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NSW Auditor-General - Auditing For The Public Sector

02 Nov 2009

In his role as NSW Auditor-General Peter Acherstraat holds close to 500 public sector organisations, including the University of Sydney, to account. The volume and variety of the organisations under his watchful eye, surprised many in the audience.

But recently at the University of Sydney Mr Acherstraat turned the tables and invited questions about his role and operations, as part of a special lecture presentation to auditing and assurance undergraduates.

The NSW Auditor-General is an independent Officer of the NSW Parliament, appointed under legislation to examine, on behalf of Parliament and NSW taxpayers, the management of resources within the public sector.

The Auditor-General is not subject to control or direction by either Parliament or the Government.

In his special lecture presentation on "Public Sector Auditing" Mr Acherstraat explained to students the reasons for the independence of his role; the scope of his role; term limits; and why materiality thresholds were lower for public sector concerns, public servant accountability for public funds.

But Mr Acherstraat said the main message he wanted to convey was a basic principle that applied to the whole auditing profession, across both the public and private sectors.

"If there is one message I hope you take away from today it is that to be a good auditor you have to understand the business you are auditing," Mr Acherstraat urged students.

Mr Acherstraat said that once a fortnight he visited organisations he audited, to understand their business operations and their special characteristics. The diverse range of public sector organisations meant he spent time at places as diverse as prisons and desalination plants.

Accounting lecturer Eric Clubb thanked the NSW Auditor-General for offering students his insights saying: "…there is no one more qualified to give an insight into this process".