Obligatory these opinions are my own statement.

I worked as an auditor for the GAO for about 12 years before deciding in a career change, a couple of months ago. I immensely enjoyed my time with GAO and believe in the mission wholeheartedly, which made leaving that much more difficult.

However, with recent events, I thought my time as a "government watchdog" may be interesting to some folks, so feel free to ask me anything, and I will respond the best I can and am able.

Proof: From one of my last paystubs

A lot of you have asked me which reports I worked on. While I'm obviously not about to list every report I ever worked on, here's one of the more recent high-profile ones that I worked on, as well as the director's testimony that took place as a result of the report.

Edit: Headed to bed, keep the questions coming and I'll try to answer them as I'm able. I really do appreciate all of the thoughtful inquiries and hope I have been able to give you some insight into the government auditing process, thus far.

Comments: 130 • Responses: 52  • Date: 

boofaloo5155 karma

Why does it take GAO SO freaking long to get reports out or make decisions? A lot of people, myself included think that the ruli g yesterday was way too late to make a difference

notalawyersorry104 karma

I'm actually really glad you asked this. GAO has a reputation as a very credible source for a reason; they make sure everything is accurate before publishing a report or releasing a judgment. When you go through the checking process, known as indexing and referencing, you have to quite literally point to sources for each and every word in the report. Also, if you heard the information during an interview from an agency official and it was not in an actual document, you have to say things like, "according to agency officials," instead of just reporting the information as fact.

This process typically takes a month, minimum, because once you index all of the draft, another employee that has been trained accordingly has to go through each and every document link and reference line you provided, and check them out. I'm not just saying that the facts have to line up, they have to make sure that you are not re-wording the source information in a way that does not accurately portray said information. This can be quite difficult as a lot of the information/documents you receive are filled with jargon, and you have to write the report for the public, with more commonly used phrases. So, you would then have to prove that the term you are using in its place has the exact same meaning as the jargon term, essentially walking the referencer through the thought process.

Even once you get referencer approval, the report still has to go through an Audit Policy and Quality Assurance officer, and they check to make sure that the wording you used is acceptable and the information presented is done so in a way that GAO can get behind, without language that could be perceived as biased in any way.

So yes, it is quite a process, and I didn't even get into the audit process we go through, complete with different milestones and standard benchmarks to make sure all the stakeholders on your audit are on the same page, so you don't have any surprises at the upteenth hour. It's a lot of steps, but it really is necessary to make sure the GAO reports released are 100% up to par, which is why GAO is the gold standard in government audits. I can go into more detail about any aspect of the audit work process itself, but I didn't want to bore you :).

boofaloo5119 karma

I had no idea it was such a process.... Like I knew y'all had to fact check but I had no idea it was that thorough. Kind of surprised you finished any reports with that process tbh. You mentioned interviews....ever interview anyone super high up or exciting or anything like that? Thanks!

notalawyersorry92 karma

I wanted to add, the process is so incredibly comprehensive and your reports go through so many levels of review, which is why I can't help but laugh when people accuse GAO of bias.

Even if I had been the most biased person ever, my writing never would have gotten through our QA process. One time I tried to sneak the word "sordid" into a report, and that was flagged and removed by the QA folks; that's how serious they are about making sure the language is as fact-based and without bias.

In my last year, I tried to sneak a few other more "colorful" words into my reports just for laughs to see if I could get it through, and every single one of them got flagged and removed.

notalawyersorry26 karma

The highest up/most exciting agency official I ever interviewed was probably a three-star general. He was very intimidating, to say the least.

mepronz5 karma

I'd like a little more about the general if you can. Paint a vague picture if you can't be specific? Like was your interview confrontational in any way, or was it more "can you confirm these basic facts about some basic thing"?

notalawyersorry15 karma

He was trying to paint his program as the golden child, and clearly was not used to anyone challenging him. I asked a simple, yet pointed question that I believe was fair, and he immediately got very defensive and raised his voice/yelled at me. I stood my ground (and probably peed a little), and continued to press on the issue, using the tactics I had learned that feed into ego to get a response. (They like it when you admit your own lack of knowledge may be hindering you, and they love to explain all the ways you are wrong, for example, and often reveal more than they originally planned). Eventually one of them worked, and he softened, but he absolutely terrified me and had the build and personality you would expect a 3* to have.

