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assurances to the government that the bureaucracy has effectively implemented the policies it has set.

While governments’ delegation of powers to specialized agencies is designed to improve the implementation of policy, the legislatures’ delegation of oversight powers to autonomous oversight agencies is designed to restrain government more effectively. AAAs can thus be conceived as auxiliary institutions helping the legislature (the principal) enforce accountability on its main agent (the executive) through routine oversight. The creation of autonomous agencies nevertheless generates another set of principal-agent dilemmas, between the legislature and the AAA.

Under the model of the cycle of accountability in the budget process illustrated in Figure 1, the legislature approves the budget, the executive implements it and the AAAs reports to the legislature to ascertain whether the resources have been used to the purposes intended.


Typology of audit agencies

Features and functions of AAAs vary across countries and have evolved over time. Different institutional arrangements exist for organizing the external audit function in modern states. What roles AAAs actually play in financial oversight naturally depends on their structure and processes, as well as the resource endowments, legal powers and political instruments they possess.

Standard typologies of AAAs classify them according to their institutional features and functions and include three ideal types of AAAs: (i) the monocratic model, (ii) the court model and (iii) the board or collegiate model. 6

The monocratic model is that of a uninominal AAA headed by a single auditor-general and generally acting as an auxiliary institution to the legislature, albeit with ample autonomy. Under this model, AAAs focus on ex-post auditing, rather than ex-ante control, and emphasize financial and performance auditing over compliance control, Chile being an exception. The controls they perform seek to correct rather than penalize. This model is prevalent in Anglo-Saxon countries such as the US, the UK or Canada, and, in Latin America, in Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, Chile nevertheless being .

The court model is that of a collegiate court of auditors or tribunals of accounts, endowed with quasi-judicial powers in administrative matters, often acting as an administrative tribunal.7 The quasi-judicial features and functions of the court model privilege legal and financial compliance over performance auditing. The links with the legislature are weaker than in the monocratic model; yet those with the judiciary are also ambiguous. As a result, there is often uncertainty as to who is the agency’s principal. Roman law countries such as France, Italy or Spain, and, in Latin America, Brazil and El Salvador follow this model. 8

The board model is an institutional hybrid. It is an agency with collegial decision-making similar to that found in tribunals, headed by a board of auditors, but without jurisdictional authority or quasi-judicial powers. Under this model, the AAA emits an audit opinion on the

6 For a review of typologies of external audit agencies, see: Allen and Tommasi 2001; Stapenhurst and Titsworth 2001; Dye and Stapenhurst 1998; UKNAO 2001.

7 According to Dye and Stapenhurst (2001:1), ‘the institution is an integral part of the judiciary, makes legal judgments on compliance with laws and regulations, and exercises a budget control function to assure that public funds are well spent’ and for the purpose intended.


In Chile, there exists a tribunal of accounts within the CGR, which itself follows the monocratic model.


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