The Office of the Auditor General of Nova Scotia is established by the Auditor General Act. The Auditor General is appointed pursuant to this Act which gives him his mandate, including the authority to carry out prescribed examination and reporting duties.
The Auditor General is an officer of the House of Assembly, appointed by the House for a ten-year term. He is responsible to the House and to the people of Nova Scotia for providing independent and objective assurance concerning the operations of government, the use of public funds and the integrity of financial and performance reports. As an independent non-partisan officer of the House, he and his Office help to hold the government to account for its management of public funds and contribute to a well-performing public sector.
The Auditor General Act stipulates that the Auditor General shall:
- provide an annual opinion on the government's financial statements;
- provide an opinion on the revenue estimates in the government's annual budget address;
- examine the management, use and control of public funds; and
- report to the House at least once, and up to three times annually, on the work of the Office.
The Office's mandate is to audit all parts of the provincial public sector including government departments, agencies, boards, commissions, and other bodies responsible to the Crown, including school boards, district health authorities and transfer payment recipients external to the provincial public sector.
The Office provides two principal services to the House. Firstly, it issues independent opinions on government financial reports. Secondly, it conducts performance audits on public sector operations.
Modern performance auditing assesses issues of governance, as well as value for money (economy, efficiency and effectiveness), internal control and compliance, either for an organization as a whole or for a specific program, process or project. As public awareness of the importance of governance has developed in recent years, auditors now focus more attention on issues of corporate objectives, corporate ethics, accountability, risk management and organizational direction.
Audits seek not only to identify significant issues but provide, where possible, practical recommendations to improve the management of the public sector. Accordingly, the Office's performance audits provide assessments of, and advice on, the extent to which:
- governance frameworks provide appropriate direction, control and accountability;
- value for money is achieved;
- public funds and property are properly managed and accounted for; and,
- legislation and government policies are complied with.
In its work, the Office of the Auditor General is guided by, and complies with, the professional standards established by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada. The Office also seeks guidance from other professional bodies and audit-related best practices in other jurisdictions.