O'Keefe prefers carrot to a stick

O'Keefe prefers carrot to a stick

BY TONY ORR | GCN STAFF

The federal government needs to take a new look at the way it gauges and rewards success, the Office of Management and Budget's deputy director told a House subcommittee last month.

Sean O'Keefe, speaking before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations, said that when federal workers fear punishment for the failure of management reform, efforts such as the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 become exercises in paperwork.


Fred Thompson


The Bush Administration believes the federal budget should be tied to results, O'Keefe said. When the numbers are released for fiscal 2003, he said, specific programs must show how the expected payback merits the financial outlay.

Use data to manage

Rather than meting out punishment when agencies fail to measure up to a performance plan, federal managers should use performance information to develop future plans, he said.

'By our yardstick, simply measuring the quality of the plans and reports, or gauging the processes the agencies use to prepare these plans, is only part of the assessment we must make,' O'Keefe said. 'The more important question is how the information in the plans and reports is used to manage the agencies.'

The federal government is reaching a point when the results act must be used as a management tool, he said.

But Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said departments are doing a dismal job in using the results act to improve performance.

Thompson said the act has fostered poor or deceptive reporting. The senator cited an Energy Department report in which actual and reported performance were vastly different for two cleanup efforts, noting that much work remained to be done at the sites.

The Defense Department suffered under Thompson's assessment as well. DOD reported that it had met a target cycle time for major defense acquisition programs, the senator said, but the department failed to mention that the cycle time actually grew by two months from the previous year.

By linking programs to the budget and being specific about program goals, such reporting can be corrected, O'Keefe said.

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