This is the accessible text file for GAO report number GAO-06-394SP 
entitled 'GAO's International Protocols' which was released on 
February 15, 2006. 

This text file was formatted by the U.S. Government Accountability 
Office (GAO) to be accessible to users with visual impairments, as part 
of a longer term project to improve GAO products' accessibility. Every 
attempt has been made to maintain the structural and data integrity of 
the original printed product. Accessibility features, such as text 
descriptions of tables, consecutively numbered footnotes placed at the 
end of the file, and the text of agency comment letters, are provided 
but may not exactly duplicate the presentation or format of the printed 
version. The portable document format (PDF) file is an exact electronic 
replica of the printed version. We welcome your feedback. Please E-mail 
your comments regarding the contents or accessibility features of this 
document to Webmaster@gao.gov. 

This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright 
protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed 
in its entirety without further permission from GAO. Because this work 
may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the 
copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this 
material separately. 

January 2006: 

GAO's International Protocols: 

[Hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-91SP]

Contents: 

Letter: 

GAO's International Protocols: 

Introduction: 

Sources of GAO's Work: 

GAO's Approach and Guiding Principles: 

International Work Resulting in Written Products: 

Protocols for U.S. Federal Agencies with Programs or Activities 
Overseas: 

Protocols for International Organizations: 

Protocols for Foreign Government Ministries and Departments: 

Protocols for Supreme Audit Institutions: 

General Protocols for Issuing Products on International Work: 

Protocols for Collaboration with International and National 
Accountability Organizations and International Development 
Organizations: 

Press Policy: 

Letter January 31, 2006: 

This document contains the protocols governing the U.S. Government 
Accountability Office's (GAO) work that has international components or 
implications. These protocols provide clearly defined and transparent 
policies and practices on how GAO will interact with U.S. federal 
departments and agencies, other national governments, and international 
organizations in its international work. They identify what 
international organizations and supreme audit institutions (SAI) can 
expect from GAO. These protocols are intended to cover most situations 
that arise during the course of GAO's work and are consistent, to the 
extent applicable, with the protocols that govern GAO's work for the 
Congress and with U.S. federal agencies. 

I firmly believe that these protocols, which are grounded in applicable 
professional standards and GAO's core values of accountability, 
integrity, and reliability, will enable us to conduct international 
work more consistently, efficiently, and effectively; achieve GAO's 
strategic goals; support improved government performance and 
accountability worldwide; and better serve the Congress and the 
American people. 

To ensure the broadest practical exposure to these protocols throughout 
the international community, GAO pilot-tested the protocols through 
October 2005. Minor refinements have been made based on comments 
received. 

Along with members of the GAO team, I look forward to using these 
protocols to continue to serve the Congress and the American people 
while maintaining a constructive relationship with the entities 
relating to GAO's international work. Questions or comments about GAO's 
International Protocols may be directed to Helen H. Hsing, Managing 
Director, Strategic Planning and External Liaison, at (202) 512-2639 or 
via e-mail at [Hyperlink, InternationalProtocols@gao.gov]. 

Signed by: 

David M. Walker: 
Comptroller General of the United States: 

[End of section] 

GAO's International Protocols: 

Introduction: 

GAO is a professional and nonpartisan legislative branch agency that 
supports the U.S. Congress by reviewing the performance of federal 
agencies, assessing federal policies and programs, analyzing the 
financing of government activities, and anticipating emerging issues. 
In this era of increasing global interdependency, GAO often conducts 
its work internationally. 

These protocols are general principles and policies governing 
international work undertaken by GAO. This work, which generally 
results in GAO reports, includes audits, reviews, and related 
information-gathering activities on international programs or 
activities involving U.S. federal agencies and, when requested by the 
Congress or applicable congressional committees, U.S. participation in 
international organizations, such as the World Bank; the International 
Monetary Fund (IMF); the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); and 
the United Nations, as well as cooperative audit work that is performed 
with national audit offices (GAO counterparts known as supreme audit 
institutions or SAI) in other countries. 

GAO also collaborates with international and national accountability 
organizations in other countries, such as the International 
Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) and the 
International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), and development 
institutions, such as the World Bank. This collaboration does not 
result in a GAO report and generally focuses on promoting principles 
related to government accountability, such as financial management and 
internal control. 

