Financial Audit:

Special Counsel Expenditures for the Six Months Ended March 31, 2007

GAO-07-1205: Published: Sep 28, 2007. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 2007.

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This report presents the results of our audit of expenditures reported by the Office of Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald for the 6 months ended March 31, 2007. The Department of Justice and the independent counsels are required under 28 U.S.C. 594 (d)(2), (h) and 596 (c)(1) to report on a semiannual basis the expenditures from a permanent, indefinite appropriation established within the Department of Justice to fund independent counsel activities. Under 28 U.S.C. 596 (c)(2), we are required to audit the statement of expenditures prepared by any active independent counsels. For the 6 months ended March 31, 2007, there were no active independent counsels. However, we audited the statement of expenditures of Special Counsel Fitzgerald, who is authorized by the Department of Justice to fund his operation from the permanent, indefinite appropriation. The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 amended title 28 of the United States Code to authorize the judicial appointment of independent counsels when the Attorney General determines that reasonable grounds exist to warrant further investigation of high-ranking government officials for certain alleged crimes. The independent counsel law, which expired on June 30, 1999, was intended to preserve and promote the accountability and integrity of public officials and of the institutions of the federal government. Provisions of the law allowed the independent counsels serving at the expiration date to continue investigating pending matters until they determined that the investigations of such matters have been completed. As ordered by the Special Division, the Office of Independent Counsel Barrett, the last independent counsel to serve under the law, was terminated on May 3, 2006, and accordingly, no longer prepares a statement of expenditures. However, after that date, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) continued to perform administrative responsibilities and maintain the administrative records for the terminated office. During the 6 months ended March 31, 2007, several payments on that counsel's behalf were made, including $26,922 primarily for severance pay, $6,991 for printing of the final report, and $1,113 for support services rendered by AOUSC.4 However, we are not expressing an opinion on these amounts.

In our audit covering the 6 months ended March 31, 2007, we found (1) the statement of expenditures for the Office of Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, is presented fairly, in all material respects, in conformity with the basis of accounting described in note 1 of the counsel's statement, which is principally the cash basis, a comprehensive basis of accounting other than U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; (2) Special Counsel Fitzgerald had effective internal control over financial reporting (including safeguarding assets) and compliance with laws and regulations as of March 31, 2007; and (3) no reportable noncompliance with laws and regulations we tested. Our audit was designed to determine whether the statement of expenditures is fairly stated in all material respects. We were not required to express an opinion on the reasonableness or appropriateness of any related expenditures and we are not expressing any opinion thereon. The statement of expenditures, including the accompanying notes, for the Office of Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald presents fairly, in all material respects, the expenditures of the counsel for the 6 months ended March 31, 2007, on the basis of accounting described in note 1 of the counsel's statement. The counsel prepared the statement of expenditures principally on a cash basis of accounting, which is a comprehensive basis of accounting other than U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. The basis of accounting is described in note 1 of the counsel's statement. The counsel's statement includes only expenditures made from the permanent, indefinite appropriation. Special Counsel Fitzgerald maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting (including safeguarding assets) and compliance with laws and regulations as of March 31, 2007, that provided reasonable assurance that misstatements, losses, or noncompliance material in relation to the statement of expenditures would be prevented or detected on a timely basis. Our opinion is based on criteria we established in our Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government. Our tests for compliance with selected provisions of laws and regulations disclosed no instances of noncompliance that would be reportable under U.S. generally accepted government auditing standards. However, the objective of our audit was not to provide an opinion on overall compliance with laws and regulations. Accordingly, we do not express such an opinion.

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