Citizen Participatory Audit in the Philippines


Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA) is a value-for-money or performance audit conducted by the Commission on Audit (COA), the supreme audit institution (SAI) of the Philippines, pursuant to its mandate, with the participation of individuals selected from civil society organizations (CSOs) as members of the audit team.

The CPA process successfully illustrates the following principles of public participation in practice: openness, inclusiveness, transparency, sustainability, complementarity, and reciprocity.

Basic Facts

Under CPA, public participation takes place at the last stage of the fiscal policy cycle: that is at the audit stage. CPA was initiated by COA The CSOs that agree to participate in the program are referred to as ‘CSO Partners’, and their members who are selected as CPA team members are referred to as ‘citizen auditors.’  Citizen auditors participate on a voluntary, non-remunerator basis. They may be reimbursed for out of pocket expenses on board and lodging, transportation and other support expenses

CPA has been implemented in two phases.

Phase 1(2012-2014): CPA was initiated in 2012, and since them 3 pilots have been completed on flood control projects, disaster relief, and solid waste management projects[ref]. This phase was funded by an Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid) Project.

Phase II (2015-): CPA has now entered Phase II, starting  in January 2015. This phase has been partially supported by AusAid and the World Bank. In this phase, CPA will focus on audits related to Farm to Market roads[ref] that are solely financed out of Local government unit funds.


The main objective of CPA is to enhance government transparency through citizen participation in the audit process, guided by the principle that a vigilant and involved citizenry promotes greater accountability in government.

Authorizing Environment

A) The Constitution:

The CPA is anchored on and animated by the following two constitutional provisions.  1) COA is endowed with exclusive authority “to define the scope of its audit and examination, establish the techniques and methods required therefore, and promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations.” 2) The Constitution also declares that the State shall encourage non-governmental, community-based, or sectoral organizations that promote the welfare of the nation,  and recognizes the right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political and economic decisions[ref].

B) Open Government Partnership Action Plan

Philippines’ Open Government Partnership (OGP) National Action Plan in 2012 called for “institutionalizing people power in governance and listed Participatory Social Audit for Public Infrastructure Projects among its commitments[ref]. In the same year, the CPA was included among the priority activities under the Philippines-Australia Public Financial Management (PFM) Program.

Who and How

The following are essential steps in every CPA:

  1. Identification of the subject of audit
  2. Determination of the nature and scope of citizen participation
  3. Identification of CSO partners
  4. Building a shared agenda
  5. Building capacity of citizen auditors
  6. Audit planning
  7. Initial conference with implementing agency of the subject of audit
  8. Data gathering and field work
  9. Audit reporting
  10. Post-audit assessment
  11. Monitoring of recommendations

The first three steps are completed by COA, with no CSO involvement; the fourth is undertaken with the identified CSOs and their nominee citizen auditors; steps 5 through 10 are completed by COA staff and the citizen auditors; and the 11th, with CSO Partners. For details please visit:

During CPA, special audit teams with COA and citizen auditors are created to conduct performance audits of selected government programs. This is an example of invited CSO participation, as opposed to invented CSO participation like other forms of participatory audit (e.g., social audits in Kenya). In this form, non-COA auditors are given more roles and responsibilities and are present in all steps of the audit. When citizen auditors are “deputized” as COA auditors, they:

  • Are given formal roles and responsibilities and are present in all steps of the audit;
  • Receive the same level of access to information and documents related to the audit as any other member of the audit team;
  • Are bound by the same protocols and principles that safeguard against the obstruction of an efficient, effective and independent audit, such as premature disclosure of audit information;
  • Are expected to participate in the entire audit process, with their input on methodologies and approach bearing equal weight as any audit team member. While other forms of citizen participation in audit see the formal audit process as a takeoff point for third-party citizen monitoring—as in cases where civil society groups use audit reports as source documents for budget analysis or government performance monitoring—joint audits brings citizens from non-government groups into the formal audit process, giving COA a chance to explore complementary and additional approaches to audit (e.g., community scorecards)

The terms of participation of CSO Partners and citizen auditors in the CPA, their duties and responsibilities, are primarily governed by the Operational Guidelines for the Citizen Participatory Audit Project[ref]  issued by the COA, and Memoranda of Agreements (the Agreements) executed between the COA and the CSOs and citizen auditors. These provide for management and implementation arrangements, the respective duties and responsibilities of the parties, and dispute resolution.