Sources of GAO's Work: 

GAO undertakes work through three primary means: (1) U.S. congressional 
mandates, (2) U.S. congressional requests, and (3) legal authority 
allowing the Comptroller General of the United States to undertake work 
on his own initiative that is intended to support the U.S. Congress. 

GAO's Approach and Guiding Principles: 

To effectively support the Congress and carry out our work both 
domestically and overseas, GAO must be professional, objective, fact- 
based, nonpartisan, and nonideological in all of its work. GAO products 
and services conform to generally accepted and applicable auditing, 
accounting, investigative, and evaluation principles and 
standards.[Footnote 1] GAO will only undertake work that is within its 
scope of authority and competency and will exercise the independence 
necessary to guarantee that its products and work conform to applicable 
professional standards and GAO's core values of accountability, 
integrity, and reliability. 

GAO's international protocols are consistent with the guiding 
principles and practices contained in its Congressional Protocols and 
Agency Protocols, where applicable.[Footnote 2] Adhering to these 
protocols and applicable principles and standards, GAO analysts and 
auditors are responsible for planning, conducting, and reporting their 
work in a professional and timely manner. They are required to obtain 
sufficient, competent, and relevant evidence to afford a reasonable 
basis for any related findings, conclusions, and recommendations. 

While the specific protocols vary to some extent depending on the 
nature of the work and the location where GAO is conducting its 
fieldwork, GAO adopts a consistent general approach across its 
international work. For U.S. federal agencies and international 
organizations that are the focus of its work, GAO (1) notifies them 
before initiating work; (2) keeps them informed of its progress while 
conducting its work; (3) discusses the completeness, accuracy, and 
implications of information gathered during its work with their 
representatives at an exit conference; and (4) gives them an 
opportunity to review and comment on the results of its work that 
involves them before publicly issuing the results. As noted, GAO will 
coordinate interaction with international organizations with the lead 
U.S. agency responsible for implementing U.S. policy at the 
organization and will provide advance notification to the Department of 
State before initiating work. 

To benefit from and leverage opportunities to learn from others' 
experiences as well as share GAO's knowledge and experiences, GAO has 
designated its Strategic Planning and External Liaison unit to serve as 
the primary point of contact for communicating, coordinating, and 
collaborating with international colleagues. For example, Strategic 
Planning and External Liaison facilitates cooperative work with other 
SAIs. This helps ensure that GAO's work complements the efforts of 
others, that crosscutting goals are mutually reinforcing and 
efficiently implemented, and that such international work is consistent 
with GAO's mission and available resources. 

International Work Resulting in Written Products: 

GAO's international work resulting in written products generally 
involves audits and reviews of U.S. government-funded programs or 
activities that have international implications or components, U.S. 
participation in international organizations, or cooperative audit 
work. In conducting this work, GAO staff interview and collect 
documents from program officials and decision makers representing U.S. 
and foreign governments, international organizations, nongovernmental 
organizations, and the private sector who can provide perspectives on 
how programs or management practices work. GAO staff may also use 
published reports and studies from other governments or international 
organizations. Obtaining this information may involve international 
travel to conduct in-person interviews or may be accomplished through 
other means, such as telephone interviews or e-mail exchanges. To the 
extent possible without compromising its independence, GAO coordinates 
overseas travel and contact with foreign government officials with the 
U.S. Department of State. 

Audits and Reviews of International Programs and Activities: 

GAO conducts audits and reviews of international programs and 
activities involving U.S. federal agencies and international 
organizations. GAO often conducts work at U.S. federal agencies on 
international issues such as trade, military activities, foreign 
assistance, diplomacy, nuclear security, and financial markets. In 
addition, the Congress often directs GAO to examine issues that involve 
programs and activities of international organizations of which the 
United States is a member, such as the World Bank, IMF, NATO, and the 
United Nations. GAO coordinates interaction with these organizations 
with the lead U.S. agency responsible for implementing U.S. policy at 
the organization and notifies the Department of State. These requests 
often require GAO to obtain documents and meet with officials from 
several international organizations. For example, a series of 
congressional requests for GAO to review U.S. and international efforts 
to bring stability to the Balkans led to interviews with officials and 
staff at NATO, the World Bank, IMF, the Organization for Security and 
Cooperation in Europe, and several agencies within the United Nations. 

