Overview of the performance audit process
A performance audit is a systematic assessment of how well a government entity, program or function is managing its activities, responsibilities and resources. Performance audits examine the government’s management practices, controls, and reporting systems based on its own public administration polices and on best practices.
We focus our audit work on areas that are of strategic importance to the Legislative Assembly and provide a broad coverage of government organizations. To that end, our performance audits may look at issues that run across government. For example, we might examine a given topic of strategic importance across departments or other types of government organizations, such as Crown corporations.
The Office’s independence from government enables us to examine, without interference or conflict, key issues and areas of concern. It keeps the Office from being influenced by political or other external pressures that may deter us from conducting certain audits. It also makes it possible for us to report what we find and what we believe are fair conclusions – even if the government disagrees with our conclusions or recommendations. This is an important responsibility and fundamental to our role in helping the Legislative Assembly hold the government accountable.
When selecting projects, our goal is to ensure that we are covering all areas of government. However, there are more programs, functions, and activities within the Government Reporting Entity than we have the resources to audit in a year or even over several years. Therefore, it is crucial that we focus our audit work on areas of strategic importance to the Legislative Assembly and Manitobans.
The Government Reporting Entity includes all funds, organizations, and business enterprises controlled by the government, such as school divisions, universities, regional health authorities, Manitoba Hydro and Manitoba Public Insurance.
In identifying audit topics, we consider a number of factors. These include the financial magnitude, impact of the subject matter on Manitoba (for example, social, environmental, economic, etc.) and if there is a high degree of public interest. We also prioritize the audit subjects where there has been limited audit work conducted in the past, as well as requests for a special audit under Section 16 of the Auditor General Act.
Our audits are planned and performed in accordance with professional auditing standards and office policies. Audit standards require that audits be adequately planned, and in this phase, the audit team will:
- Acquire knowledge of the audit subject and associated responsibilities of the entities that are involved in the program or activity – this includes identifying major risks to significant performance areas;
- Establish the scope of the audit by identifying what will be audited (and what will not be audited) as well as audit timing;
- Develop the audit objective and criteria;
- Outline audit procedures so that sufficient appropriate evidence can be collected in a cost-effective manner;
- Identify the required team competency and whether experts will need to be engaged on the audit; and
- Determine whether the knowledge gained from other audits performed on the audit subject is relevant – such as work undertaken by Internal Audit.
The Deputy Minister (or equivalent organizational representative) is formally notified when an audit is scheduled to begin. Here we communicate key information about the audit process, such as our unrestricted right of access to departmental records and staff and responsibility to provide information to the audit team in a timely manner.
The end of this phase results in an audit plan outlining the approach that will be followed to complete the audit and conclude against the audit objective and criteria. Audit plans will vary depending on the size and complexity of the audit.
During the examination phase, the audit team performs work to support the conclusion against the audit object that is expressed in the audit report. A major element of this phase is to ensure the team obtains sufficient and appropriate audit evidence. Key to this is to obtain information from the audit entity within a timely basis.
Audit teams will employ a variety of information gathering techniques and procedures, such as interviews, site visits, document requests, benchmarking similar organizations, data analysis, and file review. The audit team will continually validate the information they obtain with the audit entity. These meetings are used to communicate preliminary audit findings and conclusions. It also provides the audit entity with the opportunity to express concerns with a particular finding and to identify instances where key documents or perspectives may not have been shared or properly understood.
Audit entity: the provincial government or organization that has been included in the audit.
The audit team prepares an audit report that outlines their findings and concludes on the performance of the audit entity against the audit objective and criteria. These reports identify good practices as well as recommendations for performance improvement where there are significant differences between the criteria and assessed results.
The audit entity has the opportunity to review and discuss the draft audit report. Here again they can provide additional information that supports their performance against the audit objective and criteria. The audit entity will prepare a formal response with the actions that will be taken to address the issues underpinning each of the audit’s recommendations. Once the report is tabled, it is posted on our website.
Our office follows up on the status of the recommendations made in past reports and whether they have been implemented. These recommendations target the areas where our audits found that improvements were needed. Following up on the status of these recommendations provides a continued focus on program performance and ensures the performance issues discussed in our reports are resolved.
A follow-up is scheduled about 18 months after an audit report is released, and annually thereafter for two more years (for a total of three years). Government departments and crown organizations are accountable to the PAC for the implementation of recommendations.