It was a little combination of both the examples you gave in my questions, but I never got confrontational. I did however point out the discrepancy in accounts that we had heard.

bananahead47 karma

Does the inside of the GAO building have the same killer art deco design as the outside?

notalawyersorry70 karma

This question wins. So, yes, it's all art deco on the inside hallways and larger areas, and they still have the original elevator doors which look pretty cool. Once you go into the actual offices/cubicle neighborhoods those are more c.1990s, but there are still original design elements interspersed throughout.

The main reason the building inside and out remains unchanged though is not for aesthetic purposes, it is to cut costs. Since GAO knows that any spending they do is under as microscope due to the nature of the work, there are a lot of things in the building that are...behind the times. (For example they kept Windows XP past the point it was no longer supported, and just started upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10 when I left). GAO's budget is actually quite small when compared to other agencies, so concessions have to be made, somewhere! The nice thing is that at least it was built during a nice period of architecture versus some 70s brutalist building.

cahaseler25 karma

Is the GAO really apolitical?

notalawyersorry75 karma

Yes, it is believe it or not. Sure people have their own political views, but it doesn't come into play in their work. It's truly—as corny as it may sound—a country before party situation.

You'd also be surprised that it's also typically a non-issue, since most of the audits are not political in nature. If the audit request that comes through from Congress has clear bias and political leanings, the audit objectives are written in a way to neutralize the language and allow for fact-based conclusions.

Edit: Forgot to add that the agency bends over backwards to make sure it is apolitical, as a whole. So much annual training on the subject.

danhakimi14 karma

How can we help keep it like this?

notalawyersorry57 karma

Make sure Congress continues to fund GAO. Their (GAO) budget is already incredibly small when compared to other agencies, despite the fact that for every $1 invested they save the taxpayer $124 (based on financial accomplishment reports). I would be afraid to see what the government would look like without proper oversight from GAO.

Edit: Corrected the amounts.

gol43 karma

I find it amazing that the ratio is 1 to 100. Not 99 or 107, exactly 100.

notalawyersorry16 karma

More or less, that's what I remember off the top of my head. I think it may have actually been higher. I'm going to see if I can find anything.

Edit: I was wrong! Thanks for bringing it to my attention. $124 for every $1. I added a link to my original statement.

TokyoJokeyo16 karma

What audit did you work on that produced the most change for the better? Unfortunately the experience with our city's comptroller has been is that a damning report will be issued but little visible change occur.

notalawyersorry31 karma

I knew a question was coming like this, and I'm going to have to be careful not to ID myself, so apologies in advance. While I'm no longer an employee, I don't want to doxx myself and create any issues.

With that being said, I would say that objectively, the Contracting and National Security Acquisitions mission team probably has the most impact on a day-to-day basis. They save the government a huge amount of money by determining whether funds appropriated for for contracts are being spent efficiently and effectively, and a large amount of GAO's cost savings comes from them. Contracts have some of the biggest opportunities for fraud, waste, and abuse as I understand, and their issues are easier (in comparison to larger programs) to rectify and bring about enormous cost savings, as a result.

I'm so sorry your experience has been less-than-optimal. GAO has to deal with that as well, due to politics and depending on who has majorities, at the time. You would think that if most committee members submit a request, they would want to learn where cost savings can be made, but it's not always in their political interests to do so, which is disheartening.

DubTeeDub9 karma

Why did you decide to leave the GAO after so many years of service?

What has the morale been like in the office under the Trump administration?

