Utilizing Porter’s (1981) theoretical framework for historical narrative analysis, this article examines the history of performance auditing in the Australian federal public sector. The analysis considers four crucial events in the period 1973-98 the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration (1976), the Australian National Audit Office efficiency audit developments (1979), the Joint Committee of Public Accounts Inquiry (1989), and the struggles over the passage of the Audit Act 1997. The analysis supports the proposition that performance auditing is a malleable social construct rather than a definitive performance review technology. The construction of its technological basis has been contested, with several concepts being included or excluded by various groups. These have both reflected and influenced agendas and activities at individual, organizational, institutional, sociopolitical and socioeconomic levels in the Australian public sector. Performance auditing is therefore revealed as a masque that ultimately may defy any universal technical definition.