What the Auditor-General can and cannot do

MPs' guide to the Auditor-General.

No private entities

The Auditor-General can only inquire into the actions of public entities. The Auditor-General cannot inquire into private organisations, including organisations that may have received funding from a public entity. However, the Auditor-General can look at the activities of a public entity that is contracting with or directly funding a private entity, and how the public entity has monitored the private entity’s use of public funds.

No policy decisions

The Auditor-General does not have any authority to question matters of government policy or local authority policy. Making policy decisions is a job for elected representatives. For example, where a government or a local authority has decided to acquire or dispose of a particular asset, the Auditor-General could consider how well the public entity had implemented that decision in keeping with the applicable policy, or whether the decision-making process met relevant standards (rather than whether it should or should not have acquired or disposed of the asset).

No judicial function

The Auditor-General does not have a judicial function, so cannot make findings on whether a public entity has acted lawfully or whether someone is culpable for a particular action. The Auditor-General can express an opinion, but cannot overturn a public entity’s decisions or actions; that is for the courts to decide through the judicial review process. The Auditor-General cannot provide any redress or remedies for particular concerns.

No executive function

The Auditor-General cannot direct a public entity to act on findings or recommendations.

Exemption from the Official Information Act

Although the Auditor-General is not subject to the Official Information Act 1982, the Office provides information about how the organisation is run in the same way as other public sector organisations do. The Public Audit Act protects the confidentiality of the Auditor-General’s investigative and assurance work.