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United States Government Accountability Office: 

The Role of the U.S. Government Accountability Office: 

House Democracy Assistance Commission: 
Members of Parliament from Afghanistan, Liberia & Timor-Leste: 
Washington, D.C. 
September 18, 2008: 

Gene L. Dodaro: 
Acting Comptroller General of the United States: 


Presentation Outline: 

* Who we are and how we do our work; 

* Demand for service and impact of work; 

* The importance of collaboration and capacity building. 

[End of section] 

Who We Are and How We Do Our Work: 

GAO’s Role & Mission: 

GAO’s role is to support the Congress in carrying out its 
constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and
assure accountability of government for the benefit of the American 

Key Approaches: 

GAO carries out its mission in four fundamental ways: 

Oversight–preventing and detecting fraud, waste, abuse, and 

Insight–making government more efficient and effective; 

Foresight–identifying emerging issues; 

Adjudication–resolving bid protests and providing legal opinions. 

Core Values: 

Help the Congress oversee federal programs, policies, and operations to 
ensure accountability to the American people. 

Ensure that our work is professional, objective, fact-based, 
nonpartisan, nonideological, fair, and balanced. 

Provide high-quality, timely, accurate, useful, clear, and candid 

Serving The Congress And The Nation: 

GAO's Strategic Plan Framework Mission: 

GAO exists to support the Congress in meeting its constitutional 
responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the 
accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the 
American people. 


* Changing Security Threats;
* Sustainability Concerns;
* Economic Growth & Competitiveness;
* Global Interdependency;
* Societal Change;
* Quality of Life;
* Science & Technology. 

Goals and Objectives: 

Provide Timely, Quality Service to the Congress and the Federal 
Government to Address Current and Emerging Challenges to the Well-being 
and Financial Security of the American People related to:
* Health care needs;
* Lifelong learning;
* Work benefits and protection;
* Financial security;
* Effective system of justice;
* Viable communities;
* Natural resources use and environmental protection;
* Physical infrastructure. 

Respond to Changing Security Threats and the Challenges of Global 
Interdependence involving:
* Homeland security;
* Military capabilities and readiness;
* Advancement of U.S. interests;
* Global market forces. 

Help Transform the Federal Government's Role and How It Does Business 
to Meet Twenty-first Century Challenges by assessing:
* Roles in achieving federal objectives;
* Government transformation;
* Key management challenges and program risks;
* Fiscal position and financing of the government. 

Maximize the Value of GAO by Being a Model Federal Agency and a World- 
Class Professional Services Organization in the areas of:
* Client and customer satisfaction;
* Strategic leadership;
* Institutional knowledge and experience;
* Process improvement
* Employer of choice. 

Core Values: 

* Accountability;
* Integrity;
* Reliability. 

Source: GAO Strategic Plan 2007-2012. 

[End of GAO's Strategic Plan Framework] 

GAO’s Mission Teams: 

* Acquisitions and Sourcing Management; 

* Applied Research and Methods; 

* Defense Capabilities Management; 

* Education, Workforce, and Income Security; 

* Financial Management Assurance; 

* Financial Markets and Community Investments; 

* Health Care; 

* Homeland Security and Justice; 

* Information Technology; 

* International Affairs and Trade; 

* Natural Resources and the Environment; 

* Physical Infrastructure; 

* Strategic Issues. 

GAO’s Workforce: 

* 3,100 FTE—75% in D.C., 25% in field; 

* Workforce consists primarily of analysts, IT specialists, auditors, 
attorneys, and economists; 

* GAO has technical chiefs for accounting, actuarial science, 
economics, statistics, science, and technology; 

* 80% of GAO’s resources spent on people. 

Figure: GAO’s Field Offices: 

[Refer to PDF for image] 

This figure is a map of the United States depicting the location of 
field offices and the mission teams at each office, as follows: 








Los Angeles: 

San Francisco: 


Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

GAO’s Independence: 

The Comptroller General (CG) is the head of GAO: 

* confirmed through a joint selection/appointment process involving the 
Congress and the President; 

* serves a 15 year term of office; 

* can only be removed by impeachment or joint resolution of Congress 
for specified reasons. 