Have you seen many of your colleagues leave as well?

notalawyersorry32 karma

  1. I received an offer for a higher-paying job in the private sector, that employs a lot of the same auditing procedures GAO uses. My wife is pregnant, so while the benefits are decent in government, I could not turn down this opportunity to earn substantially more money to support my future kid.
  2. I'd say as a whole morale isn't fantastic, as no one likes to feel undervalued as an employee, but GAO employees are less affected than those that work in the executive branch. Since our work relies so heavily on the Congress, that is what would affect it more, and GAO folks are used to dealing with partisan politics already on that front.
  3. Honestly, not many people leave GAO once they've gotten past their probationary period, which is unheard of in the rest of government. It's not uncommon to encounter people that spend their whole careers there, and typically if they do leave, it's for reasons such as my own.

DubTeeDub2 karma

Thank you for responding and sharing your perspective!

notalawyersorry19 karma

Anytime. Honestly, I would be lying if I said the administration didn't make it easier for me to leave, but it was merely a co-existing benefit, not the cause of my departure. Government work no longer has the cushy pensions and benefits it once did, so the lower salaries can't be justified in the same way as they once were, in my opinion. (All GAO auditors are required to have at least a master's degree, for context).

swirlyglasses19 karma

What sort of issue does the GAO typically investigate?

notalawyersorry21 karma

So the blanket answer would be that GAO investigates how taxpayer dollars are spent, across a wide variety of issues. GAO is typically tasked (or mandated) to look into specific programs, offices, policies, etc. in the respective agencies, and while credit is given where credit is due, GAO looks for any inefficiencies or examples of fraud, waste, and/or abuse as a part of the investigation.

takeandbake6 karma

Any tips for an internal auditor at the beginning of their career?

notalawyersorry18 karma

  • Don't be afraid to ask questions, it is the only way you will learn since so much of one's knowledge of auditing--beyond your policies and procedures--comes from experience.
  • Try to find someone you really respect and ask them to mentor you. Their knowledge and experience will be invaluable to you as time goes on, and will help immensely.
  • Find out about any external training opportunities that could help you stand out to management, and remember to be your own advocate if they push back, initially. I took it upon myself to learn SAS early in my career when many of the older auditors struggle with basic Excel functions, so I definitely stood out.
  • Work on your writing as much as humanly possible. Audit writing is far from intuitive, and many of the stylistic concepts go against every writing concept you have learned your entire life; however, exceptional writing abilities will help you ascend up the ranks faster than anything else.
  • Become an expert that people will come to, but do not limit yourself to only one area of expertise.
  • If there is someone you genuinely enjoy working with, continue to work with them if you are able. People > Subject Matter, always.
  • Also, if it's government audits, get very familiar with the budgeting process, how it works, etc., You will need that information no matter what you are working on.
  • Speak up, as much as possible. In the beginning it will feel unnatural and difficult, but as time goes on you will find interviewing and presenting comes easily, and your ability to command a room and articulate what you want to say makes a huge difference when you're trying to get answers.

Hope that helps, feel free to PM me if you have any other questions, and the best of luck to you in your career!

Mr_Shad0w5 karma

Did you ever get the feeling that your agency was despised by Congress or other federal agencies / appointees? Ever get the feeling that you were the only part of the US Gov't that doesn't lie for a living?

(I thank you for your service, btw - GAO reports are great and necessary and I wish they received more play in the media, and were taken more seriously in general)

notalawyersorry11 karma

  1. HAH! YES. Definitely despised by some agency officials, and they would do everything in their power to road block us along the way.
  2. I wouldn't say the only part of the government, but I am always wary of politicians and political appointees. I don't typically believe anything they say until they can back it up with action and fact.

Thank you, I wish they did as well! The number of times people confused us with the GSA was astounding. It always started with, "Hey, weren't you the guys that had that big Vegas party you got in trouble for?" No, no, that was not GAO. GAO were the ones that audited GSA.

lc_peony4 karma

Did you ever have a colleague who was not honest in their work? Were they ever caught, and if so, how did management handle it?

notalawyersorry13 karma

Yes. You may remember that Project Veritas thing where they revealed that guy had been lying on his timecard and working on communist party activities, and got him on tape saying so. I have never seen GAO act so quickly on a personnel thing, in my life. He was immediately put on leave and the case was sent right away to the GAO Inspector General. (Yes, even GAO has an IG to oversee our operations!) It was a pretty open and shut case since he was still in his probationary period. He admitted on film he was falsifying his timecard and that no one else GAO had any idea what he was doing, so his employment with GAO ended very quickly after the IG finished their investigation, which was fast-tracked, from what I hear.

