Playing a zero-sum game? The pursuit of independence and relevance in performance auditing

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Supreme audit institutions (SAIs) are fundamental institutions in liberal democracies as they enable control of the exercise of state power. In order to maintain this function, SAIs must enjoy a high level of independence. Moreover, SAIs are increasingly expected to be also relevant for government and the execution of its policies by way of performance auditing. This article examines how and why the performance auditing of the Danish SAI pursues independence and relevance. It is argued that, in general, the simultaneous pursuit of independence and relevance is highly challenging and amounts to a zero-sum or, at the very best, a very modest plus-sum game. More specifically, while the Danish SAI actively pursues both objectives, it has persistently prioritized independence over relevance. This priority seems to be the most effective strategy for the Danish SAI to maintain its legitimacy in a situation where the parliament is characterized by minority governments.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)109-123
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

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