GAO staff at all levels are civil servants, not political appointees. 

GAO’s Protocols: 

Congressional Protocols: 
Govern GAO’s interactions with our client, the Congress. 

Agency Protocols: 
Govern GAO’s interactions with executive branch agencies. 

International Protocols: 
Govern GAO’s work that has international components or implications. 

Congressional Protocols: 

* GAO considers various criteria before accepting requests; 

* GAO prioritizes its work; 

* GAO makes certain commitments to congressional requesters. 

Agency Protocols: 

* GAO makes certain commitments to agencies: 
- notifies them of new work; 
- coordinates entrance and exit conferences; 
- solicits agency comments on drafts. 

* GAO expects certain commitments from agencies: 
- promptly schedules entrance and exit conferences and makes 
appropriate officials available; 
- complies with GAO’s request for access to records; 
- comments on GAO’s draft reports; 
- informs GAO of plans to implement report recommendations. 

International Protocols: 

International protocols in place for: 

* U.S. federal agencies with programs or activities overseas; 

* International organizations; 

* Foreign government ministries and departments; 

* Supreme Audit Institutions; 

* International and national accountability organizations; 

* International development organizations. 

Types of Engagements GAO Conducts: 

* Performance audits evaluating federal programs, agency performance, 
and actions needed: 
- program effectiveness and results audits; 
- economy and efficiency audits; 
- internal control assessments; 
- prospective analyses to: 
- assess program or policy alternatives; 
- advantages or disadvantages of proposals; 
- best practices. 

* Financial audits and attestation engagements. 

* Non-audit services include: 
- best practice guides; 
- budget justification reviews; 
- training, such as on audit standards; 
- briefings; 
- legal opinions; 
- bid protest adjudications; 
- technical assistance; 
- investigations. 

GAO’s Engagement Process: 

Phase One: Acceptance; 

Phase Two: Planning and Design; 

Phase Three: Data Gathering and Analysis; 

Phase Four: Product Development and Distribution; 

Phase Five: Results. 

GAO’s Risk Based Engagement Management Process: 

CGA starts; 

* Authority; 
* Independence; 
* Risk Level: 
- Cost; 
- Complexity; 
- Controversy; 
* Priority; 
* Internal Controls; 
* Stakeholders. 

* Design; 
* Commitments to Clients; 
* Draft Reports and Agency Views (all risk levels); 
* Other issues (i.e., access, independence). 

One Quality Assurance System: 

* While GAO undertakes a wide variety of engagements—using many 
different approaches and methodologies and a range of specialized 
skills—we have one quality assurance system; 

* GAO’s quality assurance system is composed of a comprehensive set of
clearly-defined, well-documented, and transparent standards and control

* Quality Assurance System—Framework and Policy Manual— assures 
compliance with Government Auditing Standards and core values; 

* GAO’s Quality Assurance System provides reasonable assurance that
- work is professional, independent, and objectively designed; 
- evidence is complete and reliable; 
- conclusions and products are fair and balanced; 
- recommendations are sound. 


* Government Auditing Standards: 

* Other generally accepted practices for:
- surveys; 
- statistical sampling; 
- other applicable industry standards, such as those for engineering 
and actuarial work. 

Monitoring and Review: 

* Annual audit by external auditors; 

* Audit Advisory Committee; 

* GAO’s Inspector General reviews; 

* Annual internal assessments of internal controls; 

* Annual internal inspection program; 

* External peer review every 3 years. 

[End of section] 

Demand for Services and Impact of Work: 

Demand High for GAO Assistance: 

* Over 1,200 requests received in ’07; 

* 1,176 requests received to date in ’08; 

* Over 160 new mandates for GAO reviews were embedded into law. 

