The Comptroller General is the head of the Government Accountability Office and serves as the chief accountant for the United States Government and heads up the GAO which is a support agency of the U.S. Congress.
Definition of Comptroller General
Sec. 1011. [2 U.S.C. 682] For purposes of this part—
(2) “Comptroller General” means the Comptroller General of the United States;
[From the GAO Website]
The Comptroller General of the United States heads the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an agency within the legislative branch of the federal government. The Comptroller General is appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate. When a vacancy occurs in the office of the Comptroller General, the Congress establishes a bipartisan, bicameral commission to recommend individuals to the President. The Comptroller General’s term of office is set statutorily at 15 years and he is not eligible for reappointment.
As GAO’s chief executive officer, the Comptroller General has overall responsibility for the operations of the agency. The Comptroller General works in a non-partisan and non-ideological manner with Congressional clients and external parties. GAO supports the Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and in helping to improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. The agency carries out audit, evaluative, and investigative assignments and provides legal analyses to the Congress. GAO performs work at the request of the Congress and under the Comptroller General’s authority. The agency conveys the results of its reviews through written products and through testimony to the Congress. GAO also issues legal decisions on matters such as disputes involving the awarding of government contracts. In addition to serving as the chief accountability officer for the federal government, the Comptroller General issues Government Auditing Standards and participates in audit-related international forums.
GAO’s planning and management framework is based on strategic goals, strategic objectives, performance goals, and key efforts. The Comptroller General sets the tone at the top of the agency and leads by example. He explains the importance of quality, professional standards, ethical conduct, character, and integrity through the issuance of quality assurance measures. He also communicates through external presentations, internal meetings and forums, question and answer sessions and chats, agency newsletters and other mechanisms. The Comptroller General ensures that GAO’s employees work efficiently and effectively within an appropriate organizational structure. The Comptroller General’s direct reports are the Chief Operating Officer, the General Counsel, and the Chief Administrative Officer/Chief Financial Officer. Along with the Comptroller General, these officials comprise GAO’s Executive Committee.
The Congress established the current procedure for nominating a Comptroller General when it passed the GAO Act of 1980. Under the act, the Comptroller General is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. When a vacancy occurs in the office of the Comptroller General, the Congress establishes a commission to recommend individuals to the President. The commission consists of the following:
- The Speaker of the House of Representatives
- The President Pro Tempore of the Senate
- The majority and minority leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate
- The Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
- The Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
The commission must recommend at least three individuals to the President, and the President may request that the commission recommend additional individuals. The President then selects an individual from those recommended to nominate as the new Comptroller General. The President’s nomination must be confirmed by the Senate. Comptrollers general are appointed for one nonrenewable 15-year term.
The commission process has thus been followed three times now, leading to the President’s nomination, and the Senate’s confirmation, of the sixth Comptroller General, Charles A. Bowsher, in 1981 and the seventh Comptroller General, David M. Walker, in 1998, and the eighth Comptroller General, Gene Dodaro, in 2010.
(a)(1) The Comptroller General and Deputy Comptroller General are appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.
(2) When a vacancy occurs in the office of Comptroller General or Deputy Comptroller General, a commission is established to recommend individuals to the President for appointment to the vacant office. The commission shall be composed of—
(A) the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
(B) the President pro tempore of the Senate;
(C) the majority and minority leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate;
(D) the chairmen and ranking minority members of the Committee on Governmental Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Government Operations of the House; and
(E) when the office of Deputy Comptroller General is vacant, the Comptroller General.
(3) A commission established because of a vacancy in the office of the Comptroller General shall recommend at least 3 individuals. The President may ask the commission to recommend additional individuals.
(b) Except as provided in subsection (e) of this section, the term of the Comptroller General is 15 years. The Comptroller General may not be reappointed. The term of the Deputy Comptroller General expires on the date an individual is appointed Comptroller General. The Deputy Comptroller General may continue to serve until a successor is appointed.
