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May 03, 2010


Observer  III

You forgot some options regarding the GAO and the IGs: simplify their work. Traditionally, they spend about half of their time neatening up and completing the file of working papers. This is not the time devoted to data collection, analysis, and report writing. Despite all the painstaking (painful?) care, GAO reports are not all that solid. They have a hard time understanding the private sector in many respects and have little interest in how government really works. They are looking for statistical reliability where it is often impossible. Yes, auditors can use professional judgement and even intuition in the right circumstances. You could improve productivity by having GAO people do more thinking and analysis and take less time annotating and rounding out the file. The weaknesses in GAO reports are not for lack of an audit trail, but in lack of analysis. The IGs just have a bad quality problem (in many if not all agencies); the GAO is hardly apolitical, but it is less troubled by what political appointees do to impedge data collection or bias results. Better bang for the buck in the GAO--but only if GAO's over-blown file process is thinned out. Yes, I can hear the screams now from the "profession" of auditors and some Congresspeople. With all due respect: sorry.

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