Audit Experience in Canada and in Other Countries
Public sector auditors in Canada and in other countries have become involved in public sector efficiency issues and the achievement of cost savings.
For example, the National Audit Office (NAO) in the United Kingdom has been reporting periodically on government-wide progress, by department, in achieving the government’s efficiency targets. It has published a number of best practice guides for management. (See for example A Short Guide to Structured Cost Reduction.)
In the United States, there is a statutory requirement for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to identify federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives with duplicate goals or activities. The GAO reports to Congress annually on its findings. These reports identify potential cost savings and efficiencies in a number of areas.
Other public sector audit offices in Canada and abroad have put emphasis on auditing efficiency. For the period 2008 to 2013, the Audit News Database contains about 30 audits of efficiency conducted by 10 legislative audit offices. These audits have covered a wide variety of public sectors, including:
- health care (cardiology services, orthopedic services, emergency departments)
- justice (prosecution and correctional services)
- culture (radio production and grants in the culture and media sector)
- energy and environment (energy efficiency, recycling, and irrigation programs)
- transportation (rail transit)
After analyzing their focus, we have classified these audits under five categories (other classifications are possible):
- 1. audits of spending reviews with an efficiency focus (“efficiency programs”);
- 2. audits of the efficiency of public services (in various sectors, including health care, justice, and culture);
- 3. audits of the efficiency of shared services programs (at the planning or implementation stage);
- 4. audits of the efficient use of energy and natural resources (often about the effectiveness of energy efficiency programs); and
- 5. audits of the regulation of efficiency (in situations where a public sector regulator oversees the efficiency of public services delivered by private or public organizations).
Full details on these audits and the five categories can be found in our Focus on Efficiency publication.