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About us > History of the Audit Commission
About us

History of the Audit Commission

The necessity for an audit presence was recognised in the very early days of Hong Kong. The Audit Commission (known as Audit Department before 1 July 1997) is one of the oldest government departments in Hong Kong. The first Director of Audit (known as Auditor General at that time) was appointed in 1844. The current incumbent, Mr. SUN Tak-kei, David, BBS, JP, took up the post as the 23rd Director of Audit in July 2012. The duties and powers of the Director of Audit are stipulated in the Audit Ordinance (Cap. 122) which was enacted in December 1971. On 1 July 1997, pursuant to the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, the Audit Commission was established and the Director of Audit became one of the principal officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).

The pre-1997 era

The post-1997 era


The pre-1997 era

The early colonial years

2. Hong Kong has been part of China since ancient times. It was occupied by Britain after the Opium War in 1840. Mr. A. E. Shelley, the first Director of Audit, was appointed in 1844. He functioned locally in Hong Kong reporting to the then Commissioners for Colonial Accounts in the United Kingdom.

3. From 1867, the accounts of colonies were audited by the local governments concerned, subject to an audit by the Comptroller and Auditor-General in London under certain circumstances. In May 1910, the Colonial Audit Department was established, which consisted of a small central establishment in London, and establishments in colonies. All these establishments were under the supervision of the then Director of Colonial Audit. In 1947, the title of the Director was changed to Director General, and the title of his representative in charge of a territorial audit department was changed to Director of Audit.

4. At the end of 1971, the office of the Director General was abolished and the central establishment in London was closed. It was decided that the responsibility for audit in dependent territories should rest with the head of the territorial audit department (i.e. the Director of Audit). Each territory was asked to enact legislation to give effect to this decision.
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Enactment of the Audit Ordinance

5. A key milestone in the development of public auditing in Hong Kong was the enactment of the Audit Ordinance in December 1971. The Audit Ordinance provides for the appointment, tenure of office, duties and powers of the Director of Audit and for the auditing of and reporting on the public accounts. Under the Ordinance, the Director of Audit is the external auditor of the accounts of the Government. He has wide powers of access to the records of departments and he can require any public officer to give an explanation and to furnish such information as he thinks fit to enable him to discharge his duties. In the performance of his duties and the exercise of his powers under the Ordinance, the Director of Audit is not subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.
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Establishment of the Public Accounts Committee

6. In 1978, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was established as a standing committee of the Legislative Council (LegCo) to consider the reports of the Director of Audit on the accounts of the Government, on such other accounts required to be laid before LegCo and on any matter incidental to the performance of the Director of Audit's duties as the PAC may think fit. The establishment of the PAC was an important milestone in the development of public accountability in Hong Kong.

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The Value for Money Audit Guidelines

7. With the expansion of the scope of government audit in Hong Kong to cover value for money (VFM) issues of managing public funds, a set of VFM Audit Guidelines was agreed in 1986 between the PAC and the Director of Audit and accepted by the Government. This set of guidelines was tabled in LegCo by the Chairman of the PAC in November 1986. The promulgation of the VFM Audit Guidelines set another important milestone in the development of public accountability in Hong Kong.

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The post-1997 era

The Basic Law and the establishment of the Audit Commission

8. Since China's resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong on 1 July 1997, Hong Kong has become a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China. According to Article 58 of the Basic Law, a Commission of Audit shall be established in the HKSAR, which shall function independently and be accountable to the Chief Executive of the HKSAR. Consequently, the former Audit Department was renamed the Audit Commission with effect from 1 July 1997. The post title of the Director of Audit in Chinese was also changed from “核數署署長” to “審計署署長” with effect from the same date.
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The new Value for Money Audit Guidelines

9. In 1998, a revised set of VFM Audit Guidelines was tabled in the Provisional Legislative Council by the Chairman of the PAC. This new set of guidelines was agreed between the PAC and the Director of Audit and accepted by the Government of the HKSAR.
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Directors of Audit to date

10. The past and present incumbents of the post of Director of Audit (formerly also known as Auditor General or Auditor) are listed below:

Auditors General  
1 Adolphus Edward Shelley 1844 - 1846
2 William Caine, Lieut-Col 1846 - 1854
3 William Thomas Mercer 1854 - 1858
4 William Hepburn Rennie 1858 - 1870
5 John Gardiner Austin 1870 - 1879
6 William Henry Marsh, CMG 1879 - 1887
7 Frederick Stewart, LL.D 1887 - 1890
Auditors  
8 Hilgrove Clement Nicolle 1890 - 1904
9 Hugh Richard Phelips 1904 - 1930
10 Percival Lorimer Collisson, OBE 1930 - 1938
11 Arnold Pollard 1938 - 1948
Directors of Audit  
12 Percival Henry Jennings, CBE 1948 - 1955
13 Frank Ernest Lovell Carter, CBE 1955 - 1959
14 William John Dupre Cooper, CBE 1959 - 1965
15 Denis George Britton, OBE 1965 - 1970
16 Percy Thomas Warr 1970 - 1975
17 Gordon Evershed Lyth, OBE 1975 - 1982
18 Norman Bertram Stalker, OBE 1982 - 1988
19 Robert Jeffrey Hutt, OBE 1988 - 1992
20 Brian George Jenney, OBE 1992 - 1995
21 CHAN Yin-tat, Dominic, SBS, JP 1995 - 2003
22 TANG Kwok-bun, Benjamin, GBS, JP 2003 - 2012
23 SUN Tak-kei, David, BBS, JP 2012 - present

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