During the First Congress' debate over the bill to establish the Treasury Department, James Madison described the principal responsibility of the Comptroller of the Treasury as "deciding upon the lawfulness and justice of claims and accounts subsisting between the United States and particular citizens: this partakes strongly of the judicial character, and there may be strong reasons why an officer of this kind should not hold his office at the pleasure of the Executive Branch of Government." With the passage of the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, the General Accounting Office (GAO) was created and the responsibility to settle the accounts and supervise the recovery of certified debts passed from the Comptroller of the Treasury to GAO's newly created agency chief, the Comptroller General. In the interest of independent and accurate accounting, Congress removed this important function from the Executive Branch and vested it in an officer removable only by congressional action. From its creation, GAO has provided a forum for the resolution of protests arising from government contract actions. Until the passage of the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984 (CICA), GAO founded its authority to decide these matters through an admittedly expansive interpretation of the traditional authority to settle accounts of the Treasury inherited by the Comptroller General. CICA formally authorized GAO's bid protest function, began the development of GAO's current bid protest process, and placed the agency firmly in the middle of a clash between congressional contract reform and an Executive Branch "contracting out" movement that demanded deference to contracting agencies.
John M. Holloway III,
The Evolution of Quasi-Judicial Activism in the Legislative Branch: Canadian Commercial Corp./Heroux, Inc.,
U. Rich. L. Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.richmond.edu/lawreview/vol28/iss3/7