Third Seminar on Government Control]

Gao ID: 114968 May 13, 1981

The General Accounting Office is an independent agency within the legislative branch of the Government. While the Comptroller General reports to and is accountable to Congress, there is wide discretion to audit and evaluate virtually all programs of the executive branch and, with certain limitations, the operations of Congress and the judiciary. The Legislative Reorganization Act authorized the Comptroller General to analyze each agency's expenditures and provide sufficient information to enable Congress to determine whether public funds had been economically and efficiently administered. The Budget and Accounting Procedures Act made Federal program administrators assume the responsibility for insuring that budget and accounting systems were adequate to control the public monies. GAO now prescribes accounting standards, works with the agencies as they design systems to meet them, approves accounting systems, and monitors their use. In the last 15 years, the most significant developments in the nature and thrust of GAO audits was beginning audits of program results and performing program evaluations. Congressional requests to undertake a specific audit or evaluation comprise almost 40 percent of GAO work. GAO work on public construction projects often deals with measuring the costs and benefits of particular projects. GAO rarely looks at the quality of construction itself. GAO also does considerable work on the need for, and appropriate size of, public medical facilities. Program effectiveness audits can assess a policy or process, many of which pertain to more than one Government agency. It is crucial to devise a way to bring together the many techniques and advancements auditors are developing. The body of knowledge exists, but the information is not reaching those in greatest need.

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