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Auditor-General's overview

Annual Report 2014/15.

This year, I asked my auditors and staff to be more explicit about how their work helps to build a stronger, more innovative public sector and to actively plan for that. We have seen growing impact from our work.

As part of our shared goal of improving scrutiny of the public sector, we carefully considered how best to support select committees in their work. Tailoring our reporting is working well, and most committee members have appreciated the greater focus on significant matters and reduced volume of information. Feedback from new members of Parliament, select committees, and Parliamentary staff has confirmed the value of our new ways of working and stronger collaborative relationships.

In line with our strategic goal for a stronger citizen focus, we explored ways to draw attention to aspects of our work and promote improvements in the public sector. Discussing our work with people up and down the country and using social media is increasing our engagement with New Zealanders. The questions posed through our report, Reflections from our audits: Service delivery, has encouraged discussion and debate about how well the public sector is providing services. Engaging with citizens, and drawing attention to improving public sector service delivery in preparation for the future, will remain a focus for my Office.

Challenges

My auditors have been preparing for changes to public sector reporting and accounting requirements. It is critical for trust in the New Zealand public sector that public entities are prepared for, and responsibly implement, these changes. Although many entities are on target to make the changes, some challenges remain.

For my auditors who audit local authorities, there was the additional challenge this year of auditing consultation documents and long-term plans. Local authorities reported well and made good steps in improving community participation in their planning processes. Christchurch City Council deserves special mention for its first consultation document and long-term plan since the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

As the public sector explores new ways of delivering public services, we need to adapt the way we audit. Our report, Whānau Ora: The first four years, had lessons for many public entities and taught us much about auditing innovation. Similarly, our performance audit on the Ministry for Primary Industries' Primary Growth Partnerships had useful lessons for the Ministry and for us.

As well as focusing on the public sector's performance, we continue to focus on our own performance. Audit New Zealand has worked hard to improve audit quality and, in line with the rest of the auditing profession, will continue on this path.

As well as these challenges, the demand for inquiries continues. We will use additional resources to establish a dedicated inquiries team to better meet the growing pressure of our inquiries workload.

Our people

Change is on the horizon. The Deputy Auditor-General, Phillippa Smith, has recently ended her term. She has played a critical role in a demanding position. Throughout her two periods with the Office – five years in the 1990s as Assistant Auditor-General Legal and the last 10 years as Deputy Auditor-General – Phillippa has made a significant contribution to the work of the Office. I am grateful for her wise counsel and support, and wish her well for the future.

This year, Nicola White, Assistant Auditor-General Legal, decided that it was time to make a change and move on. We were sad to see her depart. We have greatly appreciated her legal advice and her contribution to the many inquiries during the eight years she worked for the Office.

Bruce Robertson, Assistant Auditor-General Local Government, decided after 34 years with the Office to pursue other opportunities. Bruce has made a big contribution to the local government sector, and his skills and boundless energy will be missed by the Office and the sector.

Former staff featured in our commemorative book From auditor to soldier ‒ Stories of the men who served. Timed for release during the 100th anniversary commemorations for World War One, the book reflected on the lives of Audit Department staff who served in that war. We particularly valued the contributions to the book of some descendants of those men.

Independent review

As an independent Office, we have to ensure that the processes and systems we use to do our work are carefully and independently scrutinised. Although there are many people who help with the independent review of our work, I would particularly like to acknowledge the services of Sir David Gascoigne and the late John Marshall QC, who have reviewed our audit appointments and fee monitoring processes for the past few years. Sadly, due to declining health and his untimely death, John was only able to review our systems in 2013/14. I thank Sir David for carrying out this year's review.

International

Leading and participating in discussions with international colleagues helps to ensure that we can continue to influence, and adapt to, future change.

The Global Audit Leadership Forum (GALF) meeting is an annual two-day think-tank for the Auditors-General of certain developed countries. It was hosted this year by my Office, and delegates from 14 countries shared their views on how auditing might evolve in the future. The engaging discussions confirmed the value of the opportunity to reflect on and plan for the future.

My Office places importance on our international reputation and our contribution to the international auditing community. It was an honour for us to be chosen to chair one of the two meeting themes at the three-yearly Congress of the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions to be held in late 2016.

Concluding comments

Finally, I thank all my staff and audit service providers for their accomplishments this year. Their work has enabled my Office to provide assurance to Parliament and the public about the use of public resources and powers.

Signature - LP

Lyn Provost
Controller and Auditor-General

30 September 2015

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Report details

CoverAnnual Report 2014/15

ISSN 1179-8963