Government Accountability Office (GAO)

Written By:
Paul Tracy
Updated August 5, 2020

What is the Government Accountability Office (GAO)?

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigates, with congressional approval, the federal government's spending.

How Does the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Work?

The GAO started in 1921, when the Budget and Accounting Act transferred the government's auditing and accounting functions away from the Treasury Department. The head of the GAO is the comptroller general of the United States and is appointed to a 15-year term by the U.S. president. Congress gives the president a list of candidates to choose from.

The GAO is now an independent, nonpartisan agency that investigates the use of taxpayer dollars, writes reports about its findings and makes recommendations to Congress. These reports and findings are available here.

Why Does the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Matter?

The GAO's role is to keep the federal government accountable for its spending decisions and help the government operate efficiently. To do this, it investigates an array of spending projects and provides the public and Congress with findings and recommendations. Its fiduciary duty is to American taxpayers.