Other than that, honestly, no. It sounds so Pollyanna, but the employees at GAO *really* take pride in holding themselves to the same levels of accountability that they hold agencies to, as well.

feelinderpy8 karma

Hey there, I am a former GAO employee as well. I agree that everything I saw there was absolutely by the book...except I was actually pressured to under report my hours during a difficult budget situation. It was one of those times we were going from one continuing resolution to the next. My supervisor would call me minutes before I was supposed to leave, keep me on the phone an hour, and then discourage me from recording the time. It really sucked and left me feeling pretty jaded.

notalawyersorry7 karma

I'm so sorry you experienced that. I had a supervisor like that on one engagement I worked on early in my career, and it left a bad taste in my mouth, as well. After that though, I outright refused to under report my hours on my timecard, and told myself that if anyone pressured me again, I would go to the IG. Luckily, I never had to, but it angers me so much when I hear about cases like this! Hopefully you had some good experiences, too.

McJumbos4 karma

If you could change anything about your time there, what would it be?

notalawyersorry14 karma

When you first start out, after you've finished their professional development program and placed in a mission team, you are a standard analyst. At that point, you really have free reign to work in any portfolio within the mission team you want to, assuming you are staffed to the report. In my desire to get promoted as quickly as possible and work my way up, I pigeonholed myself early, and only did work in that one portfolio until I left the agency. I wish I had been less concerned about promotion and dabbled a bit in a few different subject areas, instead of the one.

Centoaph4 karma

Would you call your former job important? If so how do you reconcile that with what’s happening now? If people can ignore the office with impunity, why not just eliminate that job and stop pretending?

notalawyersorry7 karma

I would. GAO does a ton of important work, most of which goes under the radar of the general public, and is not publicized. Of course, when there is the potential for politics to get involved in can muddy the waters, but GAO has never been and is not expected to be an enforcement agency. Recommendation follow-up does take place and over 80% of the recommendations made in reports are enacted by the agencies. This may be one of those 20%, but I cannot speak as to the next steps in the process with regard to the current news, as that was never my area of expertise since I'm not a lawyer.

StukovM1g3 karma

What do you think is your proudest achievement of your career?

notalawyersorry10 karma

That's a tough one because it's really a culmination of every recommendation I worked on that was enacted by the agencies. But, if I had to point to one instance, probably when I helped get some corrupt officials arrested for a bribery and kickback scheme.

RedErin3 karma

Is Trump going to get removed? How much pressure are the GOP senators under to remove?

notalawyersorry10 karma

  1. Personal opinion, likely not.
  2. No idea, I don't work in politics nor do I ever care to, as I abhor the "politics of politics" with a passion.

WillSmithsBrother2 karma

So in other words, the GAO won’t play any role when it comes to the decision?

notalawyersorry8 karma

Nope. That is left to Congress. While GAO is technically in the legislative branch, the agency is independent of any Congressional decisions.

TheBigGrizzly3 karma

What is your opinion on the practice of lobbying?

notalawyersorry10 karma

Personally? Nothing good comes from it, and it causes members to represent special interests instead of their constituents.

TheBigGrizzly2 karma

How can we fix this?

notalawyersorry8 karma

In my opinion, establish term limits for congress. Once you do, I believe everything else would follow. Instead of constantly looking for handouts from lobbyists to be reelected, one would think that the members/senators would instead focus on their constituents; you know, like they should be.

theotherkeith3 karma

1) Did you see people getting hired right out of MA degrees, or did most hires have postdoc or post-uni experience.

