GAO Debuts New Name, New Pay System

The U.S. General Accounting Office has a new name: the Government Accountability Office.

Last week President Bush signed the GAO Human Capital Reform Act, which also gives Comptroller General David M. Walker the authority to institute a new compensation program for agency employees, the Washington Post reported.

Introduced nearly a year ago by Rep. Jo Ann S. Davis (R-VA) and Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH), the law allows Walker to use a pay system that is based on performance, separating the agency from the federal general schedule system.

In addition to allowing changes in compensation practices, the law grants the GAO the permanent authority to offer employees early retirement and buyout packages, the Post reported.

"Congress relies specifically on the judgments of the comptroller general to manage his workforce to produce quality and timely information for our use," Davis said in a statement.

"He has demonstrated good faith and earned our confidence," Davis added.

Walker hopes his system will provide "equal pay for work of equal value over time" and also help the GAO control payroll costs in lean budget times. Some of the agency’s 3,200 employees have expressed concerns about the change to the compensation system worrying that they may not receive the general pay increase that Congress grants annually to federal workers, the Post reported.

Others were sorry to see the name of the agency, founded in 1921, changed to include a trendy word like "accountability."

But GAO officials said the name change better reflects the agency's activities, which involve strategic issues and not just accounting and auditing of financial books, and predict the name change will help reduce confusion among job applicants and the public, the Post reported.

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