Selection of CSO Partners and Citizen Auditors

Criteria for selection of Projects for CPA includes:

  • High value in terms of project cost;
  • High impact in terms of degree of closeness or importance to the people’s heart;
  • with CSOs with members residing in the project site
  • possibility of obtaining immediate results through an audit period of short duration
  • such other criteria that may be identified from time to time

Criteria for selection of CSOs includes:

  • No conflict of interest (as defined under RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Act) vis-a-vis the project and implementing agency subject of the audit
  • has complied with tax laws, rules and regulations
  • willing and ready to engage with the Government without remuneration
  • can mobilize their staff, members and volunteers and other partners for the project
  • able to show their strong presence in their area of operation
  • with established track records and credibility

Criteria for selection of CSO members

  • a bona fide member of good standing
  • no conflict of interest
  • of good moral character
  • should be willing to participate without remuneration
  • complied with tax laws, rules and regulations

officially designated to participate in the audit engagement

Results and Impact

Lessons Learned

Sustainability: Sustainability is a major factor for successful implementation of citizen participatory audit projects. Firstly, each CSO partner pursues their own advocacy agenda and none of them is focused solely on public audit.  As a result, after spending considerable time on shared agenda building, there is no guarantee that they will participate in the CPA for a considerable length of time.  Secondly, they need to arrange for their own funding support as their participation in the CPA as they do not get paid for participating in CPA (only reimbursed for some out of pocket expenses).

Focus on Capacity Building: Audit work being highly technical, building capacity of the citizen auditors requires a lot of intensive capacity building efforts. Capacity building efforts includes AUDIT 101[ref], sectoral knowledge, data interpretation, report writing etc. CPA has developed a dedicated website i-kwenta ( where all the training materials, practice briefs, among others are posted for wider use.

Building Trust and a Shared Agenda: There are huge institutional differences in mindset in terms of orientation, approaches and levels of commitment between COA members and CSOs. It took a lot of effort and many orientation workshops to bridge this gap in the initial months of the program. Open lines of communication, reflection sessions, workshops, consultation and dialogue, were the main tools for bridging these differences, and for building trust and a shared agenda. This was also addressed through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)[ref] which made sure that CSOs would ensure strict compliance with government audit standards and policies; and that disputes and in case of differences in opinion, COA members will have the rights to make the final decision.

Principles of Public Participation in Fiscal Policy

The CPA process successfully illustrates several of the principles of public participation in practice:

  • Openness: The mechanism illustrates how the principle of openness works, as details about the audit planning, execution and reporting are readily accessible through I-Kweta website to the public.
  • Inclusiveness: The CPA process aims to be inclusive of all groups through inviting all local CSOs as well as representatives of other sectors to participate in the citizen audit.
  • Transparency: The CPA interactive website i-kwenta has detailed information about the audit findings, criteria for selecting auditees, action taken report by auditees etc..
  • Sustainable: the participation of CSOs has been institutionalized, and supported through training and capacity building
  • Complementary: citizen inputs complement and add value to COA’s performance audits, while COA retains full control according to its legal mandate.

Reciprocity: all parties – COA, CSOs and citizen auditors – agree to abide by a clear set of rules to achieve the agreed objectives.

Country Context

Type of Government

The Republic of the Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands in Southeast Asia, with a population of around 100 million. The Philippines is a unitary state with a presidential system of government. The judicial, executive and legislative branches of government are formally separated. Following the Marcos dictatorship and the end of martial law (1972-1981), the return to democracy in 1986 also fostered a shift to a multi-party system.

The new Constitution of the Philippines was ratified in 1987, establishing term limits for the President as well as legislators and local government officials. The president is chief executive, head of state, and commander-in-chief. The country has a bicameral legislature—a Senate with 24 members elected nationally and a 280-member House of Representatives.

The Philippines developed a decentralized system of government with the passage of the Local Government Code of 1991. The Code included the concepts of devolution, funding of local government units, and citizen participation. Local development councils in every province, city, municipality and barangay determine the use of the local development fund, which represents 20 percent of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from the national government. The IRA is itself 15-20% of the national budget, a portion of the national taxes aimed as an allotment from the federal government to local government units. Under the law, a quarter of the seats in local development councils should be occupied by CSO representatives.

The 2016 Freedom in the World Report from Freedom House ranked the Philippines as “partly free.”[ref] The country’s score on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2015 was…

Civic Space

Following the end of the Marcos dictatorship, the Philippines experienced a broadening of civic space during the 1980s. The Constitution of 1987 recognizes the importance of civil society and public participation in governance.

As a result of favorable legislation that fostered a civil society-friendly environment, including the Constitution and the Cooperative Code of 1990, the Philippines has a vibrant civil society landscape and the largest number of CSOs per capita in Asia.[ref] There are only estimates of how many active CSOs operate, putting their number around 249,000-497,000, including unregistered organizations.[ref] CSOs’ activities cover a broad range, including sustainable development; education; law, advocacy and politics, and community development, among others.

The government has partnered with CSOs for a variety of programs, such as its Full Disclosure Policy and the Seal of Good Housekeeping for LGUs, all aimed at improving governance. CSOs have important monitoring functions for infrastructure and road projects as well. Government agencies also actively partner with CSOs in budget preparation, implementation and audit.[ref]

Open Budget Survey 2015

According to the Open Budget Survey 2015, the Government of Philippines provides the public with substantial budget information. It scored 64 out of 100 in the Open Budget Index. However, the Government of Philippines is providing the public with adequate opportunities to engage in the budget process. The score for Public Participation in the budget process is 67 out of 100. Budget oversight by the supreme audit institution is adequate and it scored 92 out of 100. However, budget oversight by legislature is weak and it scored 36 out of 100. [ref]