The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is making sure that taxpayers get their money's worth from the government. Formerly known as the General Accounting Office, the Government Accountability Office is the investigative arm of Congress, and, as the name suggests, it strives to ensure accountability in the legislative and executive branches of government. The independent and nonpartisan agency examines federal spending, advises Congress and heads of executive agencies about the effectiveness and responsiveness of government, evaluates federal programs, audits expenditures, and issues legal opinions. The GAO has an annual budget of more than $500 million.
Anticipating funding reductions in 2012, GAO has been cutting back on its workforce and travel.
Besides Washington DC, the GAO operates from more than 10 field offices across the country. In 2011 the office received more than 900 Congressional requests and new mandates. GAO witnesses testified at more than 80 Congressional hearings.
About 80% of the GAO's recommendations are implemented. In 2011 it created more than $45 billion in financial benefits for the federal government, which the office claims can be proportioned as a return of $81 for every dollar spent on the GAO. Among the office's accomplishments that year were identifying ways to help the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services prevent improper payments and indicating problems with the Environmental Protection Agency's water-based lead testing and treatment.