Audits are used to objectively identify discrepancies between the desired and the actual state of a particular area. Audits can also be used to certify the validity of the information provided in various public accounting reports. They can be internal (carried out by the Ministry of Education itself or an institution within the state administration) or external (carried out by professional, neutral, and independent auditors). An internal audit conducted at a Slovak University showed the importance of considering using the two types (Kopnicka, 2004).

The three main types of audits in the education sector are:

  • audit of public procurement of goods and services (school construction, furniture and equipment, textbooks, etc.);
  • audit of teacher management procedures;
  • audit of financial management.

In Bogota, an audit of teacher management procedures made it possible to keep track of anomalies in teacher appointments, salary payments, and attendance. It helped reform all teacher management procedures based on clear norms and standards. As a result, between 1998 and 2003, school enrolment in the city of Bogota increased by 240,000 pupils (i.e. 37 per cent). Yet the increase in current costs was about half, thanks to a more transparent and accountable system of teacher management (Peña, 2005).

Audits not only detect fraud or corrupt practices, but can also help identify different weaknesses in the sector, in its operation and management at different levels. One major guiding principle used by external auditors in carrying out their task within this framework is the set of typical anomalies, the so-called ‘red flags’: i.e. situations, conditions, or occurrences within a programme or activity that indicate the degree of corruption, which can range from susceptibility to non-compliance.