Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Accounting and Finance


With more than thirty years’ experience in performance audit, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) is recognised, worldwide, as a leading exponent of this relatively new state audit practice. Using archival and empirical sources, this thesis examines the credibility of the ANAO’s performance audit function at both a macro, institutional level and at the level of micro practice. Credibility, as defined in this thesis, is a relative construct that consists of three elements: auditor independence, technical competence and audit usefulness. The thesis demonstrates that while ANAO performance audit possesses a high degree of credibility at the macro, institutional level, its micro-level credibility remains problematic. At this level there are numerous challenges to its credibility, including the mobility of employment opportunity between the ANAO and its auditee agencies, the ability of auditee staff to delay, manipulate and otherwise frustrate the evidence-gathering process, and varying perceptions of its usefulness. Also challenging for performance audit credibility is the lack of a clearly-defined knowledge base and professional identity for performance audit. This creates problems for staff recruitment, training and development, and undermines the capacity of the ANAO’s performance auditors to withstand external pressure. The major conclusion of this thesis is that, if ANAO performance audit is indeed a form of auditing and not a misnomer as Barzelay(1997) suggests, then there are aspects of its credibility, as assessed against the criteria of auditor independence, technical competence and audit usefulness, that require attention.

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