The Role Of The Government Accountability Office (GAO)

The Government Accountability Office or GAO is the watchdog for the United States federal government. This is an independent agency which helps ensure the elected members and staff of the U.S. Congress comply with all rules and regulations. The GAO audits, investigates and evaluates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. The GAO’s mission is to support Congress and help ensure it is meeting all constitutional responsibilities. The GAO also provides advice and recommendations on how Congress can improve and investigates when there is a possibility that federal funds were mishandled or abused.

The Comptroller General of the United States is the head of the GAO. The agency was established as the General Accounting Office in 1921 under the Budget and Accounting Act which was passed by Congress. This act requires investigation into receipt, disbursement or use of public or federal funds when requested. The agency will then make recommendations to both the Congress and the President of the United States which are designed to improve the expenditure of federal dollars.

In 2004, the name of the agency was changed to the Government Accountability Office under the GAO Human Capital Reform Act. The new name better reflected the mission of the agency.

Many refer to the GAO as the taxpayer’s best friend. It is also known as the Congressional Watchdog. The agency gets these nicknames because it frequently audits and investigates how our federal funds are used and often uncovers inefficiency and waste in government programs.

The GAO prepares and distributes reports on all audits and investigations. These reports are distributed to members of Congress, the President and to the agency or organization which is the subject of the report like Chandler, Mathis, and Zivley.

Citizens can find copies of most GAO reports on the GAO website. The topics of these reports include Financial Management, Retirement Issues, Homeland Security, and Defense.