General Accounting Office (GAO)
The U.S. General Accounting Office (not the "Government Accounting Office" as is commonly cited) is the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of Congress. According to their literature maintained at http://www.gao.gov/, the GAO is responsible for supporting the Congress in meeting its Constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the American people. "GAO examines the use of public funds, evaluates federal programs and activities, and provides analyses, options, recommendations, and other assistance to help the Congress make effective oversight, policy, and funding decisions" (GAO, 2004, p. 2).
Within this context, the GAO operates to continuously improve the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of the federal government through financial audits, program reviews and evaluations, analyses, legal opinions, investigations, and other services. In addition, the GAO's activities are designed to ensure the executive branch's accountability to the Congress under the Constitution and the government's accountability to the American people. Finally, the GAO is dedicated to good government through its commitment to the core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability (GAO, 2004).