Increasing Demand for GAO Testimony: 

* GAO witnesses testifying at record pace: 
- 276 testimonies in FY ’07; 
- Nearly 280 to date in FY ‘08. 

Table: Fiscal Year 2007 Performance: 

Measure: Financial benefits (in billions): 
FY 07 Target: $40.0; 
FY 07 Actual: $45.9. 

Measure: Other benefits: 
FY 07 Target: 1,100; 
FY 07 Actual: 1,354. 

Measure: Testimonies: 
FY 07 Target: 185; 
FY 07 Actual: 276. 

Measure: Products with recommendations: 
FY 07 Target: 60%; 
FY 07 Actual: 66%. 

Measure: Recommendations implemented: 
FY 07 Target: 80%; 
FY 07 Actual: 82%. 

Measure: Timeliness (based on client feedback): 
FY 07 Target: 95%; 
FY 07 Actual: 94%. 

[End of table] 

Impact of GAO’s Work: 

In FY ’07, GAO delivered hundreds of reports and briefings to aid 
congressional oversight and decision making and there are many examples 
showing the impact of our work: 

Financial Benefits Example: 
* Increased the collection of delinquent taxes and civil fines. 

Other Benefits Example: 
* Helped Congress create a center to better locate children after 
national disasters. 

[End of section] 

The Importance of Collaboration and Capacity Building: 

The Importance of Collaboration: 

To strengthen accountability on a domestic and international basis, GAO 
coordinates in an ongoing way with: 

* The National Intergovernmental Audit Forum; 

* The Domestic Working Group; 

* The International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions; 

* The Global Working Group. 

GAO in the International Community: 

* GAO is a member of the International Organization of Supreme Audit 
Institutions (INTOSAI); 

* GAO’s Comptroller General sits on the INTOSAI Governing Board; 

* GAO facilitates an international auditor fellowship training program; 

* GAO participates in international peer reviews; 

* Partnerships are a key enabler of change and help to leverage 
available resources. 

Evolving Challenges for Supreme Audit Institutions: 

Public expectations of government are changing: 

* Zero tolerance for corruption; 

* Desire for enhanced results and improved responsiveness; 

* Selected trends and challenges that have no boundaries: 
- Debt finance and financial markets; 
- Changing security threats; 
- Global interdependence; 
- Climate change; 
- Science and technology; 
- governance. 

Looking Inward: Building GAO’s Institutional Capacity: 

GAO, like other audit entities, must strive to recruit and retain 
employees with the proper skill mix in order to deal effectively with 
current and emerging challenges. Along these line, GAO: 

* Implemented core leadership training; 

* Grows faculty from within (“adjuncts”); 

* Contracts with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), when needed; 

* Hired a Chief Scientist; 

* Designed a state of the art computer lab. 

Growing Expectations on the Accountability Profession: 

To face current and emerging challenges, the accountability profession 

* Identify problem spots before crises emerge; 

* Recognize problems often need multiple organizations to work 

* Provide more detailed recommendations; 

* Add value by providing timely special products; 

* Cope with constrained resources. 

Figure: Accountability Organization Maturity Model: 

[Refer to PDF for image] 

This figure is a pyramid with six levels, each level leading into and 
supporting the subsequent levels: 

Combating Corruption; 

Promoting Transparency; 

Assuring Accountability; 

Enhancing Economy, Efficiency, Ethics, Equity, and Effectiveness; 

Increasing Insight; 

Facilitating Foresight. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

Ways to Strengthen the Accountability Profession: 

* Focusing on strategic planning; 

* Modernizing professional standards; 

* Leading the way on fiscal stewardship; 

* Helping identify needed transformations; 

* Building audit capacity. 

[End of section] 

On the Web: 

Web site: [hyperlink,] 


Chuck Young, Managing Director, Public Affairs: (202) 512-4800: 
U.S. Government Accountability Office: 
441 G Street NW, Room 7149: 
Washington, D.C. 20548: 


This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to
copyright protection in the United States. The published product
may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further
permission from GAO. However, 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. 

[End of presentation]