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Our inquiry process

Our work | Inquiries
We do not provide public updates on progress or the substance of what we are doing, because this can hamper our work.

We will acknowledge that we have received your request within a few days.

If your concern is not suitable for an Auditor-General's inquiry, then we will reply to let you know that we cannot look at it. Where we can, we will redirect you to another agency. We aim to let you know within 30 days whether it is an issue we can consider.

We classify the matters we can look at into three categories – routine, significant, and major – depending on how serious the issues are and how much work is involved.

Routine inquiries

A routine inquiry involves straightforward issues and can often be carried out by a review of documents or through correspondence and discussion with the entity. Often, we will carry out enough preliminary work to understand the problem and gain assurance that the issues are or will be addressed by those directly responsible.

A routine inquiry will usually not result in a published report. We always advise the correspondent of our conclusions and the reasons for them, and in some cases we advise the public entity of the matter.

We aim to complete routine matters within 3 months.

Significant and major inquiries

Significant and major inquiries involve more complex issues that require in-depth work. We usually review the public entity’s files and may formally interview people.

We will usually report the results publicly, as well as advising the correspondent of our conclusions.

We aim to complete most significant inquiries within 6 months and major inquiries within a year.

Opportunity to comment

Before we finalise our views, we usually provide the people involved with an opportunity to comment. We do this to make sure that:

  • we understand the facts; and
  • people directly affected by our views have the opportunity to comment on the conclusions we have reached – this is called “natural justice”.

The process we use and how long it takes can vary, and depend on what’s required in each inquiry. People get the opportunity to comment confidentially. This is important, so we don’t usually discuss whether we have asked people to comment or who those people are.

More on confidentiality

When a public sector employee raises a matter with us under the Protected Disclosures Act 2000, we are obliged to protect that person’s identity.

As a matter of policy, we apply the same approach to all the requests we receive. We think it is important that people should be able to ask us to look at whether a public entity is using its resources properly without fear or reprisal.

There are times when it is not possible to investigate a matter properly without it becoming obvious who has raised it. In such cases we will check with the correspondent before we proceed.

Given the confidential nature of most of our work, the Official Information Act 1982 does not apply to the Auditor-General. Instead, the Public Audit Act 2001 gives us a discretion on what information we will publicly release.

Our policy on public and media comment on current inquiries

If we receive a media query, we will confirm that we have received a request and that we are looking into an issue. For major inquiries, we will usually release public terms of reference.

However, we carry out inquiries in private. We do not provide public updates on progress or the substance of what we are doing, because this can hamper our work.

In each case, we decide what information we should release at the end of an inquiry about our findings and conclusions. For significant inquiries, we often publish our findings on our website. For major inquiries, we will usually publish a report and table it in Parliament.

Page last updated: 1 November 2016

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