US bill would let GAO see TARP recipients' books

WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Companies that get money from the $700 billion U.S. financial bailout program would have to give congressional auditors access to their books and records under legislation introduced in the Senate on Wednesday.

The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Senators Max Baucus of Montana and Charles Grassley of Iowa, said the bill would help improve oversight of the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

The measure would give Government Accountability Office access to recipients’ accounts and records when the congressional watchdog conducts its regular reviews of the bailout program.

“This is a common sense measure to establish accountability for the use of the public’s money,” Grassley said in a statement.

The Treasury Department has already disbursed $293.7 billion from the TARP, mostly to shore up the banking system.

Troubled insurer American International Group AIG.N and faltering U.S. automakers, General Motors Corp GM.N and Chrysler [CBS.UL], have also received funds.

“The number and variety of financial institutions receiving money from Treasury is extensive, and tracking the path of these dollars through these institutions is no small task,” Baucus said in a statement.

There is also a special inspector general who has said he would demand firms receiving TARP money to detail how they are using the money and explain how they are complying with restrictions on executive compensation in exchange for the aid.

Earlier on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with officials charged with providing outside oversight of the bailout program, including GAO, to review efforts to improve transparency and accountability. (Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by Tim Dobbyn)