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The General Accounting Office is the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of the U.S. government.

The GAO was created in 1921 as a result of the Budget and Accounting Act, and its “watchdog” role has evolved over the decades. The Budget and Accounting Act transferred auditing responsibilities, accounting, and claims functions from the Treasury Department to the new agency. The GAO was created because federal financial management was in disarray after World War I. Wartime spending had driven up the national debt, and Congress saw that it needed more information and better control over expenditures. The act made the GAO independent of the executive branch and gave it a broad mandate to investigate how federal dollars are spent. The act also required the president to prepare ...

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