Part 2: Our value to New Zealanders

Assessing the performance of the Office of the Auditor-General against International Standards.

In this Part, we assess the value of our activities and how we are making a difference to the lives of New Zealanders. We focus on the effects of delivering high-quality audit work and the effectiveness of efforts to make our work accessible.

New Zealand benefits from a strong public financial management system, which can be easy to take for granted. The vast majority of public sector entities in New Zealand understand the importance of transparency and accountability, and the importance of completing annual financial reporting to a high standard in a timely way. They are also largely receptive to the recommendations made by auditors to further improve their reporting and operational effectiveness and efficiency.

This means that New Zealand public sector auditors can operate at a higher level than colleagues in countries where achieving these fundamentals can be challenging. For most New Zealanders, the value of audit intervention is primarily to confirm their expectation that public sector entities are accountable.

We also seek to put benefit to New Zealanders at the forefront of how we decide to focus our discretionary work. We consider our ability to influence the public sector and the services citizens receive when selecting performance audit and other review topics during our work programme planning process and also when determining whether to do an inquiry.

We are increasingly engaging with New Zealanders to understand, first-hand, their concerns and areas of interest. In 2014, we carried out research to understand what people know and think about the purpose of the Auditor-General and what we do.

We recently ran a citizen panel to contribute to our 2016/17 work programme, which focuses on the use of information in the public sector. We asked about information gaps and accessibility issues from a public and user perspective. We plan to use citizen panels further when developing future work programmes and other Office initiatives.

The Office has put emphasis on maintaining effective websites for the Office of the Auditor-General and Audit New Zealand. Both websites meet all the criteria set out in the New Zealand e-government guidelines.

The Auditor-General, the Deputy Auditor-General, and other staff are available through the “staff as ambassadors” programme to meet with groups in the community to discuss the Office’s work. We also use social media platforms to quickly provide information to the public and the media, and to receive their responses.

We have put a great deal of resource into ensuring that our publications are of the highest standard and have won a national award for plain English reporting.11 Our focus is on ensuring that reporting is clear and concise so that the work of the Office is accessible.

The introduction of theme-based work programmes and annual reflections reports, which draw together the findings from each year’s theme, is another example of how we are working to demonstrate the relevance of our work to citizens and stakeholders. The recent survey response from the Parliamentary select committee chairs (see paragraph 1.50) further confirms the value stakeholders receive from our work.

We have received feedback from public sector entities that the recommendations made in our performance audit reports helped them to address issues they were grappling with. An example of this is feedback we received in September 2016 after we released a performance audit report about complaints management processes in a local authority. An official in a government department noted that the criteria contained in the report was valuable for that department’s review of these processes.

We also regularly receive feedback on the wider effect of our work. For example, in August 2016, the Ministry of Health reported that it had contracted the Auckland University of Technology to evaluate whether changes made to auditing processes had improved outcomes for people living in residential aged care facilities. The improvements made were in response to our 2009 report, Effectiveness of Arrangements to check the standard of service provided in rest homes. The evaluation identified the positive results of the changes, leading to improved outcomes for people living in aged care facilities.12

11: WriteMark New Zealand Plain English Awards, Plain English Champion – Best Organisation, 2010.

12: See