(c) The Deputy Comptroller General—
(1) carries out duties and powers prescribed by the Comptroller General; and
(2) acts for the Comptroller General when the Comptroller General is absent or unable to serve or when the office of Comptroller General is vacant.
(d) The Comptroller General shall designate an officer or employee of the Government Accountability Office to act as Comptroller General when the Comptroller General and Deputy Comptroller General are absent or unable to serve or when the offices of Comptroller General and Deputy Comptroller General are vacant.
(e)(1) A Comptroller General or Deputy Comptroller General may retire after becoming 70 years of age and completing 10 years of service as Comptroller General or Deputy Comptroller General (as the case may be). Either may be removed at any time by—
(A) impeachment; or
(B) joint resolution of Congress, after notice and an opportunity for a hearing, only for—
(i) permanent disability;
(iii) neglect of duty;
(iv) malfeasance; or
(v) a felony or conduct involving moral turpitude.
(2) A Comptroller General or Deputy Comptroller General removed from office under paragraph (1) of this subsection may not be reappointed to the office.
(f) The annual rate of basic pay of the—
(1) Comptroller General is equal to the rate for level II of the Executive Schedule; and
(2) Deputy Comptroller General is equal to the rate for level III of the Executive Schedule.
Note: The BAA 1921 established the first Comptroller of the United States. Before its enactment, his duties were performed by the Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury, within the Department of the Treasury.
Sections 301 through 304 are the applicable sections establishing the first GAO Comptroller General included in the BAA 1921:
TITLE III – GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE.
Sec. 301.There is created an establishment of the Government to be known as the General Accounting Office, which shall be independent of the executive departments and under the control and direction of the Comptroller General of the United States. The offices of Comptroller of the Treasury and Assistant Comptroller of the Treasury are abolished, to take effect July 1, 1921 . All other officers and employees of the office of the Comptroller of the Treasury shall be come officers and employees in the General Accounting Office at their grades and salaries on July 1, 1921, and all books, records, documents, papers, furniture, office equipment and other property of the office of the Comptroller of the Treasury shall become the property of the General Accounting Office. The Comptroller General is authorized to adopt a seal for the General Accounting Office.
Sec. 302. There shall be in the General Accounting Office a Comp troller General of the United States and an Assistant Comptroller General of the United States, who shall be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, and shall receive salaries of $10,000 and $7,500 a year, respectively. The Assistant Comp- troller General shall perform such duties as may be assigned to him by the Comptroller General, and during the absence or incapacity of the Comptroller General, or during a vacancy in that office, shall act as Comptroller General.
Sec. 303. Except as hereinafter provided in this section, the Comp- troller General and the Assistant Comptroller General shall hold office for fifteen years. The Comptroller General shall not be eligible for reappointment. The Comptroller General or the Assistant Comp- troller General may be removed at any time by joint resolution of Congress after notice and hearing, when, in the judgment of Congress, the Comptroller General or Assistant Comptroller General has become permanently incapacitated or has been inefficient, or guilty of neglect of duty, or of malfeasance in office, or of any felony or conduct involving moral turpitude, and for no other cause and in no other manner except by impeachment. Any Comptroller General orAssist- ant Comptroller General removed in the manner herein provided shall be ineligible for reappointment to that office. When a Comp- troller General or Assistant Comptroller General attains the age of seventy years, he shall be retired from his office.
Sec. 304. All powers and duties now conferred or imposed by law upon the Comptroller of the Treasury or the six auditors of the Treasury Department, and the duties of the Division of Bookkeeping and Warrants of the Office of the Secretary of the Treasury relating to keeping the personal ledger accounts of disbursing and collecting officers, shall, so far as not inconsistent with this Act, be vested in and imposed upon the General Accounting Office and be exercised without direction from any other officer. The balances certified by the Comptroller General shall be final and conclusive upon the executive branch of the Government. The revision by the Comptroller General of settlements made by the six auditors shall be discontinued, except as to settlements made before July 1, 1921.