Congress revisits GPRA's use within government

Congress revisits GPRA's use within government

Rep. Jim Turner says GPRA must become a part of the culture of Congress.

Agencies provide insufficient reports on their performance, analyst tells House committee

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

Rep. Jim Turner stumped witnesses at a recent hearing when he asked for an example of Congress using the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 to make funding decisions.

The Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology examined GPRA mandates during a hearing last month.

None of the witnesses, who included officials from the General Accounting Office, the Office of Management and Budget and a nonprofit watchdog agency, OMB Watch of Washington, could answer the Texas Democrat.

'I asked the question to make a point,' Turner said. 'Congress has a responsibility to use GPRA. It needs to become part of the culture of Congress.'

Taking aim

Ask some questions
''What progress has been made on this issue since the enactment of GPRA?

''Does this program seek a clear outcome?

''What progress has been made on resolving problems?

''Is the program appropriate to contemporary society?

''What detrimental effect would the removal of the program have on society?

''What changes need to be made so this program can successfully resolve the issue in question?

Congress should use GPRA for oversight and decision-making, testified J. Christopher Mihm, GAO associate director of federal management and work force issues.

'The scrutiny provided by Congress must be robust, focused on results, committed to rewarding superior activity and equally committed to punishing poor performance,' said Maurice P. McTigue, a visiting scholar at George Mason University's Mercatus Center.

McTigue echoed the findings of the center's May report, Performance Report Scorecard: Which Federal Agencies Inform the Public.

Informed funding decisions are directly proportional to the quality and completeness of information included in agencies' annual GPRA reports, he said. Agencies' reports have not provided complete, thorough or appropriate performance information, McTigue said.

What's more, Congress should involve the public in setting benchmarks and performance measures, said Ellen Taylor, an OMB Watch policy analyst. Taylor also recommended greater partnership between Congress and agencies to implement the act.

Agencies filed the first annual performance reports mandated by GPRA this spring. It would be unreasonable to expect perfection in the initial reports, McTigue said.

'Much work remains before Congress can use this performance information as a significant tool in the budget allocation process,' said Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee.

The agencies should use GPRA to establish a framework for goals and progress measurement, Mihm said.

He said agencies face five challenges in implementing GPRA:

' Developing a clear set of goals

' Coordinating programs that involve multiple agencies

' Identifying performance consequences of budget decisions

' Linking day-to-day operations to results

' Building the capacity to gather and use performance information.

For example, NASA's fiscal 2001 performance plan does not provide a clear link between its information technology strategy and achievement of performance goals, Mihm said.

Congress ultimately must implement GPRA by funding only programs that produce results, McTigue said.

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