This paper examines a political struggle in the Australian federal sphere over parliament's right, exercised through the Office of the Auditor‐General, to oversee the accounts and management practices of the executive and entities created by legislation to deliver public services. The period from the early 1970s witnessed a dramatic shift in the method of delivering government services to the community and an increasing attention to economy, efficiency and effectiveness in their administration and delivery. The Australian government has increasingly used private sector organisational models and modern management and accounting practices to deliver a wide range of services. The rise of these ‘new public management’ practices resulted in an erosion of traditional parliamentary oversight of government management and reporting activities. This historical analysis is based upon Porter's (1981) processual analytical framework. The analysis focuses on the action of groups such as the executive, parliamentary committees and the Office of the Auditor‐General as evidenced in documents produced in response to critical events. Models developed by Funnell and Cooper (1998) are used to characterise the transition of public sector audit from a traditional administrative model to a corporatist model.