The use of evidence in the audit, inspection and scrutiny of government

A significant number of organisations in the UK are charged with the audit, inspection and scrutiny of government. The judgements they make have an impact on the public services we use.

But what do we know about how these organisations collect and use evidence to come to those judgements? And what difference does their work make to the organisations they scrutinise? 

This project examined how audit, inspection and scrutiny organisations use evidence and identified eight principles for the effective use of evidence in these organisations:

  • Be clear about what is expected of each audit, inspection and scrutiny project.
  • Consider the appropriateness and feasibility of different methods and ensure that you have the necessary skills.
  • Seek out a range of different kinds of evidence.
  • Test the quality of evidence.
  • Consider alternative interpretations of the evidence.
  • Tailor reporting to the needs of different audiences.
  • Check the implementation of findings and recommendations.
  • Reflect on the lessons for future projects.

The principles, along with details of the research evidence underpinning them, are explained in the briefing paper, Evidence for accountability: using evidence in the audit, inspection and scrutiny of government, by Dr Ruth Levitt, Professor Sandra Nutley, Professor Steve Martin, and William Solesbury. The research consisted of eight case studies of audit, inspection or scrutiny work undertaken in 2008 –2009.

The briefing paper will be essential reading for anyone working in the audit, inspection and scrutiny field. They will also be useful for policy makers who are seeking to understand more about government accountability.

Project details

 

Researcher

Professor Sandra Nutley, University of Edinburgh

Funding programme

Open Door

Grant amount and duration

£90,688

January 2008 - September 2009

Project website

 

Research Unit for Research Utilisation

www.ruru.ac.uk

Publications

 

Briefing paper

Evidence for accountability: using evidence in the audit, inspection and scrutiny of government, Dr Ruth Levitt, Professor Sandra Nutley, Professor Steve Martin, and William Solesbury, Nuffield Foundation April 2010

Download briefing paper (PDF)

Seminar notes

Whither audit, inspection and scrutiny? - notes of a seminar held at the Nuffield Foundation, April 2010

Download seminar notes (PDF)