This paper developed from a desire to build on many years practical audit experience and, in the light of increased emphasis on "value for money" audit, to explore different approaches thereto. As the title of the paper suggests it was felt that these different approaches might be developed using a "naturalistic" rather than "scientific" approach to the audit. In order to test this possibility the paper examines three main questions. First, to what extent is current "value for money" auditing bound up in traditional "scientific" methodology? Second, even if auditing is undertaken by a "scientific" approach is there any need to change? Thirdly, if a change to a more "naturalistic" approach is desirable, how should this be achieved. To answer the questions a theoretical framework was developed against which two practical audit case studies were assessed. The framework, developed in chapters 2 to 4, covers legislation, definitions, social science paradigms, evaluation methodologies and data collection methods. Chapter 5 details the two case studies: one on horticulture and one on refuse collection. Chapter 6 relates the studies to the framework, examines alternative qualitative approaches which could have been used and examines the affect that the Audit Commission has had on "value-for-money" auditing. The last two sections of chapter 6 are the overall conclusions of the paper and ideas for future research. The conclusions reached are that most auditing is, indeed, carried out by traditional "scientific" methods. For financial and compliance, economy and efficiency and effectiveness audits were there are clear goals and output measures this provides sound data. However, there is an area of effectiveness auditing in which the traditional "scientific" approach appears invalid. It is concluded that there is a need for a move towards a more "naturalistic" approach in these areas to provide valid reliable audit results. This move should be initially by using more "naturalistic" methods, moving eventually to the possibility of approaching such audits from a different social science paradigm.
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