Team of Independent Auditors Gives GAO "Clean Opinion" on its Quality System
WASHINGTON, DC (September 12, 2014) – The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has received a “clean opinion”—the best review possible—from an independent international peer review team that closely examined the agency’s quality assurance system. This year’s review cited GAO’s institutional structures and organizational culture for clearly prioritizing quality and independence, values that GAO conveys to its staff as soon as they join the agency.
“Speaking for my GAO colleagues, I am delighted that we have once again received a clean opinion from the international peer review team,” said Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States the head of the GAO. “GAO is known for its independence, objectivity, and reliability. Clean opinions provide Congress and the public with outside confirmation that our reputation for high-quality work is justified.”
GAO has consistently received clean opinions from its independent peer reviews, which are conducted every three years by a multinational team of auditors. These reviews scrutinize the quality control system that national audit offices such as GAO use to produce performance and financial audits.
“We were struck by the extensive arrangements in place for quality assurance within a very clear and comprehensive framework and with a valuable online guidance tool to assist staff in meeting quality standards,” the reviewers said. They also took note of the wide range of skills and expertise found at GAO, attributes that bolster the watchdog agency’s capacity to help Congress address a range of policy issues.
The international review team highlighted various exemplary practices at GAO that contribute to its effectiveness in improving government operations, singling out senior management’s emphasis on quality. “We noted positive senior management engagement in quality issues (‘tone from the top’), which reinforced the importance of considerations of quality,” the reviewers said.
The review team praised GAO’s quality assurance framework, describing it as a beneficial and stable system. Also mentioned as a “best practice” was GAO’s approach to deploying the appropriate expertise on engagements.
The review team also made several constructive comments for GAO’s consideration, such as being more explicit in reporting the criteria used and simpler language in audits.
This year’s GAO peer review was led by the Office of the Auditor General of Norway, with support from the national audit offices of Canada, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and the Bahamas. The peer review covered GAO’s performance and financial audit work and included an examination of all aspects of the agency’s quality assurance framework—from the controls around the initial acceptance of new work to those that govern the issuance of a final product. In conducting its work, the team interviewed GAO staff and studied a sample of the agency’s audit products.
The Government Accountability Office, known as the investigative arm of Congress, is an independent, nonpartisan agency that exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities. GAO also works to improve the performance of the federal government and ensure its accountability to the American people. The agency 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 provides Congress with timely information that is objective, fact-based, nonideological, fair, and balanced. GAO’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability.