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The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is a
legislative branch A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with th ...
government agency that provides
audit An audit is an "independent examination of financial information of any entity, whether profit oriented or not, irrespective of its size or legal form when such an examination is conducted with a view to express an opinion thereon.” Auditing ...
ing,
evaluation Evaluation is a systematic determination of a subject's merit, worth and significance, using criteria governed by a set of standards. It can assist an organization, program, design, project or any other intervention or initiative to assess any aim, ...
, and investigative services for the
United States Congress The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States and consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washingto ...
. It is the
supreme audit institution A supreme audit institution is an independent national-level institution which conducts audits of government activities. Most supreme audit institutions are established in their country's constitution, and their mandate is further refined in nationa ...
of the
federal government of the United States The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government) is the national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories and ...
. It identifies its core "mission values" as: accountability, integrity, and reliability. It is also known as the "congressional watchdog".


Powers of GAO

The work of the GAO is done at the request of congressional committees or subcommittees or is mandated by public laws or committee reports. It also undertakes research under the authority of the
Comptroller General A comptroller is a management-level position responsible for supervising the quality of accounting and financial reporting of an organization. A financial comptroller is a senior-level executive who acts as the head of accounting, and oversees the p ...
. It supports congressional oversight by: * auditing agency operations to determine whether federal funds are being spent efficiently and effectively; * investigating allegations of illegal and improper activities; * reporting on how well government programs and policies are meeting their objectives; * performing policy analyses and outlining options for congressional consideration; * issuing legal decisions and opinions; * advising Congress and the heads of executive agencies about ways to make government more efficient and effective.


Products of GAO

Products of the GAO include the following: * reports and written correspondence; * testimonies and statements for the record, where the former are delivered orally by one or more GAO senior executives at a congressional hearing and the latter are provided for inclusion in the ''
Congressional Record thumbnail, A page from the February 12, 1999, edition of the ''Congressional Record'', published during the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton. Formal citation: . The ''Congressional Record'' is the official record of the proceedi ...
''; * briefings, which are usually given directly to congressional staff members; * legal decisions and opinions resolving bid protests and addressing issues of appropriations law as well as opinions on the scope and exercise of authority of federal officers. The GAO also produces special publications on specific issues of general interest to many Americans, such as its report on the fiscal future of the United States, GAO's role in the federal bid protest process, and critical issues for congressional consideration related to improving the nation's image abroad.


History

The GAO was established as the General Accounting Office by the
Budget and Accounting Act The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 () was landmark legislation that established the framework for the modern federal budget. The act was approved by President Warren G. Harding to provide a national budget system and an independent audit of gov ...
of 1921. The act required the head of the GAO to According to the GAO's current mission statement, the agency exists to support the Congress in meeting its
constitutional A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed. When these principl ...

constitutional
responsibilities and to help improve the
performance A performance is an act of staging or presenting a play, concert, or other form of entertainment. It is also defined as the action or process of carrying out or accomplishing an action, task, or function. Management science In the work place, j ...

