The need for an audit function was recognised early in the life of the colony and in 1839 Charles Newenham was appointed by the government to the position of auditor-general. Tensions between executive government and the audit office were reflected in various Audit Acts and the occasional use of a Board of Audit in the nineteenth century. Among the 19 appointees to the position of auditor-general, the dominant personality was JW Wainwright (auditor-general 1934–46). The breadth of Wainwright’s involvement in state infrastructure projects was probably unique throughout the Commonwealth, with all other South Australian incumbents focusing their attention on government business, process and finances.

In Newenham’s time the role of auditor-general was the job of one man. Today the Auditor-General’s Department employs more than 100 people.

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Ralph, Glen, A matter of independence: A history of the South Australian Auditor General's department, 1848-1990 (Adelaide: Auditor General's Department, 1990)