Cooperative Audit Work: 

Because GAO and many other national audit offices conduct similar types 
of work, GAO sometimes engages in joint audit work with them on common 
issues. This type of international work may result in a formal written 
product. This work can be structured in one of two ways: (1) concurrent 
or parallel work, in which separate teams from two SAIs conduct their 
own work, simultaneously but report separately, or (2) joint work, in 
which a single team composed of staff from both SAIs does the work and 
issues a single report. Examples of joint audits include work done with 
international colleagues on trade and environmental issues and on the 
effectiveness of a jointly-developed weapons system. 

Protocols for U.S. Federal Agencies with Programs or Activities 
Overseas: 

When working at federal agencies, GAO follows the protocols outlined in 
its Agency Protocols. GAO's Agency Protocols summarizes GAO's 
procedures for obtaining access to information from U.S. federal 
agencies. Before beginning international fieldwork associated with such 
work, GAO notifies and coordinates with (1) the Department of State, 
appropriate U.S. embassies for nondefense work, and the cognizant 
federal agency, and (2) the Departments of Defense and State and 
appropriate overseas military commands for defense-related work. GAO 
asks either the local U.S. embassy or the U.S. military command, or 
both, to assist in arranging fieldwork at U.S. or host government 
military or civilian facilities when such work is needed. GAO also 
requests assistance from the U.S. embassy or military command when 
fieldwork is needed in locations with special security or 
transportation circumstances. To the extent possible without 
compromising GAO's independence, GAO gives a U.S. embassy official the 
opportunity to attend its meetings with foreign government officials. 
When appropriate and as a matter of professional courtesy, GAO notifies 
the cognizant SAI of any fieldwork planned in its country. 

Protocols for International Organizations: 

The Congress frequently asks GAO to conduct audits or knowledge-sharing 
activities that involve access to information or staff at international 
organizations where the United States is a member, such as the World 
Bank or NATO. GAO's interaction with the international organization 
during the course of this work varies widely--from onetime requests for 
specific program information to reviews of an international 
organization's programs or operations. GAO notifies and coordinates 
with the Department of State and the lead U.S. agency if a review will 
involve significant contact with an international 
organization.[Footnote 3] Depending on the extent of contact needed for 
a particular review, GAO may also (1) notify the international 
organization, through the lead agency, of the review before conducting 
work; (2) hold an entrance conference (an initial meeting between GAO 
and related international organization representatives); (3) coordinate 
with the organization during the work; (4) hold an exit conference (a 
meeting between GAO and related international organization 
representatives typically held at the end of GAO's data collection and 
analysis phase); and (5) give the international organization an 
opportunity to review and comment on the results of work related to the 
organization before GAO's report is released to the public. GAO 
conducts its work in a manner consistent with the international 
organization's internal policies and procedures for dealing with 
external audit entities. If following such policies and procedures 
would impair GAO's independence and ability to perform the work and 
report results impartially, GAO will seek to negotiate a mutually 
acceptable arrangement, report the impairment in the scope and 
methodology section of the report, or decline to perform the work. 

GAO obtains much of the information needed to conduct a review from the 
lead U.S. agency responsible for implementing U.S. policy at the 
organization or from the offices of the U.S. representative assigned to 
the organization. Because GAO does not have a statutory right of access 
to information from international organizations and they generally are 
not subject to U.S. law, obtaining additional information and meeting 
with staff at an organization such as the World Bank, IMF, NATO, World 
Trade Organization, and United Nations depends upon the organization's 
cooperation. Obtaining such information is subject to the specific 
protocols outlined here, which are designed to expedite this process 
and maintain good relations. 

