GAO has issued standards for Government audits providing for three elements: (1) financial and compliance--to determine whether financial operations are proper, financial reports presented fairly, and applicable laws and regulations complied with; (2) economy and efficiency--to determine whether management is economical and efficient; and (3) program results--to determine whether desired results are being achieved. Most auditing of Federal programs by independent public accountants has been restricted to financial and compliance auditing. Most independent accountants perform financial opinion audits satisfactorily, but some audit compliance items less well. An examination of 15 audits showed that none of 11 independent accountants reviewed all 17 compliance areas called for in their contracts. In some cases the accountants did not do a professional job or work was below professional standards. Other problems identified were: inadequate reporting in which deficiencies were reported to the grantee but not to the agency paying for the audits; and the handling of liabilities for grantees which fail to meet grant requirements. Improvements can be made by: informing accountants of the importance of grantee compliance, training public accountants, reporting substandard work to professional ethics committees, improving methods of engaging accountants to insure independence, and simplifying audit guides.
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