Public audit pioneer Mortimer Dittenhofer dies at 102

21 Mar 16

Mortimer Dittenhofer, a global authority on public sector audit standards and one of the co-founders of the International Consortium on Government Financial Management (ICGFM), died on 4 March at the age of 102.

At the US Government Accountability Office, Dittenhofer led a working group that developed the “Yellow Book” of government audit standards, which has been emulated across the world.

After retiring from the GAO, he taught accounting and auditing at Georgetown University for seven years and at Florida International University for 15 and continued to be active in the field, publishing a book on government accounting principles in his 101st year.

Born in St Paul, Minnesota, in 1914, Dittenhofer graduated in economics from Macalester College in St Paul, and in 1942 earned a masters in accounting from Northwestern University. In 1974 he received a PhD in business administration from American University in Washington.

His accounting skills were put to particular use during World War Two. He followed D-Day troops at Omaha beach, and was part of a team that designed the accounting system used to account for Nazi and German government property recovered as the Allies advanced.

After the war, he worked as an auditor for the Atomic Energy Commission where, with top-secret clearance, he accounted for radioactive material and weapons. He then moved on to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) before joining the GAO in 1969.

In 1977, together with Jim Wesberry, he founded ICGFM, which brings together national and local government bodies, institutions, private firms and individuals to improve public financial management “so governments may better serve their citizens”.

Wesberry commented that working with Dittenhofer had been one of the great privileges of his life. “He was a friend, colleague, mentor and father to me in the auditing profession,” he said.

Dittenhofer was married twice and is survived by two children and three stepchildren as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A daughter pre-deceased him.

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