Notifying International Organizations: 

Before beginning work that focuses on an international organization, 
GAO notifies, in writing, the Department of State and the lead U.S. 
agency involved in formulating U.S. policy related to the institution. 
To the extent practical, the notice: 

* identifies the source and authority for the work; 

* identifies the GAO point of contact (name, telephone number, and 
electronic mail address), team performing the work, and a unique 
identification number (the engagement code); 

* describes the objectives or key questions of the work; 

* indicates where the work will be performed at the time of 
notification, if known; 

* indicates when the work is expected to start; and: 

* identifies a time frame for holding the initial meeting (the entrance 
conference) between GAO and related international organization 
representatives. 

GAO staff also request that the lead U.S. agency inform appropriate 
international organization representatives of its work. For example, 
GAO staff ask Department of the Treasury representatives to inform the 
World Bank of any work GAO undertakes that involves that institution. 
When the international organization's external auditor is a SAI, GAO 
also notifies the SAI about the work. When appropriate and as a matter 
of professional courtesy, GAO notifies the cognizant SAI of any 
fieldwork planned in its country. 

Holding Entrance Conferences for International Organizations: 

Once the international organization receives notification of GAO's 
work, entrance conferences generally are held with appropriate 
officials from (1) the lead U.S. government agency charged with 
formulating U.S. policy at the organization; (2) the U.S. 
representative's office at the organization, such as the U.S. Executive 
Director at the IMF; and (3) the international organization. The 
meetings with these officials can often be combined into a single 
meeting if all parties agree. During these meetings, GAO discusses the 
(1) source of the work; (2) roles and responsibilities of GAO staff; 
(3) data and access to officials that are needed; (4) key objectives 
defined as research questions; (5) timing and locations where GAO 
expects to conduct its work, when known; and (6) any need for special 
clearances. During the entrance conference with the international 
organization, GAO also asks officials to designate a key contact to 
provide potential sources of information related to the work 
objectives, such as key personnel, available studies, or electronic 
files. 

Coordinating with International Organizations: 

Throughout the assignment, GAO staff remain in close contact with the 
organization, the U.S. representative at the organization, and the U.S. 
agency with policy responsibility. Because GAO work at an international 
organization can involve a variety of interactions, in some instances 
GAO and the organization agree to specific written procedures on how 
this information is to be obtained and protected from disclosure. 
Before requesting information from an international organization, GAO 
staff attempt to ensure that the data are not available from the U.S. 
government or public sources. 

Holding Exit Conferences with International Organizations: 

If the information obtained from the organization will figure 
prominently in the written report, GAO generally holds an exit 
conference with the organization to discuss (1) the completeness and 
accuracy of the information that has been gathered and (2) the 
implications of this information and GAO's preliminary conclusions and 
expected recommendations. Exit conferences are generally held with 
appropriate officials from (1) the lead U.S. government agency 
responsible for formulating U.S. policy at the organization, (2) the 
U.S. representative's office at the organization, and (3) the 
international organization. A draft report is not provided prior to or 
at the exit conference. Written material provided at the exit 
conference is generally limited to a compilation of key information 
collected. Preliminary conclusions and potential recommendations that 
flow from the factual information collected may be discussed but are 
not provided in writing. 

Giving International Organizations the Opportunity to Comment on GAO 
Work: 

After completing its work, GAO generally shares findings or 
observations related to the international organization with the 
organization. These findings or observations are communicated through 
the lead agency responsible for formulating U.S. policy at the 
organization. For example, GAO sends a draft report to the Department 
of the Treasury for IMF and World Bank engagements and to the 
Department of State for engagements related to the United Nations. This 
gives the organization an opportunity to comment on the information in 
GAO's report before it is released to the public. The specific 
procedures to be followed vary and depend upon the nature and extent of 
the GAO work and any procedures that the organization and GAO may have 
developed over time. 

As part of its quality assurance process, GAO gives an international 
organization the opportunity to comment on a draft report, or sections 
of a draft report, to which it is a party.[Footnote 4] When the program 
or operations of a particular international organization are the 
primary focus of the report, the entire draft report generally is 
shared with the organization. When several organizations are the focus 
of the work, GAO may send relevant excerpts of the draft report to the 
cognizant international organization. Written comments provided through 
signed correspondence from the organization designated to comment on 
the draft report are published in the final GAO report, along with 
GAO's assessment of the comments. As with GAO's reviews of domestic 
agencies, copies of the draft report are sent to the relevant 
organization for review and comment; simultaneously, the draft is 
offered to the congressional requester for informational purposes. 
Copies are transmitted to the organization through the lead U.S. 
agency. By law, the Senate Governmental Affairs and House Government 
Reform committees may request, when a draft product is sent to an 
agency for comment, a copy of any draft product generated under GAO's 
legislative authority that was not conducted at the request of either 
House of Congress, a committee, or a Member.[Footnote 5] GAO will 
advise these committees when such drafts are sent to the agency for 
comment. 

