Who is the Controller and Auditor-General?

About the Controller and Auditor-General.

Martin MatthewsThe Controller and Auditor-General (the Auditor-General) is responsible for auditing all of New Zealand’s public entities. 

The current Auditor-General is Martin Matthews. Martin’s focus is to improve the performance of, and public trust in, the public sector.

The Auditor-General is an officer of Parliament1 and has been in place since the 1840s. The current role and functions of an Auditor-General are set out in the Public Audit Act 2001 and the Public Finance Act 1989.

As an officer of Parliament, the Auditor-General is independent of central and local government.

The Auditor-General is sometimes referred to as a “public watchdog”. That’s because the Auditor-General acts as a check and balance on the public sector.

The Auditor-General has two functions – Auditor-General (the audit function) and the Controller.

Why is there an Auditor-General?

Parliament authorises all government spending and provides public entities with their statutory powers.

Public entities, including local government, are accountable for their use of public resources and the powers that Parliament gives them. Parliament seeks independent assurance from the Auditor-General that public entities are operating and accounting for their performance in the way Parliament intended.

It is not part of the Auditor-General’s mandate to question the policies of the government or local authorities. Policies are determined by democratically elected representatives of New Zealanders. However, the Auditor-General can report on how those policies are implemented. 

How does the Auditor-General maintain independence?

To be effective and credible, the Auditor-General and his staff must be independent of the public entities being audited. To ensure independence, the Public Audit Act 2001 provides that the Auditor-General:

  • is an officer of Parliament and can report directly to Parliament and anyone else;
  • reports to the Officers of Parliament Committee, which is chaired by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
  • is appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the House of Representatives for a single term of no more than seven years;
  • has a Deputy who is also an officer of Parliament and can perform all the functions and exercise all the powers of the Auditor-General;
  • is paid by Parliament, with the amount determined independently by the Remuneration Authority; and
  • makes any requests for funding directly to Parliament (rather than through the Executive Government).

Auditors are appointed by the Auditor-General to carry out annual financial audits on the Auditor-General’s behalf. Appointed auditors must also be independent. The Auditor-General’s auditing standards put strict constraints on appointed auditors, including:

  • personal involvement with an audited entity (such as between family members);
  • financial involvement with the entity (such as financial investments);
  • providing other services to the entity (such as carrying out valuations); and
  • doing other work for the entity.

1: Parliament makes laws and holds the Executive Government to account for its policies, actions, and spending. Parliament consists of the Sovereign (represented in New Zealand by the Governor-General) and the House of Representatives (comprising all elected Members of Parliament). There are three officers of Parliament: the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

Page last updated: 13 April 2017

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