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The Watchdog: New Zealand's Audit Office, 1840 to 2008

The Watchdog: New Zealand's Audit Office, 1840 to 2008

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In a global economic climate troubled by the consequences of a dearth of fiscal accountability and transparency, the importance of independent auditing bodies, whether in the public or private sector, is not to be underestimated. Today New Zealand is perceived as one of the world's least corrupt nations - ranking alongside Denmark and Finland - indicating a job well done by our national Audit Office in inspiring public confidence. Yet the government auditing function set up in 1840 was initially a 'timid creature'. The authors trace the Audit Office's rise and decline towards 'impotent irrelevance' before it was saved by the development of computers, which facilitated more targeted and searching methods of examination. This is an absorbing tale that moves from the teething problems of difficult origins in which 'the fulminations of Auditors-General were increasingly dismissed as nit-picking and legislated around - or ignored' to the brave new world of radical 'value for money' auditing in the 1970s. The public sector reforms of the 1980s saw questioning of the very need for an Audit Office - questions that the Office was by then well equipped to answer.