performance
and ensure the
accountability Accountability, in terms of ethics and governance, is equated with answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving. As in an aspect of governance, it has been central to discussions related to problems in the public ...
of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. The name was changed in 2004 to the Government Accountability Office by the
GAO Human Capital Reform Act The GAO Human Capital Reform Act of 2004 () is a United States federal law designed to provide new human capital flexibilities with respect to the Government Accountability Office, and for other purposes. The most visible provision of the law was t ...
to better reflect the mission of the office. The GAO's auditors conduct not only financial audits, but also engage in a wide assortment of performance audits. Over the years, the GAO has been referred to as "The Congressional Watchdog" and "The Taxpayers' Best Friend" for its frequent audits and investigative reports that have uncovered waste and inefficiency in government. News media often draw attention to the GAO's work by publishing stories on the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of its reports. Members of Congress also frequently cite the GAO's work in statements to the press, congressional hearings, and floor debates on proposed legislation. In 2007 the
Partnership for Public Service The Partnership for Public Service is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C. whose mission is to inspire a new generation of civil servants and to transform the way government works. The Partnership's most visible programs ...
ranked the GAO second on its list of the best places to work in the federal government and ''Washingtonian'' magazine included the GAO on its 2007 list of great places to work in Washington, a list that encompasses the public, private, and non-profit sectors. The GAO is headed by the Comptroller General of the U.S., a professional and non-partisan position in the U.S. government. The comptroller general is appointed by the
president President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) *President (education), a leader of a college or university *President (government title) President may also refer to: Automobiles * Nissan President, a 1966–2010 Japanese full- ...
, by and with the
advice and consent Advice and consent is an English phrase frequently used in enacting formulae of bills and in other legal or constitutional contexts. It describes either of two situations: where a weak executive branch of a government enacts something previousl ...
of the
Senate The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">Roman_Forum.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia Julia in the Roman Forum A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper hou ...
, for a fifteen-year, non-renewable term. The president selects a nominee from a list of at least three individuals recommended by an eight-member bipartisan, bicameral commission of congressional leaders. During such term, the comptroller general has standing to pursue litigation to compel access to federal agency information. The comptroller general may not be removed by the president, but only by Congress through impeachment or joint resolution for specific reasons. Since 1921, there have been only seven comptrollers general, and no formal attempt has ever been made to remove a comptroller general. Labor-management relations became fractious during the nine-year tenure of the seventh comptroller general, David M. Walker. On September 19, 2007, GAO analysts voted by a margin of two to one (897–445), in a 75% turnout, to establish the first union in the GAO's 86-year history. The analysts voted to affiliate with the
International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), AFL-CIO & CLC is a North American labor union representing various professional, technical, and administrative support workers in the United States and Canada, in both ...
(IFPTE), a member union of the AFL-CIO. There are more than 1,800 analysts in the GAO analysts bargaining unit; the local voted to name itself IFPTE Local 1921, in honor of the date of the GAO's establishment. On February 14, 2008, the GAO analysts' union approved its first-ever negotiated pay contract with management; of just over 1,200 votes, 98% were in favor of the contract. 140px, Seal of the General Accounting Office, from 1921 until being renamed in 2004. The GAO also establishes standards for audits of government organizations, programs, activities, and functions, and of government assistance received by contractors, nonprofit organizations, and other nongovernmental organizations. These standards, often referred to as Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS), are to be followed by auditors and audit organizations when required by law, regulation, agreement, contract, or policy. These standards pertain to auditors' professional qualifications, the quality of audit effort, and the characteristics of professional and meaningful audit reports. In 1992, the GAO hosted the XIV INCOSAI, the fourteenth triennial convention of the
International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions The International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) is an intergovernmental organization whose members are supreme audit institutions. Nearly every supreme audit institution in the world is a member of INTOSAI. Depending on the ...
(INTOSAI).


Reports

The GAO is a United States government electronic data provider, as all of its reports are available on its website, except for certain reports whose distribution is limited to official use in order to protect national security. The variety of topics reported on range from Federal Budget and Fiscal Issues to Financial Management, Education, Retirement Issues, Defense, Homeland Security, Administration of Justice, Health Care, Information Management and Technology, Natural Resources, Environment, International Affairs, Trade, Financial Markets, Housing, Government Management and Human Capital, and Science and Technology Assessment and Analytics. The GAO often produces highlights of its reports that serve as a
statement for the record
statement for the record
for various subcommittees of the United States Congress. Most GAO studies and reports are initiated by requests from members of Congress, including requests mandated in statute, and so reflect concerns of current political import, for example to study the impact of a government-wide hiring freeze. requested sent to Charles A. Bowsher by Geraldine A. Ferraro Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Human Resources Committee on Post Office and Civil Service House of Representatives Many reports are issued periodically and take a long view of U.S. agencies' operations. The GAO also produces annual reports on key issues such as Duplication and Cost savings and High-Risk Update. The GAO prepares some 900 reports annually. The GAO publishes reports and information relating to, ''inter alia'':


