Government Accountability Office

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO), previously called the Government Accounting Office, is the administrative agency responsible for ensuring the funds appropriated by Congress are spent for the purposes provided by Congress.

GAO engages in audits and investigations but has negligible enforcement power. Once a legal determination has been made, GAO has exhausted its regulatory authority. Regardless of the adjudicative outcome, GAO has no authority to exact fines, issue injunctions, or pursue further proceedings, criminal or otherwise. Instead, GAO reports the determination to Congress, to the president, to the offending agency, and to any other relevant agencies (such as the Department of Justice).

GAO is headed by the Comptroller General of the United States.

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[Last updated in January of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]