Supreme Audit Institutions and Projects


Let’s talk about public projects!



By Stanisław Gasik

Warsaw, Poland


An audit is an independent examination by an external entity of a specific area of operation to determine compliance with applicable guidelines, standards, laws, or other documents shaping this operation. The audited area could be continuous processes or projects and programs in any sector of activity (private, public, NGO). At every level of public administration, organizations (audit chambers) can be established to oversee the activities of specific entities. Audit chambers operating at the state level are generally referred to as Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) and encompass the entirety of the public sector in a given country. This article deals with SAI activities related to project management.

Government Project Management Offices, as discussed in my previous article (Gasik, 2023a), work for the executive branch of the government. Their main task is to ensure the effective and efficient implementation of public projects within the public administration, by shaping methods, providing support, monitoring, and controlling project execution. Supreme Audit Offices work for the legislative branch. In countries where the separation of powers is in place, the legislative branch holds a higher position in the hierarchy compared to the executive branch. SAIs serve as a parliament institution overseeing the activities of the executive branch. Hence, SAIs’ may also audit GPMOs (e.g., GAO, 2018).

If a given country has regulations concerning project management, SAIs verify the alignment of project and program implementation with those regulations. However, in many countries, there are no specific regulations regarding project management. In the majority of states, regulations concerning public procurement, which involve external vendors, have been established. Adhering to the provisions outlined in these regulations regarding projects becomes a point of interest for SAIs. This does not preclude SAIs’ interest in projects undertaken by public institutions on their own.

Audit chambers have the authority to oversee public sector projects in two areas: financial and operational performance. In the latter area, processes and other factors that may impact management (such as organizational structures) are usually examined. Audits may employ maturity models, for example, the Australian ANAO utilizes the British P3M3 model (OGC, 2010) as a reference document. Specialized teams are formed to conduct project audits.

Conducting audits for public projects and programs is carried out by audit chambers in numerous countries. Their results are presented to project owners, the parliament, and the general public. They can serve as a basis for suggesting budget reductions and, in extreme cases, for recommending the suspension of project implementation. Publishing audit reports is a tool to ensure transparency and government accountability.

In the following section, brief descriptions of three SAIs are provided. The next section describes some single project and program audits. Then examples of project management process audits follow. The final section of this article demonstrates how the knowledge gained from audits is employed to enhance public project management procedures.

Selected Supreme Audit Institutions

US Federal Governmental Accountability Office

In the United States, the Supreme Audit Institution at the federal level is the Government Accountability Office (GAO, www.gao.gov). It was established in 1921 as General Accounting Office (US Congress, 1921). GAO’s mission is to investigate how the United States Government spends taxpayers’ money. In this way, GAO assists Congress in fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities to ensure the functioning of the Government to benefit the society of the United States. One of GAO’s key tasks is the independent assessment of public programs and projects. An important task of the GAO is to publish guidelines regarding the best practices for project management.


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Editor’s note: This article series is related to the management of public programs and projects, those organized, financed and managed by governments and public officials.  The author, Dr. Stanisław Gasik, is the author of the book “Projects, Government, and Public Policy”, recently published by CRC Press / Taylor and Francis Group.  That book and these articles are based on Dr. Gasik’s research into governmental project management around the world over the last decade.  Stanisław is well-known and respected by PMWJ editors; we welcome and support his efforts to share knowledge that can help governments worldwide achieve their most important initiatives.

How to cite this paper: Gasik, S. (2023). Supreme Audit Institutions and Projects. Let’s talk about public projects, series article, PM World Journal, Volume XII, Issue IX, September. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/pmwj133-Sep2023-Gasik-Supreme-Audit-Offices-and-Projects.pdf

About the Author

Stanisław Gasik, PhD, PMP

Warsaw, Poland


Dr. Stanisław Gasik, PMP is a project management expert. He graduated from the University of Warsaw, Poland, with M. Sc. in mathematics and Ph. D. in organization sciences (with a specialty in project management). Stanisław has over 30 years of experience in project management, consulting, teaching, and implementing PM organizational solutions. His professional and research interests include project knowledge management, portfolio management, and project management maturity. He is the author of the only holistic model of project knowledge management spanning from the individual to the global level.

Since 2013, his main professional focus has been on public projects. He was an expert in project management at the Governmental Accountability Office, an institution of the US Congress. He is the author of “Projects, Government, and Public Policy,” a book that systematizes knowledge about government activities in the area of project management.

He was a significant contributor to PMI’s PMBOK® Guide and PMI Standard for Program Management and contributed to other PMI standards. He has lectured at global PMI and IPMA congresses and other international conferences.

His web page is www.gpm3.eu.

To view other works by Dr. Gasik, please visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/stanislaw-gasik-phd-pmp/