What does the role involve?

About the Controller and Auditor-General.

The audit function

The Auditor-General is responsible for auditing all public entities. This includes:

  • government departments – such as Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Education;
  • Crown entities – such as the Commerce Commission, district health boards, the New Zealand Tourism Board, and all school boards of trustees;
  • State-owned enterprises – entities that are owned by the Government and have a strong commercial focus, such as New Zealand Post Limited or Airways Corporation of New Zealand Limited;
  • local authorities and their subsidiaries – city, district, and regional councils, and council-controlled organisations such as charitable trusts and incorporated societies associated with local authorities; and
  • statutory boards and other public bodies – such as airport authorities and reserve boards.

The Auditor-General audits about 3800 public entities, almost 3000 of which are schools or very small entities.

What is the Auditor-General looking for?

The Auditor-General’s work is designed to give assurance to Parliament, public entities, and members of the public, that public entities are fairly reflecting the results of their activities in their annual reports.

The Auditor-General also keeps an eye on whether public entities are carrying out their activities effectively and efficiently, as well as on matters of waste, integrity, legislative compliance, and financial prudence in the public sector.

The Controller function

The Controller function supports the important constitutional principle that the Government cannot spend, borrow, or impose a tax without Parliament’s approval. The government can only spend money that Parliament has approved through what are known as "appropriations".

The Controller function provides independent assurance to Parliament that the expenses and capital expenditure of government departments and officers of Parliament are lawful and in the scope, amount, and period of the appropriation or other authority.

The main features of the Controller function are:

  • The Treasury must supply monthly statements to the Auditor-General to examine whether expenses and capital expenditure have been incurred in keeping with appropriations or other authority.
  • The Auditor-General can direct a Minister to report to the House of Representatives if the Auditor-General believes that any expenditure incurred is unlawful or applied for a purpose that is not in the scope, amount, or period of an appropriation or other statutory authority.
  • The Auditor-General can stop payments from a Crown bank account or a departmental bank account to prevent money from being used for a purpose that is unlawful or inconsistent with any appropriation or other statutory authority.

Page last updated: 13 April 2017

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