Title: Audītor Pūblicus
Type of work: Co-design / design provocation (a new role for the public auditor)
Date: January – March 2015
Extent of the project: 8 weeks, full-time
ICAEW's AuditFutures is looking to change the profession of auditing in a way so that auditors can help solve real social challenges and advance the role of the public interest in the profession. Through close collaboration with a group of auditors, I have co-designed a new role for the future auditor which responds to these challenges.
Auditor Publicus is a reshaped public sector audit function. It proposes that public auditors take their role as mediator between government and citizens seriously, and focus on restoring the declining trust by ensuring that the information streams going back and forth are true, fair and reflect the nuances. This is done by auditing political promises, influencing and reshaping the current debate, as well as facilitating Citizen Juries (so-called mini-publics).
In a public sector context, citizens are essentially both at the receiving and paying end of auditing, yet most neither know nor care. Where auditors usually play a role in building trust between investors and companies, trust between citizens and government is at an all-time low — and auditors aren’t playing an active role. Audītor Pūblicus aims to change this, and in some way, this goes back to the roots of the auditor - and yet applies this to a modern societal challenge.
I have had immensely positive reactions from accountants and auditors, and there is a will and wish to take this further.
Audītor Pūblicus has come into existence through collaboration with a small team of accounting and auditing professionals. We ended up focusing on the public sector audit, as we were looking for 'gaps' and unmet needs, and found one in this area, which highlighted an opportunity for the profession as a whole. During the workshops, we developed and took on personas, and mapped out their distrust to government to identify patterns and underlying reasons. Further on, we explored the possible solutions through different workshop materials, and design provocations.
As a design provocation, I showed a sculptural exhibition piece in a one-day show at the RCA. From the outside, it looked like nothing more than ugly, brown cardboard boxes stacked on top of each other, taped together with brown packing tape. However, each box had a peephole, and once looking inside, each box revealed an aspect of Audītor Pūblicus through video and sound, or visual means of storytelling.
To some extent, the box sculpture itself conveyed what auditing is: To find out about the project you had to take on the role of a mini-auditor; investigating and viewing the same thing from different perspectives, searching for the bigger picture and all the facts.