OPM told to focus more on ends, less on means

Director Janice R. Lachance called the GAO report unfair and too negative in tone.

The Office of Personnel Management can improve its performance goals by
focusing more on results, a report by the General Accounting Office said.

But OPM Director Janice R. Lachance called the report, Results Act: Observations on the
Office of Personnel Management’s Annual Performance Plan, unfair and criticized it
for its negative tone.

The GAO report is one among a series of reviews of agency performance plans. The
Government Performance Results Act of 1993 requires agencies to determine their goals for
the year and explain how they plan to achieve them. Agencies filed their first performance
plans in February as part of the fiscal 1999 budget.

OPM can improve its plan by focusing more on what the agency will do rather than on how
it will do it, congressional auditors said in the report.

“OPM’s performance plan often would enable policy-makers to determine whether
OPM has completed a set of actions but not whether those actions made any difference in
such things as management of the federal work force,” the report said.

OPM’s performance plan includes goals for dealing with Information Technology
Management Reform Act requirements, year 2000 preparations and information security. The
plan also specifies the means for achieving the goals and includes performance indicators
for measuring results, GAO said.

The agency, however, needs to explain how it will handle nonmission-critical systems
that fail in 2000 and set contingency plans, the report said.

Strategies are tied to performance, but because many of its performance goals are not
results-focused “it is unclear how the strategies will contribute to achieving an
intended result related to OPM’s mission,” GAO said.

One OPM performance goal is to create a plan for modernizing its central personnel data
file (CPDF).

OPM wants to “use electronic media to collect and disseminate information widely
and cost-effectively,” OPM said.

Although it called the goal laudable, the results were not clear in the plan, GAO said.

“This strategy may be useful for improving the collection and dissemination of
CPDF information; it is not clear how this strategy is related to getting the CPDF
modernization plan, itself, done,” GAO said.

OPM officials also want to use IT and capital investments to improve performance. The
OPM chief information officer will provide independent oversight of IT projects and
investments to ensure that the agency’s core functions can meet their business goals
and objectives by using IT, the OPM plan showed.

As part of the plan, OPM will implement an IT architecture, an IT capital planning
process and a systems development lifecycle methodology to train staff to improve the
agency’s software development processes.

It is not clear in the plan, however, whether OPM will establish an investment review
board to ensure that senior executives are involved in information management decisions,
the report said.

OPM also does not consistently describe what resources it will use to achieve its
performance goals, GAO said. OPM wants to spend about $2.6 million in fiscal 1999
developing a governmentwide electronic personnel record-keeping system to replace paper

But the plan does not mention specific training or work force skills needed to achieve
that goal, GAO said. In some cases, OPM also lacks timely, accurate and reliable program
data for effective management and oversight, the GAO report said.

Lachance said the report is unfairly critical.

“The revised draft report retains an unfortunate—and, we believe,
inappropriate—imbalance in its overall negative tone,” she said.

Much of the GAO criticism has its roots in a continuing disagreement with GAO about
whether OPM focuses too much on process or on results-oriented goals, she said.

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