General Accounting Office

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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The General Accounting Office (GAO), created by the Budget and Accounting Act, 1921 (31 U.S.C.A. 41), was vested with all powers and duties of the six auditors and the comptroller of the Treasury, as stated in the act of July 31, 1894 (28 Stat. 162), and other statutes extending back to the original Treasury Act of 1789 (1 Stat. 65). The 1921 act broadened the audit activities of the government and established new responsibilities for reporting to Congress.

The scope of the activities of the GAO was further extended by the Government Corporation Control Act (31 U.S.C.A. 841 [1945]), the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (31 U.S.C.A. 60), the Accounting and Auditing Act of 1950 (31 U.S.C.A. 65), the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 (31 U.S.C.A. 1151), the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (31 U.S.C.A. 1301), the General Accounting Office Act of 1974 (31 U.S.C.A. 52c), and other legislation.

The GAO is under the control and direction of the comptroller general of the United States and the deputy comptroller general of the United States, who are appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate for terms of 15 years.

The GAO has the following basic purposes: to assist Congress, its committees, and its members in carrying out their legislative and over-sight responsibilities, consistent with its role as an independent, nonpolitical agency in the legislative branch; to carry out legal, accounting, auditing, and claims-settlement functions with respect to federal government programs and operations as assigned by Congress; and to make recommendations that are designed to provide for more efficient and effective government operations.

Direct Assistance to Congress

The GAO directly assists Congress and its committees, members, and officers upon request. This assistance can come in any of the forms described in the following paragraphs.

Legislation may be enacted to direct the GAO to examine a specific matter; special audits, surveys, and reviews may be performed for the committees, members, or officers of Congress; professional staff members may be assigned to assist committees in conducting studies and investigations; the comptroller general or his or her representatives may testify before committees on matters considered to be within the special competence of the GAO; and committees or members may request comments on, or assistance in, drafting proposed legislation

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or other advice in legal and legislative matters. Further, the GAO responds to numerous requests from congressional sources for information relating to, or resulting from, its work, and it provides advice on congressional, administrative, and financial operations.

The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 specified numerous additional ways in which the GAO is to assist Congress: (1) provide information, services, facilities, and personnel (as mutually agreed) to the CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE; (2) assist congressional committees in developing statements of legislative objectives and goals and methods for assessing and reporting actual program performance; (3) assist such committees in analyzing and assessing federal agency program reviews and evaluation studies; (4) develop and recommend methods for review and evaluation of government programs; (5) conduct a continuing program to identify needs of committees and members of Congress for fiscal, budgetary, and program-related information; (6) assist congressional committees in developing their information needs; (7) monitor recurring...

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