U.S. General Accounting Office:

The Role of GAO in Assisting Congressional Oversight

GAO-02-816T: Published: Jun 5, 2002. Publicly Released: Jun 5, 2002.

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The United States General Accounting Office (GAO) is an independent, professional, nonpartisan agency in the legislative branch that is commonly referred to as the investigative arm of Congress. Congress created GAO in the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 to assist in the discharge of its core constitutional powers--the power to investigate and oversee the activities of the executive branch, the power to control the use of federal funds, and the power to make laws. All of GAO's efforts on behalf of Congress are guided by three core values: (1) Accountability--GAO helps Congress oversee federal programs and operations to ensure accountability to the American people; (2) Integrity--GAO sets high standards in the conduct of its work. GAO takes a professional, objective, fact-based, non-partisan, nonideological, fair, and balanced approach on all activities; and (3) Reliability--GAO produces high-quality reports, testimonies, briefings, legal opinions, and other products and services that are timely, accurate, useful, clear, and candid.

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