About Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards

What is GAGAS?

Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS), also known as the Yellow Book, are the guidelines for audits created by the Comptroller General and the audit agency of the United States Congress, the Government Accountability Office. These standards are the audit regulations followed by all federal audit agencies, all federal contractors being audited, and many state and local audit agencies.

Independence is Key
A key characteristic of OIG GAGAS audits is independence. Independence means the freedom to do work and come to conclusions without influence or bias affecting the result. The police accountability ordinance established OIG as an independent office in order to remove outside influence on OIG work products. Independence also means that OIG takes steps to ensure that staff involved in an audit do not have prior relationships or experiences that may compromise the independence, or appearance of independence, of an audit.

Why follow GAGAS?

OIG auditors follow standards to make sure that findings are supported by sufficient and appropriate evidence. OIG has internal processes to make sure OIG work is accurate and robust.

As outlined in Chapter 1.05 of GAGAS (2018 revision), the auditor's role:

  • is essential in providing accountability to legislators, oversight bodies, those charged with governance, and the public.
  • provides an independent, objective, nonpartisan assessment of the stewardship, performance, or cost of government (depending upon the type and scope of the engagement).

OIG follows GAGAS, even though the standards can be labor intensive, because the standards ensure that OIG auditors are free of conflicts of interest and maintain objectivity, that audits have sufficient and appropriate evidence to support findings and conclusions, and that reports have been thoroughly vetted for accuracy.

Chapter 3.06 of GAGAS (2018 revision) provides an ethical framework for auditors' work. OIG aligns its activities with this framework:

  1. The public interest
  2. Integrity
  3. Objectivity
  4. Proper use of government information, resources, and positions
  5. Professional behavior

In short, GAGAS are the standards that ensure that audit reports are unbiased and can be trusted to be truthful and accurate. It means that OIG audits conform to audit standards accepted by governments around the country.

How does GAGAS ensure audits are accurate?

Organizations that follow GAGAS requirements undergo a peer-review from an outside audit agency roughly every three years. Peer-reviews can look at any audits released in the three years prior and ensure that prior audits were conducted according to GAGAS standards. The results of the peer-review are then made publicly available, such as being posted on the peer-reviewed agency website.