Problems of 2 NZEF
The auditor was appointed at the request of the GOC, who thought it desirable that any financial transactions in which we might be engaged should be open to review by a skilled inspector. The GOC had expected to get an auditor who would be responsible to him, or at the least to the army; but what we did get was an auditor who was a member of the staff of the Controller and Auditor-General, and responsible to that officer only – who, it will be realised, is in turn responsible to Parliament and the people of New Zealand only. This was slightly dampening, and meant that we would have to come to some arrangement with the auditor to obviate his comments going all the way out to New Zealand and later, through devious channels, coming back to us for a ‘please explain’. Such a roundabout procedure seemed foolish.
At an early point, therefore, we arranged with the auditor that if he had any adverse comments in his reports to his chief he would let Headquarters have a copy, so that if necessary – or if we thought it desirable – our own answer could go out to New Zealand at the same time. As it happened there were few comments of any moment; and after a while the auditor adopted the custom of coming to Headquarters first with his comments and discussing the matter before he ever made his report at all. This was most satisfactory and, after all, was the reasonable thing to do considering that New Zealand was so far away. Nothing was ever done on our part to interfere with the auditor's right to report to his own chief, but in effect he became the keeper of our conscience as well as the keeper of the public conscience.
In 1940 and 1941 there was an attempt made to conduct a stores audit. The moment appeared to be a suitable one, for at that stage our equipment was still being issued to us item by item, and was being checked and signed for. However, stores audit implies some fixed point round which to conduct it; and the course of events prevented anything like a fixed point being found. Before the initial issue was complete the First Echelon was scattered all over Egypt and the Desert; and when it came back to Helwan the Second and Third Echelons joined it, and soon afterwards the whole Division moved to Greece; and from then on enemy action and emergency replacements on the battlefield had complicated the tale beyond any clarification.
Stores audit in a combatant force in a theatre of war is an page 129 impossibility. Financial check is another matter, and the auditor was an insurance, welcomed by both staff and services, that our financial transactions, pay or otherwise, were in order.
The auditor also checked regimental funds accounts, a task which from time to time disclosed some surprising results, as will be mentioned in Chapter 16.