The government needs to be held accountable for its actions. Accountability and transparency are vitally essential elements in running any government. These elements help in establishing confidence of the public members in their government. In most parts of the world, especially in the developing countries, the issue of accountability on part of the government has been an issue that has undermined economic, social and political growth in these countries. Accountability ensures that the government officials are held accountable for their individual actions. Where there is no responsibility, government officials tend to misuse their power for personal gain. Lack of accountability is characterized with poor governance structures and misappropriation of public funds.
Accountability is one of the key pillars that have made the United State of America to be the world’s super power. The government is held accountable for each and every action that it undertakes. This has played a crucial role in building a strong government that is responsible for its citizens’ welfare over the course of the American history. In order to ensure that answerability is maintained at all governance levels the constitution has provided for, an office responsible for the matters concerning accountability has been established. The office is known as the Government Accountability Office, which is mandated by the constitution to enhance accountability in governance issues across all federal states in the United States of America.
Government Accountability Office can be said to be the ruling arm of the US, which is mandated with the role of evaluation, audition and investigation. It is one of the United States government organs.
This paper intends to investigate the role of the office in attaining accountability in the way government carries out its various development projects. The research paper seeks to understand the contribution of Government Accountability Office to enhancing proper governance in the USA.
Statement of the Problem
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The general research topic of this paper is the United State of America government’s accountability. In order to investigate how accountability has been achieved in the government, one needs to comprehend which organ of the state is mandated to oversee this responsibility. The specific topic of this research paper is government accountability office as an organ of the US Congress that is mandated with the role of enhancing answerability in the government. Therefore, this paper seeks to investigate the effectiveness of GAO and all of its features.
Purpose of the Study
This study seeks to determine how principles of public expenditure can be used to bring accountability in the way public funds are used. In order to achieve this purpose the study will focus on GAO – a legislative organ of the US Congress that is mandated to audit, evaluate as well as investigate the usage of public funds. It is important to understand how GAO uses the various principles of public expenditure in order to bring accountability in the way public funds are used by the government.
The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role of GAO in achieving accountability in governance issues in the United States. The paper seeks to achieve the following specific objectives in the quest to realize how effective GAO has been in restoring and maintaining responsibility in the government. The first and main objective for this study is to understand the role of GAO in enhancing accountability by identifying the specific functions of this body. Secondly this study seeks to investigate GAO’s achievements in its quest for enhancing accountability. Thirdly, this study seeks to determine the contribution of GAO in enhancing accountability in the American society. Finally, this study seeks to determine the issues that GAO needs to address in the government in order to enhance accountability in the way public funds are utilized.
In order to gather information related to the GAO’s activities and principles applied in all the activities of this crucial body, secondary sources of data will be used. The data for analyzing the topic of study will be from case studies that have been put forward by various scholars in relation to GAO activities. The material to be used in this study must focus on GAO as well as on the principles of public expenditure. It is important to understand the various principles of public expenditure that are used worldwide in order to apply them to assess how effectively the government utilizes the public funds.
GAO was initially established in 1921 as a general accounting office under the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921. The act mandated GAO to play the role of investigating the government activities that are related to the receipt, disbursement as well as the usage of public funds. The body was supposed to make recommendations to the Congress and President on the issues dealing with public funds utilization efficiency as well as the matters related to the greater part of the economy. GAO’s mission does state that the agency does exist with the sole purpose of helping the Congress meet its various constitutional duties and responsibilities. It also plays the role of aiding in performance improvement as well as ensuring accountability of the American central government, with an aim of ensuring that American citizens do benefit from the government and its activities.
According to the GAOHuman Capital Reform Act of 2004, the name of the body was changed with an aim of ensuring that it did reflect the mission of that office in a better way. The name was changed to ensure that it truly reflected this crucial office activities related to the management of public resources in the United States of America. The name was changed to Government Accountability Office.
Many people have been referring to GAO as a watchdog for the Congress as well as the best friend of the United States tax payers. It earned this name due to conducting audits and various investigative reports from time to time. These audits and investigations have played a crucial role in revealing the inefficiency as well as wastage in the government expenditure. The reports by GAO are often used by the media, scholars and the Congress. This has played an important role in restoring efficiency and reducing wastage of public funds by the federal government (Walker, 2004).
Comptroller general of the state is the one who is mandated by the act that formed this important office to head it. The post of the comptroller general is commonly occupied by a non-partisan and a professional. The head of the office is usually appointed by the president after being advised as well as given consent by the Senate. The comptroller general is appointed for a 15 years term, which is not renewable. In order to ensure the security of his tenure, the comptroller general cannot be removed from the office by the president, but can only be impeached by the Congress or through a joint resolution by the Congress for particular reasons.
