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Audit Office independence strengthened

23 July 2001 Media Statement

Audit Office independence strengthened

There will be a small function today to mark the responsibility for the Audit Office transferring to Parliament and its new powers to investigate crown entities.

From 1 July 2001 the Controller and Auditor-General only reports to the Speaker of the House and not to a Minister of the Crown. The Auditor-General can also decide to do an 'efficiency and effectiveness' audit on any entity within his mandate, including a state-owned enterprise.

The changes are the result of an Act that received assent in April 2001 which made a number of changes including increased powers for the Auditor-General.

"I welcome this transfer of responsibility and accountability as it clearly demonstrates to everyone the integrity of the functions of the Controller and Auditor-General to scrutinise the work of the Government and other public bodies, free from political interference," said the Speaker Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt.

The Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton, who was responsible for the Auditor-General until the transfer, supported and facilitated the change in order to strengthen the office and the role of the Auditor-General.

"A major achievement of this change is that the Audit Office can now decide to review the 'efficiency and effectiveness' of government agencies to ensure public money is being spent as appropriately as possible.

"In opposition the Alliance called for clearer independence for the Auditor-General, an issue politicians had been procrastinating over for ten years. This Labour AlIiance Coalition Government has strengthened and protected the independence of the Auditor-General and we have done it in timely fashion," said Jim Anderton.

Other changes the Act has made include:
- Fully implementing the recommendations of the 1998 Finance and Expenditure (FEC) Inquiry into Audit Office legislation.
- Fully implementing the 1989 FEC report on Officers of Parliament.
- Enabling the Auditor-General’s annual plan to be consulted with the Speaker and a committee of the House of Representatives before it is tabled.
- Ensuring that the relationship between Parliament and the Auditor-General is co-operative rather than through direction.

ENDS

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