The Impact of Performance Audit: the New Zealand Experience
Performance audit, compared to the traditional financial and compliance audits, is a relatively new innovation that emerged amidst accountability concerns in the public sector. Economic crises, ministerial scandal and inefficiencies were among the impetus that led the public to demand better performance and greater accountability in the public sector, and performance audit was among the many responses to such demand. In New Zealand, performance audit is carried out by the Controller and Auditor General (the AG) under the mandate granted by the Public Audit Act 2001. Adapting the methodology from grounded theory, this study looks at the impact of performance audit on seven entities audited in 2006 by the AG. This study found that the entities were impacted through the manifestation of implemented audit recommendations and the attainment of performance audit goals. In particular, there is a high acceptance and implementation rate to the audit recommendations made in the seven audits. The implementation of accepted recommendations consequently led to the changes within the entities in terms of managerial practices, as well as internal systems and processes. In some entities, these changes were translated into performance improvement, where the entities experienced changes in the way that they carried out their operations. However, based on interviewees' accounts being the auditees of the audits, most interviewees viewed performance audit as having a greater role for performance accountability compared to performance improvement. Whilst the auditees found the audit recommendations useful, the impact on performance in their view has not been significant. Rather, the auditees viewed performance audit as having a more important role as an assurance tool in terms of their accountability to the public.