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General Accounting Office


In general, the audit authority of the GAO extends to all departments and agencies of the federal government. Exceptions to this audit authority principally involve funds that relate to certain intelligence activities.

Where audit authority exists, the GAO has the right of access to, and examination of, any books, documents, papers, or records of the departments and agencies. The law provides that departments and agencies must furnish to the comptroller such general information as he or

she may require, including that which is related to their powers, duties, activities, organization, financial transactions, and methods of business.

The GAO has statutory authority to investigate all matters relating to the receipt, disbursement, and application of public funds. Additionally, the audit authority of the GAO covers wholly and partially owned government corporations and certain nonappropriated fund activities. By law, it is authorized and directed to make expenditure analyses of executive agencies in order to enable Congress to determine whether public funds are efficiently and economically administered and expended, and to review and evaluate the results of existing government programs and activities.

The scope of the audit work of the GAO extends not only to the programs and activities that the federal government itself conducts, but also to the activities of state and local governments, quasi-governmental bodies, and private organizations in their capacity as recipients under, or administrators for, federal aid programs that are financed by loans, advances, grants, and contributions. The interest of the GAO also extends to certain activities of those parties that have negotiated contracts with the government.

The audit activities of the GAO also include examining and settling accounts of the certification, disbursement, and collection officers of the federal government, including determinations involving accountability for improper or illegal expenditures of public funds. Balances that the comptroller general certifies are binding on the EXECUTIVE BRANCH; however, any settled account can be reviewed on motion by the comptroller general or another interested party.

In its audit work, the GAO makes recommendations for greater economy and efficiency in government operations and for improving the effectiveness of government programs. Within this audit authority is a responsibility to report significant matters to Congress for information and use in carrying out its legislative and executive branch surveillance functions.

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