Called to account - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Called to account

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Posted: Saturday, July 24, 2004 7:03 am | Updated: 6:18 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

It is not unknown for government agencies to change their names. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare became the Department of Health and Human Services when Education struck out on its own.

Notably, the Department of Defense used to be the War Department and was headquartered next to the White House in the State, War and Navy Building, which became the Executive Office Building and then the Old Executive Office Building and, most recently, the Eisenhower Building.

Now comes — or, rather, there goes — the General Accounting Office, invariably identified in the press by the accurate cliche, "the investigative arm of Congress." The GAO’s sleuths are on the prowl, at Congress’ direction, for fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement in government, but they don’t do much accounting.

And therein lay a problem in the eyes of the head of the GAO, David Walker. The old name, and it goes back to 1921, "as familiar and reassuring as it was, had not kept pace with GAO’s evolving role in government. . . . Most of the agency’s work involves program evaluations, policy analyses, and legal opinions and decisions on a broad range of government programs and activities. . . . " He hopes a name change will draw recruits to the agency who want to be investigators.

So welcome now to the government roster the Government Accountability Office. The name change became official earlier this month when President Bush signed the lamentably named GAO Human Capital Reform Act, which, in addition, revamped the agency’s pay and staffing structure.

If "General Accounting Office" was a misnomer, so too is the official title of its leader, but that was unchanged and David Walker retains the impressive moniker of comptroller general of the United States.

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