In order to undertake its mandate effectively, GAO has to apply the various principles of public expenditure. Scholars do argue that by employing these principles it is easy for one to identify where public funds and resources are being wasted and inefficiently used. The canon of public expenditure has been used in various parts of the world in measuring the accountability of the government in the public funds usage. GAO has not been let out in its 86 years of service.
One of the public expenditure canons that is commonly used by the GAO analysts in measuring the accountability of the government in the way it uses the taxpayer’s money is the canon of Maximum Social Advantage. The principle argues that government expenditure should only be incurred in a way that the whole community is going to benefit. The goal of government expenditure is always to provide utmost social benefit. GAO determines whether the government is accountable in its taxpayers’ money usage by identifying whether a given section of the society does receive some gains through allocation of public funds at the cost of the whole society. If the analysts, employed by GAO, identify such kind of a situation, they make recommendations stating that the government is not accountable in the usage of the taxpayers’ funds. Therefore, it is important for any expenditure by the government to ensure that it does secure utmost social benefit. It is the responsibility of this office to ensure this goal of public expenditure is achieved.
The canon of economy is another measure applied by GAO to enhance accountability concerning government expenditures. The cannon demands the government should ensure that it spends money in a way that any wastage is avoided in the process. Cutting down public funds expenditure does not mean niggardliness or miserliness. The term economy tends to advocate for increase in government expenditure without any form of duplication or extravagance. If the government misuses the public funds, then it will not make use of the economy principle in its usage. It is up to the GAO to ensure that there is no reckless usage of public funds by investigating and auditing the usage of tax fund by the government.
It is up to the GAO analysts to make use of the sanction canon in their measure of whether there is accountability in the usage of public funds by the government or not. This principle does argue that all government expenditures, incurred after obtaining the right sanction from the authority mandated to give that, go ahead. This canon plays an important role as it helps reduce wastage and overestimation of public funds by those in the government. Prior approval before usage of any public funds is important as it enables GAO officers to go through diverse expenditures items. This makes it easy for them to identify instances of any misappropriation or overspending of public funds on the part of the government.
Another principle, which can be used in the public funds management, advocated by scholars and economists is one on balanced budget. This canon states that the government should not have any surplus or deficit budget. The advocates of this principle argue that if there is surplus budget this is a sign of the citizen’s overtaxation, which is rather unwise. On the other hand, they argue that deficit budget is also undesirable and should be discouraged at all cost. It is the role of GAO to ensure that there is accountability in the budget preparation process as well as in the government spending.
The research has shown that the canon of elasticity can be effectively used in the management of public expenditure, thus bringing some levels of accountability. This canon argues that government spending must not be fixed at any given time. Government expenditure should be somehow fairly elastic. It is up to the government to ensure that its budget is not fixed, so that it can be varied when circumstances demand. GAO should enable the government raise its expenditure during economic crisis in order to enhance financial growth with a sole purpose of increasing the number of employment opportunities in the country (Barro & Grilli ,1994). On the other hand, the government is able to reduce its spending during financial booms in order to deal with the problem of inflation in the economy.
The above canons have been utilized in public expenditure management. They help in the process of enhancing accountability and transparency in the way public funds are used by the relevant authorities. GAO has used these principles over the years to enhance management of public funds by the government. As a body, mandated by the act of parliament to oversee the public expenditure auditing and investigation process, it applies these canons in order to determine how effectively public funds have been employed, and in which areas of government spending wastage was noted.
Importance of the Office
GAO is one of the most important public offices in the United States government. The process of enhancing accountability in government expenditure is not an easy one and requires a body that has enough power to carry out such a complicated duty. The process of budget preparation in many countries is not open and transparent to the public. This important office in the USA has enhanced accountability in the budget preparation by ensuring participation of the public members in this process.
This office plays an important role as it helps to decrease squandering and misusage of public funds by those in the government. Prior approval before usage of any public funds is important as it enables GAO officers to go plan these expenditures accurately. This makes it easy for them to identify instances of any misappropriation or overspending of public funds on the part of the government. It is up to GAO to ensure that there is no reckless usage of public funds by investigating and auditing all the expenditures conducted in order to detect any failures.
The office also ensures that everyone in the country does benefit from the government expenditures. In order to ensure this the government applies the principle of maximum social benefit in its expenditure. The principle states that government expenditures should only be incurred in a way that the whole community receives profit from such an endeavor. The goal of government expenditures is always to provide utmost social benefit. GAO defines whether the government is accountable in its taxpayers’ money spending by determining whether a certain section of the society receives any gains through allocation of public funds. If the GAO analysts identify such kind of a situation, they acknowledge the government to be not accountable in the taxpayers’ money utilization.
Government Accountability Office is one of the most important offices in the USA. It has brought accountability in usage of public funds by the government. The office has enhanced the management of various government projects by ensuring that the funds, allocated for these projects, are properly employed and any wastage is avoided. It has also played a great role in helping the Congress carry out its mandate in the process of enhancing accountability in the usage of public funds.