Profile: Auditor-General Kevin Brady

By Joanna Hunkin, Maggie Tait of NZPA

When Prime Minister Helen Clark recommended the appointment of Kevin Brady as Controller and Auditor-General she had no idea what she was letting herself in for.

The 58-year-old widower and father of five is now the cause of a post-election hangover for the Labour Government and other political parties after taking a hard-line on election spending rules.

In 2000, Mr Brady was appointed Deputy Controller and Auditor General when Wayne Cameron took a job in Australia.

He was appointed by the then Governor-General on the recommendation of Ms Clark.

Two years later the subsequent Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright appointed him Controller and Auditor-General - a job that saw him responsible for auditing public bodies and reporting findings to Parliament.

From 1971 Mr Brady had worked in the Audit Office in various roles.

He imbibed "a very strong set of values from those old timers in the office" a colleague once told the Sunday Star-Times.

"There aren't many of them left now, but there's a very strong sense of public service and of making sure you do the right thing."

He was described as a "Kiwi bloke who grew up in Oamaru" who was quiet and unassuming but would not be pushed around.

In the 1980s Mr Brady held regional directorships, with the Audit Office in several cities.

Mr Brady was a chartered accountant and had a Masters in Public Policy from Victoria University of Wellington. He was made a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants after writing several major reports on aspects of local government.

He also did work as secretary of the South Pacific Association of Supreme Audit Institutions.

In his report tabled today Mr Brady found $1.17 million of taxpayer-funded parliamentary funding was misspent overall.

Labour wrongly spent $768,000, New Zealand First spent $150,400, the Greens $80,900, United Future $63,800, ACT $17,800, National $11,300 and the Maori Party $48.

Mr Brady also strongly criticised Parliamentary Services in his report. Previously media noted he was as concerned as much by the way officials administered the payments system as the politicians for receiving them.

The report is a trend rather than a one-off punch from Mr Brady.

In 2004, he slammed New Zealand Trade and Enterprise's for the management of almost $50 million in business support grants as sloppy and inadequate.

Mr Brady said the administration of Strategic Investment Fund was particularly deficient.

Also, Mr Brady criticised Labour's Working for Families advertising last year.

Mr Brady, acting on a complaint from National MP Murray McCully, said the Government's process for costing the expensive advertising campaign lacked rigour.

"Overall, we would have expected a more robust process to be used, and for more detailed information to be available to support a budget bid for $21.15 million," Mr Brady said.

"The level of scrutiny by the Treasury, of the Communications Strategy budget, was less than we would expect for new expenditure of this magnitude."

In the end Labour reduced the spending on it to $15 million.

Now it is up to the Speaker Margaret Wilson and politicians to get their house in order. If they don't they can expect another Brady bombshell -- in March this year he said if MPs didn't tidy up election spending rules he would.

"If it doesn't happen and if I have to respond to complaints next election, before that happens I will have to set the rules."

But dealing with politicians' spending is clearly not an area Mr Brady sought.

Of his investigation into election spending he said: "To be perfectly honest it was an issue that I would rather have nothing to do with and if I thought someone else could have done it, I would have left it to them."

What does the Auditor-General do?

Brady's role as Auditor-General makes him an officer of Parliament, independent of executive government and appointed by the Governor-General.

It is the Auditor-General's job to audit all public sector organisations, reporting on their operations, performance and spending, thus helping to maintain their accountability to Parliament.

In 2003, Brady led the inquiry into the Pipi Foundation finances, uncovering former Act MP Awatere Huata's theft of more than $80,000 from the fund.

He was also behind the 2005 Te Wananga o Aotearoa audit, which found the tertiary institute was being grossly mismanaged and funds misappropriated.

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