Financial statements of the U.S. government

Each year the GAO issues an audit report on the financial statements of the United States Government. The 2010 Financial Report of the United States Government was released on December 21, 2010. The accompanying press release states that the GAO 'cannot render an
opinion An opinion is a judgement, viewpoint, or statement that is not conclusive, rather than facts, which are true statements. Definition A given opinion may deal with subjective matters in which there is no conclusive finding, or it may deal with fac ...
on the 2010 consolidated financial statements of the federal government, because of widespread
material A material is a substance or mixture of substances that constitutes an object. Materials can be pure or impure, living or non-living matter. Materials can be classified based on their physical and chemical properties, or on their geological origi ...
internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties, and other limitations'.


U.S. public debt

As part of its initiative to advocate
sustainability Sustainability is the capacity to endure in a relatively ongoing way across various domains of life. In the 21st century, it refers generally to the capacity for Earth's biosphere and human civilization to co-exist. It is also defined as the ...
, the GAO publishes a Federal Fiscal Outlook Report, as well as data relating to the
deficit A deficit is the amount by which a sum falls short of some reference amount. Economics * Balance of payments deficit, when the balance of payments is negative * Government budget deficit * Deficit spending, the amount by which spending exceeds re ...
. The U.S. deficit is presented on a
cash In economics, cash ( , or in AuE) is money in the physical form of currency, such as banknotes and coins. In bookkeeping and finance, cash is current assets comprising currency or currency equivalents that can be accessed immediately or near- ...
rather than
accrualsAccrual (''accumulation'') of something is, in finance, the adding together of interest or different investments over a period of time. It holds specific meanings in accounting, where it can refer to accounts on a balance sheet that represent liabili ...
basis, although the GAO notes that the accrual deficit 'provides more information on the longer-term implications of the government's annual operations'. In FY 2010, the
US federal government The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government) is the national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories and ...
had a net operating cost of $2,080 billion, although since this includes accounting
provisions Provisioning may refer to: * Provisioning (cruise ship), supplying a vessel for an extended voyage ** Provisioning of USS ''Constitution'' * Provisioning (telecommunications) is the equipping of a telecommunications network * Mass provisioning, a f ...
(estimates of future liabilities), the cash deficit is $1,294 billion.


Quinquennial strategic plan

The most recent GAO strategic plan, for 2018–2023, sets out four goals, namely: #Address current and emerging challenges to the well-being and financial security of the American people; #Help the Congress respond to changing security threats and the challenges of global interdependence; #Help transform the Federal Government to address national challenges; #Maximize the value of the GAO by enabling quality, timely service to the Congress and by being a leading practices federal agency.


Forensic Audits and Investigative Service (FAIS)

The Forensic Audits and Investigative Service (FAIS) team provides Congress with high-quality forensic audits and investigations of fraud, waste, and abuse; other special investigations; and security and vulnerability assessments. Its work cuts across a diverse array of government programs administered by the IRS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Homeland Security, among others.


Technology assessments

After the closing of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) in 1995, Congress directed the GAO to conduct a
technology assessment Technology assessment (TA, German: , French: ) is a scientific, interactive, and communicative process that aims to contribute to the formation of public and political opinion on societal aspects of science and technology. This is a means of assess ...
(TA) pilot program. Between 2002 and 2005, three reports were completed–-use of biometrics for border security, cyber security for
critical infrastructure protection Critical infrastructure protection (CIP) is a concept that relates to the preparedness and response to serious incidents that involve the critical infrastructure of a region or nation. The American Presidential directive PDD-63 of May 1998 set up ...
, and technologies for protecting structures in wildland fires. The GAO reports and technology assessments, which are made available to the public, have become essential vehicles for understanding science and technology (S&T) implications of policies considered by the Congress. Since 2008, Congress has established a permanent TA function within the GAO. This new operational role augments GAO's performance audits related to S&T issues, including effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. federal programs. In 2010, the GAO joined the
European Parliamentary Technology Assessment Logo The European Parliamentary Technology Assessment (EPTA) is a network of technology assessment (TA) institutions specialising in advising parliamentary bodies in Europe. Objectives The EPTA partners advise parliaments on the possible social, ...
(EPTA) as an associate member. In 2019, the GAO established a new mission team, the Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team, which has primary responsibility for technology assessments. The GAO has published a TA Design Handbook to help technology assessment teams analyze the impact of technology and make complex issues more easily understood and useful to policymakers. The GAO defines TA as the "thorough and balanced analysis of significant primary, secondary, indirect, and delayed interactions of a technological innovation with society, the environment, and the economy and the present and foreseen consequences and impacts of those interactions." Recognizing that the effects of those interactions can have implications, the GAO has in some of its products included policy options. The Technology Assessment section of its website lists GAO's public TA reports.


