Raising concerns about a public organisation

Although we're not a complaints agency, we welcome the information and concerns that people share with us about public organisations that they have been dealing with.

We carefully read all information sent to us to assess how it might be relevant to our work and what response is needed. We encourage people to raise their concerns with the public organisation before they raise those concerns with us.

We may refer some matters to others

Some matters are not for us to respond to. The legislation that establishes our Office gives us clear statutory roles and powers, but also makes it clear that some matters are for other agencies to deal with. If we can't help you, we will tell you who can.

How we use information

Information from the public gives us more insight into possible risks or community concerns about particular public organisations. This helps us to ask the right questions when we plan and carry out our regular audit work.

We also use information sent to us to build our understanding of emerging themes and issues in the public sector. This helps us when we are making decisions about our longer-term work programme. Most of our work is annual audits, and we choose the topics for our other work carefully.

Sometimes, the information sent to us can lead to a performance audit or an inquiry.

When we receive information, we:

  • make sure that the right staff have appropriate access to it;
  • might gather a bit more information to make sure that we understand the matter properly, for example, by getting some background papers from the public organisation;
  • decide whether we need to include anything new in any of our current audit or project work;
  • take account of the matter in our planning for future years;
  • refer the matter to other accountability, monitoring, or policy agencies, if they are better placed to deal with it; and
  • respond to the person who wrote to us.

Our response to people who raise concerns with us

When we write back to people, we express thanks for the information and summarise how we are intending to respond. Sometimes, we can also provide some additional information, answer a question, or clarify something directly for the person who wrote to us.

Wherever possible and appropriate, we’ll suggest how someone could pursue the matter – for example, by referring them to a public consultation process, a specific complaints process, or suggesting that they seek personal legal advice.

Normally, we won't disclose the identity of people who write to us (or any identifying details). We will only do so if the person has agreed to that or has already talked about the matter publicly. All our audit staff are used to working with confidential information. 

What we can't or won't do

We don’t duplicate the work of other accountability agencies or appeal mechanisms. That means we're unlikely to look into:

  • the detail of individual complaints or problems – that's the job of the Ombudsman;
  • allegations of criminal conduct within public organisations – that's the job of the Police and the Serious Fraud Office;
  • general questions about whether a public organisation is behaving lawfully – we can’t give definitive rulings or do the job of the legal system and the courts;
  • complaints about general political conduct – in the end, voting is the accountability mechanism for politicians’ behaviour.

Our legislation is clear that we can't look into policy decisions that belong to a public organisation. We can check whether a policy is being implemented well, but it is not the auditor’s job to debate whether it was a good policy in the first place.

Many people write to us when controversial issues are being discussed, hoping that we will get involved to influence the organisation’s decision-making. Examples include when councils are consulting their communities as they prepare their long-term plans or make significant decisions, or when an organisation is considering a significant change in direction or structure.

In these situations, we’ll note the information and perspective you’ve provided, but we are likely to write back to you to explain how you can contribute to the proper decision-making process.

How to raise concerns with us

Please write to us. We need:

  • to fully and accurately understand your concerns;
  • to pass information on accurately to the staff who will use it; and
  • a record that we can refer back to.

Please include as much detail as you can, including a factual description of the context and your specific concerns, the steps you've taken to raise your concerns with the organisation (including who you've been in contact with and the outcome), and copies of any correspondence or documents that would be helpful to us. 

You can write to us at: 

Office of the Auditor-General
PO Box 3928
Wellington 6140

We will acknowledge your letter when we get it, and give you a full response once we've had a chance to consider the issues. 

Page last updated: 13 February 2023