What Does Federal Law Say About Departmental Accountable Officials

What Does Federal Law Say About Departmental Accountable Officials

Departmental accountable officials hold significant roles in federal government organizations. These officials shoulder the responsibility for managing federal resources, including the receipt, custody, and disbursement of public funds. Federal law prescribes a number of obligations and responsibilities to these individuals to ensure that government resources are effectively and ethically managed.

The precise legal language governing the roles and responsibilities of departmental accountable officials can be found in several key pieces of legislation, as well as directives and standards issued by various government agencies.

Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act (FMFIA)

The FMFIA of 1982 plays a crucial role in defining the role of departmental accountable officials. It holds these officials responsible for the establishment and maintenance of internal control and financial management systems that meet the objectives of the Act. Specifically, these officials need to ensure that obligations and costs are in compliance with applicable laws, funds, property, and other assets are safeguarded against waste, loss, unauthorized use, or misappropriation, and revenues and expenditures are properly recorded and accounted for to maintain accountability.


The Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act of 1990 further emphasizes the responsibility of departmental accountable officials. The CFO Act assigns them with the task of providing reliable and timely information that can be used for decision-making purposes and to ensure accountability throughout the organization.

Anti-Deficiency Act

The Anti-Deficiency Act is another key piece of legislation that defines the responsibilities of departmental accountable officials. It prohibits these officials from making or authorizing an expenditure or obligation that exceeds the amount available in the appropriation or fund for the expenditure or obligation. Violations of the Anti-Deficiency Act can result in administrative and disciplinary actions, including suspension without pay, removal from office, or even criminal penalties.

Government Accountability Office (GAO)

The GAO also issues a variety of legal opinions and decisions that have an impact on the duties of departmental accountable officials. These decisions often address specific issues or concerns raised by these officials or the organizations they serve.

Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government

These standards, also known as the “Green Book,” are issued by the GAO and provide the overall framework for establishing and maintaining an effective internal control system. Departmental accountable officials are tasked with ensuring that these standards are met within their organizations.

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)

The FAR governs the acquisition process by which executive agencies of the federal government acquire goods and services. Departmental accountable officials have a duty to ensure that these regulations are followed within their departments to maintain transparency, fairness, and integrity in the use of taxpayer dollars.

Ethics in Government Act

Lastly, the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 outlines standards of ethical conduct for federal employees, including departmental accountable officials. It establishes various rules to avoid conflicts of interest and requires public disclosure of financial and employment history of public officials and their immediate families.

In conclusion, federal law prescribes a range of duties and responsibilities to departmental accountable officials in order to maintain transparency, accountability, and integrity in the management of federal resources. These officials play a vital role in ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used in a responsible and lawful manner. Failure to fulfill these obligations can result in severe penalties, demonstrating the importance of these roles in the federal government.

By Christine Mayle