12 August 2011

Transparency International has widespread recognition for the credibility of its research into corruption and its advocacy of processes that support good government.  TI has expanded substantially since its foundation – driven by a New Zealand executive director – and the publication of the first Corruption Perceptions Index in 1996.

Important resources in TI’s research repository are the surveys of national integrity systems which comprehensively analyse  a country’s integrity infrastructure.  These are an evaluation of 13 institutional pillars which support the rule of law, and ensure sustainability and the quality of life.  The pillars represent the checks and balances that protect against the misuse of power.  The existence of powerful, effective, apolitical audit institutions is one of the pillars.  Good government , economic efficiency and a healthy democracy will not be possible otherwise.

The Office of the Auditor General is New Zealand’s principal audit institution. It was rated highly in the New Zealand NIS prepared in 2003. The OAG plays a major role in the promotion of integrity.  Its 2011 Statement of Intent represents the OAG’s outcomes, impacts and outputs in a triangular diagram, with the apex being a “trusted public sector”.     These are achieved if the 4000 agencies in the public sector maintain high standards of trustworthiness.

This week the Auditor General published guidance on the appointment of public sector auditors.  These are the professional contractors engaged to assess and scrutinise the compliance of agencies with their statements of intent and the way public money has been spent.  These audits are broader than the standard commercial undertaking and may examine whether a public sector agency:

  •  fairly reflects results in their annual reports;
  • complies with statutory obligations;
  • operates effectively and efficiently;
  • is being wasteful through any act or omission;
  • shows any sign of a lack of probity by acts of the entity or anyone working for it;
  • shows any sign of financial imprudence through acts of the entity or anyone working for it.

Each is a component of the statutory responsibility that agencies are managed in an efficient, effective and economical way, and that the conduct of their employees reflects the Cabinet Manual obligation to be fair, impartial, responsible and trustworthy.