Occasionally, GAO collects nonpublic sensitive information from the 
organization during the review. To ensure that this information is not 
inadvertently disclosed to the public, GAO generally gives the 
international organization draft segments to review that may have 
relied on nonpublic sensitive information before the official draft is 
sent for comment. GAO does not expect the entire review process to 
exceed the 30-day maximum allowed under its established policies. In 
addition, GAO expects international organizations to protect draft GAO 
reports from premature disclosure. 

Protocols for Foreign Government Ministries and Departments: 

GAO occasionally meets with officials of foreign governments to collect 
information on the impact of U.S. programs or activities in their 
country. When initiating a study that requires interaction with a 
foreign government, GAO provides written notification to (1) the State 
Department if foreign travel is involved; (2) a representative of each 
country included in the study, such as an embassy representative; and 
(3) the SAI from each country included in the study, when appropriate. 
The notification describes the assignment's objectives, scope, and 
methodology and names the appropriate GAO contact for the assignment. 
The notification also offers the opportunity for an entrance 
conference, where appropriate, to discuss the scope and nature of GAO's 
work in more detail. When conducting work overseas, GAO coordinates its 
activities with the appropriate U.S. Chief of Mission or principal 
officer and considers his or her views with respect to those 
activities.[Footnote 6] 

In conducting studies, GAO generally works with U.S. government 
officials, foreign embassy representatives in the United States, and 
other SAIs to identify program officials and other subject matter 
experts who may be able to provide information. GAO works with 
representatives from the State Department and foreign governments to 
facilitate interviews and other data-gathering activities. To the 
extent possible without compromising GAO's independence, GAO gives a 
U.S. embassy official the opportunity to attend its meetings with 
foreign government officials. In addition, to ensure the quality of its 
work, GAO makes arrangements for professional translation and 
interpretation services when necessary to conduct its work. 

Whenever it is feasible, GAO holds a meeting with the host country's 
designated representatives at the conclusion of a visit to the country. 
As part of its quality assurance process, GAO offers these 
representatives an opportunity to comment on the completeness and 
accuracy of GAO's description of their programs and practices. GAO may 
also seek comments from subject-matter experts who provided information 
during the study. 

Protocols for Supreme Audit Institutions: 

Cooperative audit work with counterpart SAIs must comply with GAO's 
audit standards and procedures. In addition, this type of work must be 
approved by the Comptroller General. Because cooperative audit work can 
be complex, all parties should carefully consider a number of factors 
before deciding to engage in such work. These factors include policies 
and procedures related to records access, security clearances, audit 
standards and related standards of evidence, relationships to the 
legislature and reporting options, media and public relations, and 
working language(s), cost, timing, and technology compatibility. Once a 
decision has been made to embark on a cooperative audit, GAO works with 
the counterpart SAIs to prepare a formal agreement, often known as a 
memorandum of understanding. 

General Protocols for Issuing Products on International Work: 

The following protocols guide GAO's interactions with international 
organizations with regard to (1) completing its work, (2) presenting 
testimony, and (3) handling and disclosing information. 

Completion of Work: 

Consistent with generally accepted government auditing standards, GAO 
prefers to use published products to communicate the final results of 
its work because they (1) communicate the results consistently to the 
Congress and all other interested parties, (2) make the results 
available to the public, (3) build a readily available subject-matter 
record for future use, and (4) facilitate follow up to determine 
whether appropriate corrective measures have been taken when needed. 
However, an oral briefing to the Congress may be used when GAO (1) 
determines that further work is not warranted; (2) provides information 
that is readily available to the public, such as that in Inspector 
General reports; or (3) develops a summary of previously issued GAO 
products that does not contain any new findings, conclusions, or 
recommendations. GAO notifies the appropriate international entity when 
its work is terminated without a written product. 