See also

* Title 4 of the Code of Federal Regulations ;Offices *
Comptroller and Auditor GeneralAn auditor general, also known in some countries as a comptroller general or comptroller and auditor general, is a senior civil servant charged with improving government accountability by auditing and reporting on the government's operations. Freque ...
*
Comptroller A comptroller is a management-level position responsible for supervising the quality of accounting and financial reporting of an organization. A financial comptroller is a senior-level executive who acts as the head of accounting, and oversees the p ...
*
Corporate title Corporate titles or business titles are given to company and organization officials to show what duties and responsibilities they have in the organization. Such titles are used by publicly and privately held for-profit corporations. In addition, m ...
*
Inspector general#REDIRECT Inspector general#REDIRECT Inspector general {{Redirect category shell, {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, {{R from other capitalisation ...
*
Comptroller General of the United States A comptroller is a management-level position responsible for supervising the quality of accounting and financial reporting of an organization. A financial comptroller is a senior-level executive who acts as the head of accounting, and oversees the p ...
*
Director of auditDirector of Audit may refer to: *Chief audit executive - a corporate executive position *Director of Audit (Hong Kong) - head of the Audit Commission of Hong Kong {{Disambig ...
*
Treasurer In ''A new way to pay the National Debt'' (1786), Queen Charlotte and King_George_III_awash_with_treasury_funds_to_cover_royal_debts,_with_William_Pitt_the_Younger.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="George III of the Un ...
;Non-governmental organizations (
NGOs upright=1.3, alt=A roomful of people, Europe-Georgia Institute head George Melashvili addresses the audience at the launch of the "Europe in a suitcase" project by two NGOs (the EGI and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation), which aims to increase ...
) *
Government Accountability Project The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is a nonprofit whistleblower protection and advocacy organization in the United States. It was founded in 1977. Activities In 1992, GAP represented Aldric Saucier, who had lost his job and security clea ...
*
Project On Government Oversight#REDIRECT Project On Government Oversight {{R from other capitalisation ...
;Audit *
Auditor independence Auditor independence refers to the independence of the internal auditor or of the external auditor from parties that may have a financial interest in the business being audited. Independence requires integrity and an objective approach to the au ...
* Negative assurance * Positive assurance ;International * Australia: Australian National Audit Office * Botswana: Office of the Auditor General Botswana * Brazil: Tribunal de Contas da União, Court of Accounts of the Union * Canada: Auditor General of Canada * European Union: Court of Auditors * Hong Kong: Director of Audit (Hong Kong), Director of Audit of Hong Kong * India: Comptroller and Auditor General of India * Mexico: Auditoría Superior de la Federación * Philippines: Commission on Audit (Philippines), Commission on Audit * Republic of China (Taiwan): Control Yuan * United Kingdom: National Audit Office (United Kingdom), National Audit Office


References


Citations


Sources

*


External links

*
General Accounting Office Reports
on the website of the Federation of American Scientists {{Authority control Government Accountability Office, 1921 establishments in Washington, D.C. Agencies of the United States Congress Auditing in the United States Government agencies established in 1921 Government audit Open government in the United States Supreme audit institutions Technology assessment