Inquiry into citizenship decision

30 May 2012

The Auditor-General, Lyn Provost, has decided to carry out an inquiry into the decision by the former Associate Minister of Immigration, Mr Shane Jones, to grant citizenship to Mr Yong Ming Yan (also known as Yang (Bill) Liu).

This document sets out the terms of reference for the inquiry.


Mr Yan was granted permanent residency in 2002 and subsequently applied for citizenship. The Minister of Internal Affairs decides whether to grant citizenship, supported by the Department of Internal Affairs. Mr Jones, as the Minister who dealt with the application, approved Mr Yan’s application for citizenship in 2008.

The Leader of the Opposition, Mr David Shearer, has asked the Auditor-General to carry out an inquiry into the probity of the decision to grant citizenship to Mr Yan. We have agreed to do so. The inquiry is being undertaken with the agreement of Mr Jones.

The inquiry

The inquiry will examine: 

  • the policies and practices of the Department of Internal Affairs when advising the Minister on applications for citizenship, in particular where the applicant’s ‘good character’ is in question;
  • how and why the Minister decided to grant citizenship to Mr Yan; and
  • any other matters the Auditor-General considers it desirable to report on.

Francis Cooke QC has been appointed to lead the inquiry, which is being carried out under sections 16 and 18(1) of the Public Audit Act 2001. We will publish a report when the inquiry is completed.

About the inquiries process

The role of the Auditor-General

Under the Public Audit Act 2001, the Auditor-General is responsible for annual audits, performance audits, and inquiries into how public entities use their resources.

The Auditor-General is an officer of Parliament and, as such, is independent of the central and local government entities that we audit.  The Auditor-General is responsible for determining the nature and scope of any inquiry she decides to conduct. The Auditor-General cannot be ordered to conduct an inquiry.

The Auditor-General has broad powers under the Public Audit Act 2001 to require public entities and other persons to provide information and to give evidence under oath. The Auditor-General has a general discretion to decide what information to disclose or include in a report.

The stages of an inquiry

Every inquiry has four broad stages:

  • Gathering information: We review relevant documentation held by the public entity and other relevant individuals and organisations, and meet with or interview people who have been involved in the issues we are looking into.
  • Analysis: We analyse the information we have gathered and form our preliminary views.
  • Preparing a draft report and consultation: Once we have drafted a report, we consult as necessary on its content to ensure that it is factually accurate and that the rights of any affected parties are properly protected.
  • Publication: We then finalise and publish the report.

General policy on comment during inquiries

Once the Auditor-General has begun an inquiry, the Office will not normally make any public comment on the substance or progress of the inquiry until we release a report. This policy protects the rights of those involved in the inquiry and our ability to carry out the work effectively and efficiently.

It is hard to predict what might emerge or transpire as we carry out an inquiry so it is equally hard to predict when we might be ready to report our findings. Relatively contained inquiries usually take 2-3 months. Larger and more complex inquiries can take 6-12 months.

Further information

More information on the Auditor-General’s inquiry function is available at

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