GAO's goal is to post written products on GAO's Web site [Hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov] within 24 hours of their issuance or release. All 
products have a targeted issue date. GAO will notify requesters 
approximately 30 calendar days before they are to receive a product and 
generally accommodate their requests for restrictions on the release of 
the product for up to 30 calendar days beyond the issuance date. GAO 
reserves the right to release any product that has been issued to the 
congressional requester but is under restriction if the product's 
contents are made public prior to the expiration of the restriction 
period. GAO products that contain classified or restricted data are not 
posted on the Web site. Classified products are distributed only to 
recipients who are authorized by U.S. statute or regulation and have a 
need to know. 

Presenting Testimony: 

Congressional committee or subcommittee chairs frequently request that 
GAO prepare testimony statements and that GAO witnesses appear at 
hearings. GAO is required to follow the rules of the Senate and the 
House of Representatives and relevant committees or subcommittees in 
connection with any such testimony. Therefore, GAO's international 
protocols are modified in such instances to comply with these 
requirements. For example, because most hearing appearances are 
requested and statements are delivered within short time frames or are 
based on work that is new and quickly developed, ongoing, or already 
completed, GAO generally does not hold an entrance conference with 
officials from the relevant international organizations. When officials 
need to be contacted for information that was not previously obtained 
or was not part of a previous review, GAO notifies the organization 
through the lead U.S. agency of the need for access to the information. 

For testimony based on new work, regardless of whether it is a 
preliminary or final product, GAO obtains the international 
organization's views on the information collected from it to (1) 
validate the accuracy of data gathered from that organization and (2) 
discuss the implications that flow from the data gathered. The 
international organization's views are generally obtained through a 
meeting with the official designated to speak for the organization or 
through other means, such as via a telephone conference call. These 
views are then reflected in the testimony statement. If the 
international organization is unable to schedule a meeting to provide 
its views within the time frame specified by GAO, the testimony states 
that GAO was unable to obtain the international organization's views. 
GAO does not seek an organization's views on testimony in cases where 
(1) disclosure of an audit or evaluation's results could pose risks to 
individuals and their confidentiality or (2) premature disclosure of 
information could compromise the results of the work. Generally, when 
the testimony statement is based on previously reported work, GAO does 
not seek the international organization's views. GAO distributes its 
written testimony in accordance with the rules of the Senate or House 
of Representatives, including the applicable committees' rules. 

Handling and Disclosing Information: 

GAO secures all information obtained during the course of its work. 
When GAO needs access to proprietary or other sensitive information, it 
complies with all applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, 
including obtaining the necessary security and other clearances for 
assigned GAO staff. By law, GAO is required to give the U.S. agency 
information the same level of confidentiality accorded by the agency, 
and it applies the same policy to information obtained from 
international organizations. GAO generally does not sign a 
nondisclosure or other agreement as a condition of gaining access to 
sensitive or proprietary data to which it is entitled. 

While GAO is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, its 
disclosure policy generally follows the spirit of the act, consistent 
with GAO's duties and responsibilities to the Congress. It is GAO's 
policy not to provide to the public records that originated in another 
agency or a nonfederal organization. Instead, GAO refers those who 
request such records to the originating organization. Further 
information on the public availability of the documents and data that 
form GAO's workpapers can be found in 4 C.F.R. part 81. 

GAO will grant Members of Congress, upon their written request, access 
to its audit documentation at GAO offices or will provide copies of 
selected audit documentation after a product has been made publicly 
available. After a product has been issued to a requester but is not 
yet publicly available, GAO may grant access to specific, selected 
audit documentation after receiving a written request from the 
requesting Member(s). In this situation, copies of the audit 
documentation will not be provided until the report has been made 
publicly available. This access is subject to legal and privacy 
considerations, such as those concerning taxpayer return information 
and protected banking information. 

