities.

2. The executive branch can voluntarily implement policies to empower the SAI to be more effective.

3. The executive branch makes the SAI’s job easier by implementing reforms to its own internal audit and governing processes and opening channels for public engagement.

Some examples of how SAIs around the world are benefitting from OGP (view presentation by clicking on the image below + see extended list of practices here)

Captura de pantalla 2013-10-30 a la(s) 23.22.16

Post by Juan Ortiz Freuler & Michael McDonald


[1] See Carlos Santiso, The Political Economy of Government Auditing: Financial Governance and the Rule of Law in Latin America and Beyond, 2009, p. 4.

[2] Id., pp. 2-4

[3] See Albert van Zyl et al, Responding to Challenges of Supreme Audit Institutions: Can Legislatures and Civil Society Help?, at pp. 7-8 (Anti-Corruption Resource Center 2009), available at http://bit.ly/12PrlnW.

[4] See Santiso at pp. 6-8; see also van Zyl et al at pp. 11-13.

[5] See Santiso at pp. 122-23. For an overview of the philosophy and benefits of open government, see Rosie McGee and John Gaventa, Shifting Power? Assessing the Impact of Transparency and Accountability Initiatives, at pp. 6-9 (Institute of Development Studies 2011), available at http://bit.ly/13VhXlq.

[6] Information about the OGP can be found at http://www.opengovpartnership.org/.

[7] For an up-to-date list of participating countries, see http://www.opengovpartnership.org/countries.

[8] The structure and role of the OGP are outlined in the brochure at http://bit.ly/10XU8nO.

[9] See Santiso, infra p. 1, at pp. 5, 32-33.

[10] McGee and Gaventa, infra p. 1, pp.16-17.