2) As they briefed you on the history, what changed when the A in the agency name switched from accounting to accountability?

notalawyersorry9 karma

  1. Right out of MA degrees. Some people had internships previously with GAO, but I was not one of those people.
  2. From what I understood, it was mainly a change that occurred to better reflect their current mission, versus what the agency was originally created to do.

not_a_robot_00013 karma

Hey, u/notalawyersorry, what is your academic background? How does it relate to the job you did at the GAO? Do you think it is a good career option for an economist?

notalawyersorry8 karma

  1. I studied International Affairs and National Security
  2. It related, somewhat. I did a lot of defense work so it played into it, but your academic work really does not factor in too much other than giving you knowledge of how the government works.
  3. I definitely do, the economists are super important at GAO, and they have specialist economist positions. I worked closely with many economists and I cannot stress enough how invaluable they are to the process of report writing.

not_a_robot_00012 karma

Thank you for your response.

notalawyersorry6 karma

I also forgot to mention your academic experience comes into play the most with regard to your writing. GAO does not hire bad writers, it is as simple as that.

gol42 karma

Is there a specific font that must be used in the reports?

notalawyersorry8 karma

There's a specific everything that must be used in the reports!

t0cking2 karma

Thank you for doing this!

  1. Did you utilise IT Auditors? If so, in what capacity?

  2. It sounds like you work more on performance reports. If so, does your work attempt to obtain absolute assurance instead of reasonable assurance? If so, in your opinion, what can be done to change this attitude as it can be seen as not an efficient use of tax payers resources?


notalawyersorry3 karma

  1. GAO does have an IT auditing team, and I "matrixed" (aka worked with) some of them on a couple of my jobs. Typically they would be involved anytime technology was going to be an aspect of the audit, but they also did/do their own audits, as well.
  2. That's absolutely correct, but maybe not in the same sense you are thinking. We do not use those terms but I'll look into it when I get a chance and get back to you.

Edit: So I looked through the auditing standards document GAO uses, and found this:

3.109 Auditors must use professional judgment in planning and conducting the engagement and in reporting the results.

3.117 While this requirement places responsibility on each auditor and audit organization to exercise professional judgment in planning and conducting an engagement, it does not imply unlimited responsibility nor does it imply infallibility on the part of either the individual auditor or the audit organization. Absolute assurance is not attainable because of factors such as the nature of evidence and characteristics of fraud. Professional judgment does not mean eliminating all possible limitations or weaknesses associated with a specific engagement, but rather identifying, assessing, mitigating, and concluding on them.

My opinion: So, it looks like due to the nature of the job GAO is unable to attain absolute insurance. TIL, I had no idea. (In my defense it is a very large document with a lot of guidelines).

Live_free_or_die112 karma

What do you think of the Jeffery Epistein ordeal?

notalawyersorry8 karma

Hah! Personally? I love a good conspiracy theory, within measure. I find the timing and circumstances very suspicious, especially with the lack of CCTV footage. So, while it's against my nature to make any definitive statements without all of the evidence in front of me (you can take the auditor out of GAO but you can't take GAO out of the auditor), I would definitely say it requires closer examination because something just doesn't add up.

If you were referring to another aspect of the ordeal, my apologies for misinterpreting!

Live_free_or_die113 karma

Oh I was just wondering how a professional researcher viewed it. Its so weird and there was obviously some horrible shady stuff going on. Then again if I was Epistein I would kill myself. Then again if I was in to that I'd definitley want that dude dead.

Whats crazy is, reguardless of what happened. The fact that this dude even existed in the way that he did is crazy. Its almost so crazy that people cant even process it. It seems real but if it is, it says some crazy things about reality.

notalawyersorry3 karma

That it does. The more information comes out, the worse it gets.

fa1afel2 karma

What’s the culture like?

notalawyersorry10 karma

Very, very nerdy. We're basically the people that liked grad school writing so much, we decided to make a career out of it.