Protocols for Collaboration with International and National 
Accountability Organizations and International Development 
Organizations: 

GAO engages in many different interactions and liaison activities, 
including audit forums, with other international and national 
accountability organizations, such as INTOSAI and counterpart national 
audit offices, and international development organizations, such as the 
World Bank, to leverage resources; share knowledge and experiences; and 
promote standards of accounting, auditing, financial management, and 
internal control. These interactions and liaison activities include (1) 
sponsoring an International Auditor Fellowship Program, (2) providing 
technical assistance to SAIs, (3) receiving visiting delegations from 
SAIs and other foreign government organizations, and (4) responding to 
international information requests. GAO's Strategic Planning and 
External Liaison unit is the central contact point for this work with 
international accountability organizations to ensure that GAO presents 
a consistent face to this community. At the same time, Strategic 
Planning and External Liaison also coordinates and works closely with 
other GAO offices, as needed, to fulfill this responsibility. 

International Audit Forums: 

GAO is a member of INTOSAI, the principal international organization 
dedicated to (1) promoting the exchange of audit and financial 
management information among its member nations and (2) providing a 
network for the international public sector audit community. INTOSAI's 
current membership includes the national audit offices (that is, SAI) 
of participating countries. GAO is a member of INTOSAI's Governing 
Board, and is actively engaged in INTOSAI's audit, information 
technology, internal controls, public debt, environmental auditing, and 
program evaluation initiatives. GAO also participates in other 
international audit forums, such as the International Consortium on 
Governmental Financial Management. 

International Auditor Fellowship Program: 

GAO established its International Auditor Fellowship Program in 1979 to 
promote improved auditing and financial management practices 
internationally, with an emphasis on developing nations. This program 
includes an extensive curriculum to develop and enhance the fellows' 
audit knowledge and skills. To participate, potential fellows must be 
nominated by their national audit offices. GAO's Strategic Planning and 
External Liaison unit, which coordinates the program and its 
curriculum, considers several factors during the selection process. 
Because the program is designed for middle-to-senior-level managers, 
attention is given to the applicants' responsibilities and background 
and to how they expect to apply their program experiences when they 
return to their offices. Although participants are selected from all 
INTOSAI regions, English is used as the common language, so the 
nominees' English skills are important. As a final criterion, an 
attempt is made to maintain a reasonable balance among INTOSAI's 
regional working groups over time. The sponsoring country must cover 
the fellow's salary, travel costs, and subsistence expenses. The costs 
have frequently been paid by one of several international aid 
organizations after an application for assistance by the respective SAI 
has been approved. Many of these graduates have subsequently assumed 
key leadership positions in their respective SAIs and become part of an 
extensive network of contacts in SAIs worldwide. 

Technical Assistance: 

Periodically, GAO staff travel to other countries to provide technical 
assistance to a host country's SAI. The purpose of this assistance 
ranges from providing an overview of GAO's mission, operations, and 
audit methodologies to providing very specific "how to" assistance 
related to conducting financial or program evaluation audits or 
assessing internal control. While GAO's assistance is generally 
requested and funded by another U.S. agency, such as the Department of 
the Treasury's Office of Technical Assistance, it must be approved by 
GAO's senior management and coordinated through the Strategic Planning 
and External Liaison unit. 

International Visitors Program: 

GAO receives many requests from its counterpart SAIs and other foreign 
government officials to visit GAO to obtain information on audit 
practices and the results of GAO's work. Because the number of requests 
exceeds GAO's capacity to accommodate them, GAO screens and prioritizes 
the requests. GAO assigns the highest priority to requests for visits 
from SAIs and legislative or parliamentary delegations. As time and 
staff resources are available, GAO also considers (1) requests from 
related government departments and ministries (for example, 
counterparts to the U.S. Department of the Treasury) and (2) requests 
for visits related to topics of special interest to GAO audit teams 
(for example, from visitors with a special knowledge of areas related 
to ongoing or future GAO work). GAO appreciates receiving the request 
for an international visit at least 30 days in advance, whenever 
possible, to allow sufficient time to make the necessary arrangements 
and, if appropriate, to notify the U.S. counterpart agency. 

Requests for Information: 

In addition to requests for visits, GAO receives many other requests 
each year for information from counterpart SAIs and other foreign 
government officials. These requests include inquiries for (1) GAO 
reports or other agency publications, (2) GAO's views on emerging 
global issues, and (3) GAO's assistance on audits conducted by 
counterpart SAIs. GAO's policy is to acknowledge receipt of such 
requests within 7 calendar days. In responding to these requests, GAO's 
Strategic Planning and External Liaison unit works closely with other 
relevant GAO offices. 

