Rep. Platts wants to make program assessments permanent

If you think the Bush administration's focus on measuring performance is a passing fancy, think again.

Rep. Todd Platts, chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Efficiency and Financial Management, by the end of the month will introduce legislation to require agencies to evaluate program performance on a regular basis.

The Pennsylvania Republican yesterday said codifying the requirement to assess federal programs is part of the evolution of the Government Performance and Results Act.

'Codifying this requirement reaffirms the success of GPRA,' Platts said after his subcommittee conducted a hearing on the Office of Management and Budget's Performance Assessment Rating Tool. 'While everyone recognizes GPRA has its limits, PART provides more details that GPRA was never intended to.'

OMB deputy director for management Clay Johnson, who testified at the hearing, said the administration would support such a bill.

'The law would make program performance a part of the overall strategic evaluation process,' Johnson said. 'We don't want to get rid of GPRA, but this will complement it. The issue with GPRA there was little penalty for [failing to] follow through. PART requires agencies to take more specific actions.'

Johnson added, however, that the legislation should not be prescriptive.

'We would not want to be locked into a specific way,' he said. 'PART is not perfect, and we are continually learning from it.'

Energy Department deputy secretary Kyle McSlarrow, who also testified before the subcommittee, said the mandate must give agencies and OMB the flexibility to determine how assessments are conducted. He said flexibility will 'accommodate changing needs and allow the use of evolving methodologies in measuring performance.'

Platts questioned whether the legislation should require OMB to review cross-cutting programs such as job training and economic development as programs themselves or as a part of agency-by-agency reviews.

'We can't be concerned about spending only when we have deficits,' Platts said. 'This will make sure agencies make informed budget decisions and lets managers know program reviews will be around for a long time.'

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