The theoretical point of departure in this dissertation is that even though a main thread in classical and modem democratic theory deals with the idea of accountable government, this discussion suffers from two inadequacies. Firstly, in addition to the requisites of accessible knowledge about who is responsible, and the presence of institutional mechanisms for holding someone accountable (e.g. elections), the need for independent information about how government actions are carried out has not been systematically addressed by democratic theorists. Secondly, in the discussion about accountability the relation between citizens and elected officials is one-sidedly put into focus, while the implications for public administration are neglected.
In this perspective the work of the political institutions assigned to monitor government - e.g. the state performance audit - becomes essential in securing a crucial link in search of public accountability. The credibility of the their assignment depends, however, on their ability of conducting independent audits. The empirical investigation focuses on whether the Parliamentary Auditors and the National Audit Office (NAO) in Sweden carry out their performance audits without undue involvement from the political sphere and the audited entity. Four performance audits are closely scrutinized by means of interviews and the study of official and unofficial documents and records. According to the analytical model independence implies that the auditing institution should not be obliged to carry out, modify or refrain from carrying out, an audit or suppress or modify audit findings, conclusions and recommendations.
Contrary to common belief, the results reveal that the politically appointed Parliamentary Auditors are carrying out their audits independently, while the NAO is operating with a far-reaching and integrity damaging sensitivity towards the Ministries, and, in one of the cases, the audited entity. The flip-side of the Parliamentary Auditors' independence is, however, the systematic lack of interest shown by Parliament in taking in the results of the audit reports.