Our functions, duties, and powers

Functions and duties

The Controller and Auditor-General's functions and duties are described in the Public Audit Act 2001 and the Public Finance Act 1989. In short, the Controller function provides assurance that spending by government departments is in keeping with Parliament's expectations and funding amounts, the audit function is to audit every public entity annually, and the duty is to remain independent. 

The Auditor-General can, at any time, examine how effectively and efficiently a public entity is carrying out its activities. The Auditor-General can also inquire into anything related to how a public entity uses its resources. 

The Auditor-General has to report to Parliament at least once every calendar year, and can choose to report to a Minister, a committee of the House of Representatives, a public entity, or anyone else on any matter arising from the Auditor-General's work.

Powers to gather information

The Auditor-General’s information-gathering powers are extensive and designed to support the Auditor-General’s ability to report to anyone about how public money is used in New Zealand. The powers are set out in Part 4, sections 24 to 31, of the Public Audit Act 2001.

Public entities are obliged to give the Auditor-General access to the entity’s documents at all times. The Auditor-General has the power to request documents and information, and the entity has to produce them and be ready to provide explanations about them. If necessary, the Auditor-General has the right to enter and remain in any public entity’s premises (and can get a warrant for private premises).

If any information the Auditor-General wants about an entity is held by someone who isn’t employed by a public entity, the Auditor-General is still entitled to ask for and get it. 

The Auditor-General can interview people under oath and get warrants to enter private premises to recover documents about public entities. If we think money has fraudulently or wrongfully been paid to someone, we can get warrants to access personal bank accounts.

The Auditor-General’s ability to obtain information contains protections for people who might otherwise be breaching a requirement not to disclose that information.

Page last updated: 16 July 2018