ACCESSION NUMBER:296005 FILE ID:LEF302 DATE:07/21/93 TITLE:DEMOCRACY REQUIRES ACCOUNTABILITY, GAO OFFICIAL SAYS (07/21/93) TEXT:*93072102.LEF *LEF302 07/21/93 DEMOCRACY REQUIRES ACCOUNTABILITY, GAO OFFICIAL SAYS (WorldNet with GAO official 7/20) lf (530) (With Lsi305 of 07/21/93) By Louise Fenner USIA Staff Writer WASHINGTON -- In a democracy the government must be held accountable for how it spends the taxpayers' money, and it must permit independent audits of government programs without political interference. "You need to have an independent group that goes in and checks on the operations of the executive branch -- a group that provides information to the legislative branch so it can conduct proper oversight," said Brian Crowley, an official in the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO). For 72 years the GAO has conducted audits of federal agencies to determine whether their funds are being spent for the purposes Congress intended and whether the money is being used efficiently, Crowley said. He spoke with government officials in Panama and El Salvador participating in a July 20 WorldNet program. He noted that the GAO is part of the legislative branch but is fully independent. It is headed by a comptroller general who is appointed by the president -- from a list of candidates drawn up by Congress -- for a non-renewable 15-year term. The current comptroller general, Charles A. Bowsher, was appointed in 1981. He previously was affiliated with a major private accounting firm. Through the GAO, the public knows where its tax money is going and is informed about problems involving the expenditure of money, said Crowley. This is part of the process of accountability that is vital in a democracy. "The public wants to know that its elected representatives are providing good oversight and good accountability" for the taxes that are taken from them and spent by the executive branch, he said. "If the people do not think they are getting their money's worth from those 1lected representatives, they will vote them out of office... So I think there's a very strong link between accountability and democracy." The GAO has access to files of every federal agency except the Central Intelligence Agency and some sections of the Federal Reserve system, Crowley said. It can also examine how states and local governments spend federal funds. However, it cannot examine private citizens' bank accounts. If the GAO finds mismanagement or waste, it may make recommendations for correcting the problem. If it finds evidence of fraud or other forms of corruption, enforcement agencies are brought in to conduct an investigation. The GAO itself is an auditing agency, not an enforcement agency, although it has the authority to subpoena records if necessary. The GAO's reports are sent to Congress and are also made public. Reports are frequently picked up by the press and widely publicized, Crowley noted. He stressed that financial management and good fiscal controls "are more than just what the auditor does -- they have to be built in to the responsibility of the government itself." If the overall environment of the government "is one of honesty and accountability, most people will operate in accordance with those rules of honesty and accountability," he said. But just in case they don't, the GAO is on the job. NNNN .