Principle SIX –
The freedom to decide the content and timing of audit reports and to publish and disseminate them
SAIs should have the freedom to decide the content and timing of their audit reports.
It is expected that:
1. SAIs should be free to have the freedom to decide the content and timing of their audit reports;
2. SAIs should be free disseminate their reports to the public; and
3. SAIs should be free to brief and interact with the public and media on the content of their audit reports.
1. Legislative examples of freedom to decide content and timing of audit reports
12A(1) In performing or exercising the Auditor-General's functions or powers, the Auditor-General:
(a) is not subject to the direction of any person; and
(b) must act independently, impartially and in the public interest.
(2) Without limiting subsection (1), the Auditor-General is not subject to direction in relation to any of the following:
(a) the type of audit to be performed;
(b) how an audit is to be performed;
(c) whether a report on an audit is to be made;
(d) what is to be included, or not included, in a report;
(e) the priority of matters to be considered(Audit Act Northern Territory of Australia)
Report on audit
54(1) The auditor-general may prepare a report on any audit conducted under this Act.
(2) An authorised auditor, other than the auditor-general, must give the auditor-general a report on every audit conducted by the authorised auditor.
(3) A report under subsection (1) or (2) may contain observations and suggestions about anything arising out of the audit.
(4) If the auditor-general considers that observations or suggestions made under subsection (3) require attention or further consideration, the auditor-general must give them, and any comments on them—
(a) if they arose out of an audit of the consolidated fund accounts—to the Treasurer and any other person whom the auditor-general considers to have a special interest in the report; or
(b) if they arose out of an audit of a department—to the accountable officer of the department and any other person whom the auditor-general considers to have a special interest in the report (Auditor-General Act 2009 Queensland)
Independence of Auditor-General
10 (1) The Auditor-General is authorised and required to act independently in relation to the performance of the functions of the Auditor-General and, subject to this Act and other written laws, has complete discretion in the performance of those functions.
(2) In particular, the Auditor-General is not subject to direction from anyone in relation to –
(a) whether or not a particular audit is to be conducted; or
(b) the way in which a particular audit is to be conducted; or
(c) whether or not a particular report is to be made; or
(d) what is to be included in a particular report; or
(e) the priority to be given to any particular matter (Audit Act 2008 Tasmania)
It is usual for SAIs to be able to determine the content and timing of their audit reports.
There can be practical impediments to timely audit reports. This is especially a problem when audit arrears arise, either because of delays in preparing financial statements for audit or due to a lack of capacity or resources to complete an effective and timely audit.
SAIs can improve the timeliness of audit reports by, for example, undertaking audits for multiple years at the same time.