Press Policy: 

GAO does not generally initiate press conferences, but senior GAO 
officials may participate in press conferences held by members of 
Congress, if requested. Although GAO generally does not issue press 
statements about products, it does advise the media, agency personnel, 
international organizations, foreign governments, GAO audit 
counterparts, and the public of the release of GAO products via its Web 
site [Hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov] and other venues. In response to 
media inquiries about ongoing work, GAO provides information only about 
the objectives, scope, and methodology of a review; the source of the 
work (legislation, name of congressional requester(s), or Comptroller 
General Authority); and the expected completion date. GAO refers 
inquiries for any additional information to the requesters. As a 
professional courtesy, GAO informs requesters of substantive media 
inquiries during an ongoing review. As appropriate, such courtesy is 
extended by GAO staff conducting the work to the agency-designated 
primary point of contact for the work. Once a product is publicly 
released, GAO staff with expertise in the subject matter answer 
questions from the media when asked. When working in other countries, 
GAO staff coordinate with the U.S. embassy for advice and guidance on 
local political issues and cultural sensitivities and on media-related 
language requirements and services. A Reporter's Guide to GAO is 
available on GAO's Web site [Hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov]. 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] The framework of auditing standards is contained in a publication, 
developed by GAO and revised at appropriate intervals, called 
Government Auditing Standards (GAO-03-673G, June 2003). 

[2] Further information about the general principles governing GAO's 
work for the Congress and its relationship with federal agencies can be 
found in GAO's Congressional Protocols, Strategic Plan, and Agency 
Protocols, which are located on GAO's Web site www.gao.gov. 

[3] This would not apply to a collection of information publicly 
available, for example, at an organization's information center. 

[4] GAO will not seek comments from an international organization in 
cases where (1) disclosure of the results could pose risks to 
individuals and their confidentiality or (2) premature disclosure of 
information could compromise the results of the work. 

[5] 31 U.S.C.  718 (b)(2)(B). 

[6] Coordination with the Chief of Mission is conducted in accordance 
with the State/GAO Memorandum of Understanding on Overseas Staffing of 
December 15, 1988. 

GAO's Mission: 

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of 
Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional 
responsibilities and to help improve the performance and accountability 
of the federal government for the American people. GAO examines the use 
of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides 
analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make 
informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO's commitment to 
good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, 
integrity, and reliability. 

Obtaining Copies of GAO Reports and Testimony: 

The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no 
cost is through the Internet. GAO's Web site ( www.gao.gov ) contains 
abstracts and full-text files of current reports and testimony and an 
expanding archive of older products. The Web site features a search 
engine to help you locate documents using key words and phrases. You 
can print these documents in their entirety, including charts and other 
graphics. 

Each day, GAO issues a list of newly released reports, testimony, and 
correspondence. GAO posts this list, known as "Today's Reports," on its 
Web site daily. The list contains links to the full-text document 
files. To have GAO e-mail this list to you every afternoon, go to 
www.gao.gov and select "Subscribe to e-mail alerts" under the "Order 
GAO Products" heading. 

Order by Mail or Phone: 

The first copy of each printed report is free. Additional copies are $2 
each. A check or money order should be made out to the Superintendent 
of Documents. GAO also accepts VISA and Mastercard. Orders for 100 or 
more copies mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. 
Orders should be sent to: 

U.S. Government Accountability Office 

441 G Street NW, Room LM 

Washington, D.C. 20548: 

To order by Phone: 

Voice: (202) 512-6000: 

TDD: (202) 512-2537: 

Fax: (202) 512-6061: 

To Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in Federal Programs: 

Contact: 

Web site: www.gao.gov/fraudnet/fraudnet.htm 

E-mail: fraudnet@gao.gov 

Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7470: 

Public Affairs: 

Jeff Nelligan, managing director, 

NelliganJ@gao.gov 

(202) 512-4800 

U.S. Government Accountability Office, 

441 G Street NW, Room 7149 

Washington, D.C. 20548: