The Comptroller General or Comptroller and Auditor General is in most commonwealth countries the external auditor of the budget execution of the government and of government-owned companies. Typically, the independent institution headed by the Comptroller General is a member of the INTOSAI. In American government, the Comptroller is effectively the Chief Financial Officer of a public body.
In business management, the Comptroller is closer to a Chief Audit Executive, holding a senior role in internal audit functions. Generally, the title encompasses a variety of responsibilities, from overseeing accounting and monitoring internal controls to countersigning on expenses and commitments.
The term comptroller evolved in the 15th century through a blend of the French compte ("an account") and the Middle English countreroller (someone who checks a copy of a scroll, from the French contreroule "counter-roll, scroll copy"), thus creating a title for a compteroller who specializes in checking financial ledgers. This etymology explains why the name is correctly pronounced identically to "controller" despite the unique spelling. However, comptroller is sometimes pronounced phonetically.
A Comptroller, or Financial Controller, or Financial Control Officer (FCO) is an accounting/audit expert in a business who oversees accounting and the implementation and monitoring of internal controls, independently from the Chief Accountant ("CAO") or the Chief Financial Officer ("CFO"). In the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Israel and Canada, a comptroller or financial comptroller is a senior position, reporting to a CFO in companies that have one.
The title of comptroller is used in the Comptroller of the state for Taxes, who is the head of the Jersey Taxes Office.
The title of comptroller is used in the Comptroller of the Household, where it is a senior Whip, a senior member of the Royal Household, though its duties in this regard are purely nominal. The Comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain's Office, however, is a full-time member of the Royal Household. His duties are concerned with the arrangement of ceremonial affairs rather than financial affairs.
The National Audit Office is headed by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Similarly, the Patent Office, sometimes unofficially known as the UK Intellectual Property Office, is headed by the Comptroller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks.
For Comptroller General and Comptroller and Auditor General, which are typically titles of even higher level government officials (titles of Heads of Supreme Audit Institutions), see the list in Comptroller and Auditor General or in INTOSAI.
The title of comptroller is held by various government officials.
- The Comptroller General is the director of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an agency founded in 1921 (as General Accounting Office) to ensure the accountability of the federal government.
- Banks are supervised by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an officer within the federal Department of The Treasury.
- Several states and local governments (cities, counties, etc.) have comptrollers or controllers, variously elected or appointed, with widely varying powers over budgetary and management matters. (See Connecticut Comptroller, Florida Comptroller, Illinois Comptroller, Comptroller of Maryland, State Comptroller of New Jersey, New York State Comptroller, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts; New York City Comptroller.)
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- Comptroller of the Household
- Comptroller and Auditor General
- Inspector General
- Chief audit executive
- Director of Audit of Hong Kong
- Corporate title
Notes and references
- Etymology of comptroller at etymology online, etymonline.com. Accessed 2007-07-01.
- Etymology of comptroller at Merriam-Webster online, m-w.com. Accessed 2007-07-01.
- U.S. office of the Comptroller of the Currency