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Speaking Softly Without Big Sticks: Meta-Regulation and Public Sector Audit

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Australian government has undergone an “audit explosion” in the last twenty years. This article observes, first, that the constitutional function of public sector audit institutions (AIs) gives them a strong cultural commitment to the assessment of the regularity and legality of public expenditure. New functions connected with performance audit and evaluation of nonfinancial performance indicators are liable to be interpreted through the lens of these more traditional concerns. The second observation is that, if we think in terms of “regimes” of financial control, we find that AIs form only part of the overall regulatory regime. This calls into question the coherence and potential for effectiveness of regimes of financial control. However, AIs could also be conceived as “meta-regulators” with the capacity to steer the self-regulatory capacities of public sector organizations in respect of financial controls. Auditors may be effective as meta-regulators through speaking softly, even though they demonstrably lack big sticks.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-07-01

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