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The limits of our role

Our work | Inquiries
it is important that people understand the limits of our role

In both audits and inquiries, our role is to investigate and to report our findings and our opinion. Our scrutiny and reporting helps hold public entities to account, and we can refer issues to other agencies for action. However, we do not have direct power to change what an entity is doing.

When people ask us to inquire into an issue, it is important that they understand the limits of our role. For example:

  • We cannot intervene in decisions that public entities are making, or the decision-making processes they are following.
  • We cannot injunct or stop activities or contracts.
  • We cannot make a binding judgement about the legality of actions.
  • We cannot order redress or other remedies, or overturn decisions.
  • We cannot direct a public entity to act on our findings or recommendations.

It is also not appropriate for us to take on the role of the entity or attempt to function as a court. Therefore:

  • We will not substitute our views for those of elected or appointed decision-makers on matters that are their responsibility (such as policy decisions by local authorities).
  • We cannot operate effectively as an appeal body for individual decisions that may be unpopular.
  • We cannot take on the judicial review function of the courts, by acting as a forum for detailed assessment of the legality of decision-making processes.

Page last updated: 12 January 2011

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Some of our work has been rewritten as case studies, designed to fit into the New Zealand Curriculum. We've also made a video about our role in the Parliamentary system. Check out auditor-general.parliament.nz to find out more...

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