Congress, OMB can't get it together

What makes a successful program? The Office of Management and Budget's success metrics seldom agree with those of congressional appropriators.

In a report to Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.), the General Accounting Office said OMB needs to integrate its Performance Assessment Ratings Tool with agencies' annual Government Performance and Results Act reports.

Voinovich chairs the Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia. Platts is Voinovich's counterpart on the Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Efficiency and Financial Management.

The examiners said OMB should 'communicate early in the PART process with congressional appropriators and authorizers about what performance issues and information are most important to them.' Congress also should take a more structured approach for sharing its perspective on governmentwide performance, including its view of goals and outcomes for key programs and the oversight agenda.

OMB uses the PART tool to assess 20 percent of all federal programs each year. So far, the administration has reviewed about 404 programs worth about $944 billion. Officials said yesterday that OMB will recommend not to fund $1 billion worth of programs for the fiscal 2005 budget, which will be released Monday.

GAO reviewed 28 programs in nine business areas and spoke with budget staff members from the departments of Energy, Health and Human Services, and Interior.

Examiners found PART played a key role in bringing agency budget, planning and program staff together. But GPRA was too high-level to be meaningful in program-level budgeting, which created confusion between the two reports. Therefore, OMB said, it will modify GPRA goals and measures with those developed under PART to make budget decisions more consistent.

Examiners recommended OMB should:

  • Centrally monitor agency implementation and progress on PART recommendations and report them to Congress with the budget request

  • Expand PART guidance to clarify when output versus outcome measures are acceptable and better define independent quality evaluation

  • Clarify expectations about allocation of evaluation resources

  • Reconsider plans for 100 percent coverage of federal programs, and instead target a significant percentage of major programs based on relative priorities, cost and risks

  • Review similar programs in the same year

  • Discuss with Congress in the PART process how to define meaningful metrics early

  • Integrate a complementary relationship between PART and GPRA.

  • GAO also suggested that Congress should:

  • Communicate performance goals for key priorities

  • Develop a more structured oversight agenda for perspective on cross-cutting programs

  • Use the structured oversight agenda to inform its authorization, appropriations and oversight processes.

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