*LEF302   07/21/93


(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.