Checks and balances
Officers of Parliament help ensure accountability of government
officials on behalf of the House of Representatives. To be effective
and credible in this role, Officers of Parliament must be independent
of the government. To ensure their independence:
- they are appointed by the Governor-General, on the recommendations
of the House
- they report directly to the House
- their salaries are met by permanent legislative authority and
do not require the approval of government
- requests for funding are reviewed by the Officers of Parliament
Committee, which is non-partisan and chaired by the Speaker of
- the Officers of Parliament Committee takes a lead in appointing
new Officers of Parliament.
In 2006 Officers of Parliament: Ombudsmen (John Belgrave and Beverly
Wakem), Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (Dr Morgan
Williams), Controller and Auditor-General (Kevin Brady) and Deputy
Controller and Auditor-General (Kevin Simpkins).
An Ombudsman is independent and impartial. Ombudsmen are not advocates
for either the complainant or the organisation concerned. Their
role is to impartially consider, after reviewing all of the evidence,
whether the correct decision has been made. They investigate complaints
about administrative actions (or failures to act) by government
officials that have adversely affected individuals. An Ombudsman
may also review requests for the release of official information
that have been declined.
The Ombudsmen have specific areas they are authorised to investigate.
These include complaints against any government department or organisation
at the central, regional or local levels of government administration.
Many actions taken by organisations such as health authorities,
school boards, universities and city or regional councils fall within
the Ombudsmen’s jurisdiction.
The Ombudsmen and their staff are required to maintain secrecy about
matters they learn in their investigation. The exception is where
the investigation cannot take place without information being disclosed.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has powers to
investigate and report on any matter where the environment may be,
or has been, adversely affected.
The Commissioner’s role includes:
- investigating whether environmental laws are working as intended
- investigating whether environmental planning and management
of public authorities is achieving the right outcomes
- advising Parliament and government on environmental issues
- providing information to interested parties and the public
and facilitating good environmental decisions.
The Controller and Auditor-General and the Deputy Controller and
Auditor-General play a key role as agents of Parliament in helping
maintain accountability in the public sector.
The main parts of this role are:
- providing opinions on whether the accounts prepared by public
bodies fairly reflect their performance
- providing information to Parliament, in particular parliamentary
select committees, so Parliament is able to oversee the way the
executive uses resources – resources that are ultimately
owned by citizens.
Matters regularly reported on are:
- whether agreed goals and objectives have been reached
- whether government powers have been properly exercised
- whether resources have been used effectively and efficiently.
Find out more!
Tel: 0800 802 602, or:
Auckland, 5th floor, 17 Albert St
Tel: (09) 379 6102; Fax: (09) 377 6537
Wellington, PO Box 10 152, Wellington
Tel: (04) 473 9533; Fax: (04) 471 2254
Christchurch, PO Box 13 482, Christchurch
Tel: (03) 366 8555; Fax: (03) 365 7935
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE)
PO Box 10 241, Wellington,
Tel: (04) 471 1669; Fax: (04) 495 8350
Controller and Auditor-General
Private Box 3928, Wellington
Tel: (04) 917 1500 Fax: (04) 917 1509