Blasting-Kyogre2 karma

What's your favorite animal, food, and color?

notalawyersorry19 karma

Animal: Red Panda

Food: Anything spicy

Color: Green

DJ_Breton2 karma

  1. Is it worth it working in a government office? Why?

  2. Does anything change after elections or do you all just continue your work as usual?

notalawyersorry1 karma

  1. Worth it, how? Also, know that every government office is different. I can only speak to GAO and the couple places I interned at beforehand, but I mean I personally think it is worth it.
  2. The only thing that can really affect GAO work is if the requestor is no longer a member of congress/senator after the elections. At that point it's up to leadership as to whether or not they want to continue to dedicate resources to the report. If it was a topic that more than one member/senator showed interest in, we typically continue on, even if the requestor is no longer there. Also, when the congress changed hands, we would continue going on business as usual, but having different leadership/committee leaders can sometimes affect how well the report is received. Luckily for me, I worked on issues where the requests and mandates typically came from the HASC/SASC, which is largely bipartisan, so I never had that happen to me. Other than that, you start to notice a shift in the request letters coming through and the topics pursued, but since we often re-wrote the questions posed in the request letter to make them less partisan, that didn't affect us much, either. I've heard much different accounts from folks in other mission teams so, so I'm grateful I never had to endure the headaches that resulted from election results.

McJumbos2 karma

Where you were at when they informed you that you would be hired? And, what was going through your mind?

notalawyersorry7 karma

I was just finishing up grad school at the time, and stressing out about whether or not I was going to be employed. I had a feeling I was going to get an offer as my interview went really well, but I was careful not to assume anything.

When I got the news I was incredibly excited, as it was my top pick out of all of the places I applied to, and could not wait to start!

McJumbos2 karma

Can you describe what your first day was like?

notalawyersorry8 karma

I had no idea what was going on, and got lost a ton as I had not yet figured out how to navigate the complex mazes of hallways. Most of my first day was orientation training, where they provide you with an insane amount of information about GAO, and everything from HR tasks you have to complete to policies and procedures at GAO to ensure fair reporting standards.

That went until about 2pm if I remember correctly. After that point, you meet with your "buddy" in your assigned mission team (the first of three rotations you will make while going through the probationary, developmental period), and you get a ton more information. You also have a chance to ask them questions but at this point if you're like me, you're so overwhelmed that you pretty much forget everything you wanted to ask. Luckily, your buddy is understanding and you end up pestering them non-stop with questions for the next two weeks as you try to get a handle on everything.

Lastly, within your mission team, you meet with the audit/engagement team you will be working with for the next 6-10 months. They tell you about the engagement, where they are in the process, and you try to keep up with all these terms you've never encountered before in your life, hoping that the intense training you have the rest of the week will help you sound semi-competent when talking to these people that have worked there for years.

Articulateman2 karma

Where should I start to develop my writing for GAO?

notalawyersorry2 karma

So it's a deductive writing style, so you'll want to look into that. Main point up front, followed by examples and whatnot. I'll look through some of my old workpapers I kept, I believe I may have kept a writing guide somewhere if you want me to send it to you.

But the basic gist is: deductive, concise, active voice.

Xanast87142 karma

Do you think Trump should be impeached?

notalawyersorry18 karma

Surprised it took so long to get this question, to be honest! So, once again, for everyone out there, I want to state that this is my personal opinion, and it had absolutely nothing to do with my work at GAO. (It helps that at GAO the vast majority of auditors are working on reports that are so specific, so granular in nature, the issue would never even come up, to begin with).

I am a man of facts. I have looked at the facts. The facts make it clear to me that he did break the law. Putting any of my political leanings aside, and looking solely at the circumstances and evidence, yes, I do believe the President committed impeachable offenses.

Edit: However, I do want to make clear that if the facts presented changed, I would also change my opinion. I am a very pragmatic individual when it comes to politics, and try to keep an open mind.

naturalborncitizen1 karma

Any idea if FPDS(-NG) will ever get an overhaul to be more user friendly for the public? And on a related note, how much issue is it for contracting agencies to not document actions FPDS accurately/fully?

notalawyersorry2 karma

So first off, I will admit that while I did do some work that involved it, my experience with FPDS(-NG) is limited. With that being said, I certainly hope so, although I would not hold your breath. Those types of systems typically take much longer than necessary to overhaul, and that's assuming that the funds are readily available/budgeted to do so.

