The Auditor-General for Australia is an independent officer of the Parliament with responsibility under the Auditor-General Act 1997 for auditing Commonwealth entities and reporting to the Australian Parliament. The Auditor-General is supported by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).

The office of Auditor-General is a ten year statutory appointment made by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister. In recognition of the Auditor-General’s status as an officer of the Parliament, the Australian Parliament’s Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA) must approve any proposed recommendation for appointment.

Auditor-General’s functions

Under the Auditor-General Act 1997, the Auditor-General’s functions include:

  • auditing the financial statements of Commonwealth entities, Commonwealth companies (including government business enterprises) and their subsidiaries;
  • conducting performance audits, assurance reviews or audits of the performance measures, of Commonwealth entities and Commonwealth companies and their subsidiaries, other than government business enterprises; 
  • conducting a performance audit of a Commonwealth partner as described in section 18B of the Act; 
  • providing other audit services as required by other legislation or allowed under section 20 of the Act; and
  • reporting directly to the Parliament on any matter or to a minister on any important matter.

Annual financial statements audits, including the audit of the Australian Government’s consolidated financial statements, are mandated functions of the Auditor-General. The Act provides the Auditor-General with discretion in the performance of other functions.

As an independent officer of the Parliament, the Auditor-General has complete discretion in the performance or exercise of the functions or powers. In exercising the mandated and discretionary functions and powers, the Auditor-General is not subject to direction from anyone in relation to:

  • whether or not a particular audit is to be conducted;
  • the way in which a particular audit is to be conducted; or
  • the priority to be given to any particular matter.

In the exercise of the functions or powers, the Auditor-General must, however, have regard to the audit priorities of the Parliament, as determined by the JCPAA.

The Auditor-General discloses publicly any expenses incurred to ensure transparency. The Auditor-General’s expenses are disclosed every six months.

Grant Hehir

Grant Hehir commenced his term as Auditor-General for Australia on 11 June 2015.

Before his appointment as Auditor-General for Australia, Grant served as the Auditor-General of New South Wales (NSW) between November 2013 and June 2015. He worked for the State Government of Victoria between 1998 and 2013 in a number of senior roles including as Secretary of the Department of Treasury and Finance and the Department of Education and Training.

Grant has also worked in senior executive roles within the Commonwealth Department of Finance. He is a fellow of CPA Australia and the Institute of Public Administration Australia.

History

When the first Commonwealth Parliament assembled in Melbourne in May 1901, its immediate task was to begin building the necessary institutions of national government. The fourth Act passed by the Parliament was the Audit Act 1901, which created the office of the Auditor-General.

The Auditor-General was intended to be an independent and impartial public official who could scrutinise Commonwealth administration and give true assessments on the state of the public accounts without intimidation by government or other vested interests. The role of the Auditor-General was seen as fundamental to good government.

The Auditor-General Act 1997 took effect on 1 January 1998 and replaced the Audit Act 1901.

Over time, the provisions of the Auditor-General’s enabling legislation have been amended to ensure that the role of the Auditor-General remains appropriate for the modern public sector environment. The Auditor-General’s mandate has expanded to encompass the audits of the financial statements of all Australian Government entities and performance audits of public sector programs and entities, including Commonwealth Partners. The Auditor-General was made an independent officer of the Parliament on the recommendation of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.

In 2001 the ANAO celebrated 100 years as a Commonwealth institution. To commemorate this milestone the ANAO commissioned a documented history, entitled From Accounting to Accountability: A Centenary History of the Australian National Audit Office.

Commonwealth Auditors-General from John William Israel to Grant Hehir

  • John William Israel (1902–1926)
  • Charles John Cerutty (1926–1935)
  • Herbert Charles Brown (1935–1938)
  • Ralph Abercrombie (1938–1946)
  • Albert Charles Joyce (1946–1951)
  • James Brophy (1951–1955)
  • Harold Clive Newman (1955–1961)
  • Victor John William Skermer (1961–1973)
  • Duncan Robert Steele Craik (1973–1981)
  • Keith Frederick Brigden (1981–1985)
  • John Vincent Monaghan (1985–1987)
  • John Casey Taylor (1988–1995)
  • Patrick Joseph Barrett (1995–2005)
  • Ian McPhee (2005–2015)
  • Grant Hehir (2015–Present)