Effective July 7, 2004, as a result of Public Law 108-271, the GAO's name has been changed. What was formerly the General Accounting Office is now the Government Accountability Office.

Comptroller General David Walker in an op-ed piece in Roll Call on June 19, 2004 explains the reason for the name change after 83 years. "Some might wonder why GAO felt a need to tinker with an institutional identity so strongly associated with government economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. But our old name, as familiar and reassuring as it was, has not kept pace with GAO's evolving role in government."

I see a similarity to the 100+-year-old efficient and effective CPA certification. Hasn't the role of the CPA significantly changed over the years? There are other similarities. For instance, Walker indicates in his piece, "In fairness, GAO did primarily scrutinize government vouchers and receipts in its early years. The days of accountants in green eyeshades, however, are long gone." He also says, "The scope of GAO's work today includes everything that the federal government is doing or thinking about doing anywhere in the world."

So is the CPA any different than the GAO? Isn't it true the CPA in the early days scrutinized vouchers and receipts and isn't it true they now advise on everything that a client "is doing or thinking about doing anywhere in the world?"

I think CPA should no longer stand for certified public accountant, but rather Consulting Prognosticator of Accountability.

Let me explain my reasoning. CPAs are spending more and more time advising clients so "Consulting" seems perfect. "Prognosticator" is particularly appropriate because CPAs no longer take a historical approach, but are asked to act as futurists, such as devising a business or financial plan. "Accountability" is needed because in today's environment, every time a public company goes bankrupt or makes a misstatement in its financial statement, there seem to be an investor, lawyer, SEC, and court trying to hold a CPA accountable. And, let's not forget the departing clients who tell their former CPA as they leave, "What did you do for me lately?"

The change won't be that hard. A firm name such as "Jones & Smith, CPA" can still remain. There will be no printing of new stationary or business cards, after throwing out the current ones. The firm's Web site address and its signs in the lobby and reception area are still good. In fact, firms will no longer have to distinguish between professional, technical, and administrative staff or CPA and non-CPA.  Rather than saying there are 16 accountants and 20 support staff, a "larger" firm would be able to conclude that they have 36 Consulting Prognosticators of Accountability.

So what do you think? I think I hear the groundswell beginning.

H.W.W., formerly Howard Wayne Wolosky, now How Wacky & Weird

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