Secondly, a huge issue, from what I understand. I wish there was more oversight with this, but unfortunately as of now out-of-date entries are pretty much only updated if the discrepancy has been escalated due to extraneous forces (such as audits or reviews).

firoz5541 karma

Why is there the terms like Qualified and Unqualified report, why is it not the other way? Means Qualified is non favorable report and Unqualified report is favorable...

notalawyersorry5 karma

So I was not a financial auditor/CPA, which is whom I think this question pertains to, but I'll try my best to answer! I did some digging and the following came up:

An unqualified or unmodified opinion is given when the auditor is reasonably assured that the financial statements are free of material misstatements.

A qualified opinion is given when the auditor (1) obtains sufficient appropriate audit evidence but concludes that misstatements are material, but not pervasive, to the financial statements; or (2) was unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence, and the possible effects on the financial statements of undetected misstatements, if any, could be material, but not pervasive. The effect of the auditors' qualified opinion can be significant enough to reduce the usefulness and reliability of the auditee’s financial statements.

Honestly, no idea. It makes zero sense to me. It looks like it's more of a American Institute of Certified Public Accountants naming concept though, so who knows what they were thinking. I'm hardly an expert on any of that. Sorry, wish I could be more knowledgeable on this, but I did program audits.

yosefzeev1 karma

Did you have to take an oath for your position as auditor, and if so, what is the wording of the oath? Do you feel like you honored it for your job, if such an oath was present?

notalawyersorry6 karma

Yes! Our very first day we have to take the Oath of Office. I personally felt so much pride when I did so! It was a while ago and I don't recall if this was exactly the wording they used, but I believe it went something like this (you raise your right hand and recite):

“I, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

I do believe I honored it. I think I did fulfill my duties of an auditor while at GAO, and did so fairly.

joerobo1 karma

Would you consider the public perception of corruption in the government to be generally overestimating the amount of corruption, or underestimating?

From my personal experience it varies widely from agency to agency and governing body to governing body, but I would be curious to hear from someone far more informed about this.

notalawyersorry5 karma

  1. Happy Cake Day!
  2. I would say it overestimates corruption, but as you said it varies based on the agency and office. I would say that in my opinion, most of the transgressions I saw were not done with nefarious intent and were largely due to incompetence or lack of planning and while wasteful, were not due to corrupt actors. Those cases are underestimated, in my opinion. I only encountered one clear-cut case of corruption that broke the law in my time at GAO, and the rest all fell into the other category.

dagrapeescape1 karma

I was a summer intern there a while ago and I loved it there and wish I had taken the full time offer that came in very late in the process. In my few months there my director testified before Congress and we got to go and I was in the shot on CSPAN and my parents were so proud.

I know you said you didn’t want to identify any specific report you worked on, but was there anything you worked on that you disagreed with the opinion that your team reached?

I know when I first started working in public accounting I disagreed with the audit opinion our partner reached but obviously as the long college hire what I thought didn’t matter. Eventually they had to rescind their clean opinion after I left and got a ton of shit for it. I felt like I got the last laugh on that at least.

notalawyersorry3 karma

I wonder if you would be eligible for non-competitive hiring or if they would still honor the offer? Worth looking into, if you're still interested! It is pretty cool when you get to see the fruits of your labor, and that's awesome you got to see your director testify! The directors are incredible, I have no idea how they recall so much detail under pressure like that when they oversee so many audits, at once.

Yes, of course. No big discrepancies, but I did disagree in a couple of instances where we made recommendations, and I thought the report should have been purely descriptive instead of evaluative, given the circumstances. Nothing controversial, just a difference in style. Otherwise, I agreed with assessments and recommendations made in the reports I worked on, and if there were disagreements while writing, the team always made sure to hash it out and come to a consensus.

HoldmysunnyD1 karma

What is the significance of the recent GAO report that POTUS broke the law in freezing the aid to Ukraine? Would such a report be issued if it's just a simple misunderstanding of a technicality? How often have similar such infractions occurred, if any?

notalawyersorry3 karma

  1. It is significant, but had it not been for the ongoing proceedings, I do not think it would be getting the same press coverage.
  2. Misunderstanding, or technicality, it does not matter. GAO goes by the book so if the evidence showed that the law was broken, they would pursue it either way. Of course these things can always be withdrawn if the issues noted can be and are rectified.
  3. Yes, I think the Washington Post did a good job of summarizing past instances:

Several administrations have been slapped by the GAO, including those of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. In general, those administrations released funding after being cited, making lawsuits unnecessary. Most recently, in December 2018, the GAO said the Department of Homeland Security illegally withheld $95 million appropriated for the Coast Guard to support national security efforts. The money eventually was released.

