This paper briefly outlines the functions performed by the Auditor-General, the significance of the Auditor-General’s independence, and some possible issues for the new Auditor-General.
Following the appointment in June 2015 of Mr Grant Hehir to a ten-year term as the Commonwealth’s Auditor-General, this paper briefly outlines the functions performed by the Auditor-General, the significance of the Auditor-General’s independence, and some possible issues for the new Auditor-General.
In a Westminster-style governance framework, the Auditor-General assists the Parliament by scrutinising and reporting on the performance and actions of the Executive. To perform the role effectively, an Auditor-General requires independence from the Executive.
In the Commonwealth of Australia, the office of Auditor-General was created in 1901 by the fourth piece of legislation passed by Parliament, and has existed continuously since then. The Auditor‑General Act 1997 (Cth) sets out the main functions and powers of the Auditor-General and, in combination with the Public Accounts and Audit Committee Act 1951 (Cth), ensures that the Parliament has a role in the Auditor-General’s appointment, funding and work program.
The Auditor-General’s role does not extend to commenting on the merits of government policy, but mainly focuses on financial statement audits, and performance audits that assess the extent to which programs have been implemented efficiently and effectively, and in accordance with legislation and government policy.
As an Officer of the Parliament, the Auditor-General’s primary relationship with the Parliament is with the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA). The JCPAA has a statutory duty to examine all reports of the Auditor‑General that are tabled in Parliament.
In the short and medium term, the evolution of governance, performance and accountability frameworks under the Public Management Reform Agenda, including those promulgated under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (Cth), presents a changing and challenging environment for the Auditor-General, and the organisations audited by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).
Commonwealth of Australia 2015, Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 3.0 Australia licence