Performance audit reports, which are always issue-driven (think risk), are declarations built through a series of logical steps, which include identifying appropriate criteria as standards for making judgements, describing condition (what has actually happened), comparing criteria to that condition, and, where there is a gap, stating the effects (consequences) of the gaps, ascertaining the causes of the gaps and, from these causes, presenting recommendations that will resolve the issue.

The Declaration of Independence, a document of 1137 words (about the length of a blog post), because it has all those logical steps (the 4 elements of a finding), might just be our country's most important audit report, the recommendations from which started a war and changed the world: the establishment of the United States of America. (I haven't capitalized the word united because it's not capitalized in the text of the Declaration.)

The Declaration begins with a statement of the issue: "When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another...."  

The second paragraph references criteria: "...the Laws of Nature and Nature's God..." And details that criteria: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It goes on presenting that criteria, with such highlights as this: "...That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to establish new Government...."

The Declaration jumps to a finding (a conclusion) that after "a long train of abuses" they have been forced to live "under absolute Despotism....and absolute Tyranny over these States." Thus we have our "gap."

Following this is a long list of condition statements with some effects thrown in. This section is prefaced by a statement that is the credo of any good audit process: "To prove this [gap/problem], let Facts be submitted to a candid world."

The first of these 17 condition statements describes actual performance: "He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good." We also hear about some effects: "...depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury....plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people." (These, of course, are just a few of the many effects listed.)

Before the final section that delivers the ultimate recommendation, the Declaration lists a cause, at least in general terms (it leaves the obvious political causes implied): "Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury....They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and consanguinity."(I had to look that word up; it means relationship by descent from a common ancestor; blood kinship.)

The final paragraph is the recommendation, the call to action: "...appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions...solemnly publish and declare that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States...that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved."

There it is: the 4 elements--criteria, condition, cause, and effect--leading to a recommendation and a course of action to address the issue and improve the world. It's all in a day's work for an auditor. No wonder people fear an audit...Justice only benefits the Just. It's a little over the top to call auditors Soldiers of Justice. But the battle rages on.