The GAO also found in 2014 that the Obama administration broke the law by exchanging five Taliban commanders for a captured U.S. soldier without giving Congress 30 days’ notice.

4Sativa2Ariba01 karma

So... what do trump's tax returns look like?

notalawyersorry4 karma

You've got me!

mepronz1 karma

Has the apolitical nature of your work affected your personal life? As in do you think you are more able to tolerate or interact with "culture war" opponents better than the average American seems to these days?

notalawyersorry3 karma

Definitely. My rule of thumb is that I will be friends with anyone, as long as they do not spew garbage without thought and/or argue or insult me, in the process. I prefer to have friends with all sorts of opinions, it makes it much more interesting, in my opinion! But, typically my friends are similar to me in that they like to discuss our differences of opinion without getting emotional and rude, so that certainly helps.

ibeengood1 karma

Is yall hiring?

notalawyersorry3 karma

Here's the current USAJobs postings, and here's the careers page that they update periodically. They open up entry level positions in cycles, so check regularly if that's what you're interested in!

george_brad1 karma

What audit certifications do you have?

Why is the yellow book so yellow? And did you mostly use green book or yellow book as well?

notalawyersorry1 karma

I actually had no audit certifications. Had I moved to an IG shop I probably would have gotten AGA certified, but with all the training I got at GAO (a ton), it just wasn't necessary.

Hah! I don't know, GAO does seem to like colors! Green book, blue reports, yellow book... I used both quite a bit, probably the green book more often but it depended on the situation.

wildcard_actual1 karma

Did the Pentagon really misplace $2 trillion dollars right before 9/11?

notalawyersorry3 karma

I can't speak to that exact example but it wouldn't surprise me. I worked with DOD a lot, and because they're so big, there's no central management or central tracking system for anything. They can't even tell you how many contractors they have, it's insane. The services all use different databases and none of them are in one uniform location, since the data is all differently coded and whatnot. As an auditor, it was incredibly frustrating and made me want to pull my hair out.

Articulateman1 karma

Do GAO auditors have a easy time transition out of the agency to industry?

Do you feel like GAO auditors typically tend to be more skilled than public accountants?

notalawyersorry1 karma

It has been challenging for me thus far. To go from a government agency where profit isn't a thing to a company where profit is everything was quite the shift for me, but I'm getting the hang of it.

I think they're entirely different skillsets. I was more of a program auditor, and the financial auditors at GAO are amazing, as well. I guess the big difference would be being able to write reports, instead of just looking and line items and whatnot.

109fbfknai32oak-1 karma


notalawyersorry2 karma

I don't know if it's because I'm exhausted or because this doesn't make sense to me, but I have no idea what you're talking about. Sorry.

labledcrazy-10 karma

Did you get a chance to audit dronebama when he spent $65,000 of taxpayer's money on underage wh, I mean hotdogs?

Tim_Out_Of_Mind7 karma

Username checks out

notalawyersorry1 karma

I guess at least he knows?

notalawyersorry6 karma

Personally, I did not participate in many direct OMB/WH audits. However a quick Google search shows me that that the $65,000 number was linked to a Statfor e-mail chain, with no one with a .gov email address in the chain. If I was still an auditor, due to the lack of definitive evidence, since claims rely solely on hearsay, I would not include this information in an audit due to the lack of reliability.

Now, if I was able to perform follow-up work and interview the individuals in the chain (although they would not be required to speak to me since they are non-governmental and a contracting firm), I would maybe be able to give a more definitive response. However, I would also require a itemized budget with dates and amounts, so I could follow-up with the appropriate officials and obtain further details.

I hope that answers your question :).

Edit: Remembered a detail, updated response