International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview

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Bowsher was very interested in the financial management aspects of the GAO's work and played a major role in the passage of the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990. This law established a chief financial officer in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the executive departments, and major agencies. The comptroller general and the inspector general are to audit the financial statements of departments, agencies and government corporations. In 1990, the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board was established with the prior comptroller general ( Staats) as chair.

Bowsher was also very active in INTOSAI, hosting the Fourteenth International Congress of Supreme Audit Institutions in Washington, D.C., in 1992.

The GAO was very concerned about the federal budget problems and its growing deficit. As a result of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act of 1985 (otherwise known as the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985), the GAO was asked to do an analysis of the OMB and Congressional Budget Office annual reports, and report the needed deficit reductions to Congress and the President. The comptroller general's role in the act was challenged by several Congressional representatives. The Supreme Court decided that because the comptroller general was part of the legislative branch he could not direct the President to make budget cuts.

During the late 1980s, the GAO spent a significant amount of time and resources assisting Congress in investigating all aspects of the Iran-Contra affair. The GAO also was involved in reports concerning domestic and foreign policy and military spending. (A GAO report in 1985 warned that the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation insurance fund was inadequate.) The GAO reports and testimonies have contributed to legislation and, in many cases, to significant dollar savings in federal programs.

Over the years the GAO has shown than it can evolve to meet the needs of the nation and Congress. It has changed since its inception and will continue to change in the future in response to legislative inquiries and current affairs.

JESSE W. HUGHES


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bowsher v. Synar, 106 S. Ct. 3181 ( 1986).

Freeman, Robert J., and Craig D. Shoulders, 1993. Governmental and Nonprofit Accounting: Theoy and Practice. 4th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Hay, Leon E., and Earl R. Wilson, 1995. Accounting for Governmental and Nonprofit Entities. 10th ed. Chicago: Irwin.

Trask, Roger R., 1991. GAO History 1921-1991. Washington, DC: GAO.

GENERALISTS . In public bureaucracies, officials who carry out higher levels of policy advising or administration, wherein they use their general intellectual skills and abilities, often enhanced by nonspecialist academic training.


History

The origins of the notion of "generalist" may be traced to the eighteenth century. V. M. Subramaniam ( 1968, p. 332) noted the influential views of John Locke on the importance of the generally educated gentlemen who avoided pedantry as well as manual labor, which counteracted a natural tendency to promote scientific education at the expense of the humanities. Subramaniam explained the rise of the generalist tradition in two stages: (1) In the eighteenth century, the consolidation of a lay tradition and a decentralization of power to the local landed gentry; and (2) in the mid-eighteenth century, with an expansion of government functions, and the rise of organized political parties, ministers turned for advice with burdensome details to generalists from the same social and educational mold as themselves.

Subsequently, the generalists within the English Civil Service were recruited to its highest echelon--the administrative class from university graduates, mainly from Oxford and Cambridge, having good honors degrees in subjects such as history, modern languages, or classics, which were unlikely to have any direct connection with their future work. To the generalist was assigned the responsibility of advising ministers, the formulation of administrative policy, and of great importance, financial control.


United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, generalists of the old administrative class (unlike lawyers or accountants requiring specialist qualifications before employment in the civil service) were intelligent all rounders, expected to learn the job quickly through experience and emulate their colleagues, rather than learning by way of formal instruction.

An argument in favor of generalist administrators was that their role was to take and understand the advice of experts in the different disciplines on any particular problem, to analyze and assess that advice, and, therefore, to reach a balanced view on the merits, or otherwise, of different possible courses of action. However, there are those in the United Kingdom who reject the view that only generalists can understand the intricacies of government and advise on policy. For them, the work of policy formulation and its subsequent management and implementation to achieve defined objectives depends on the successful integration of the skills and work of both specialists and generalists.

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International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2
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