GAO: Performance.gov needs big improvements

The Performance.gov website needs greater transparency and long-term plan to improve, according to a government watchdog.

Shutterstock image: government access keyboard.

The government reports efforts to execute on agency and cross-agency goals on the Performance.gov website. Created under the Government Performance and Results Act of 2010, the website is run by the Office of Management and Budget and the Performance Improvement Council and is supposed to offer quarterly progress reports.

However, the agencies lack a long-term plan to improve the embattled site, and are not meeting federal website requirements, according to an Aug. 30 Government Accountability Office report.

In 2013, OMB and PIC's parent agency the General Services Administration conducted a usability test to solicit feedback from users about the layout and functionality of the site, but the report states that some critiques of the site have not been addressed.

Specifically, the site still does not clearly describe its purpose as a central, governmentwide portal where users can find agency goals. GAO warns that the design can potentially confuse users and lacks color-coded performance metrics or other visualizations to clearly show if agencies are meeting their goals, and that the site has a faulty search function.

A 2013 GAO report recommended OMB and the PIC track progress and set goals for the 24 website performance requirements outlined on Digitalgov.gov. However, auditors found that the agencies are only tracking progress on 18 of the measures, and still have not established goals.

OMB and PIC said they lacked the resources to fully address the feedback from the usability test and to set goals for the site performance requirements.

Additionally, some of GAO's previous findings that Performance.gov is not fully compliant with the act have not been resolved. For example, auditors found that OMB has not updated the site's catalog of federal programs since May 2013, and that agency progress goals are not entirely up-to-date.

Lastly, the report states that OMB lacks a strategic plan for the future of Performance.gov, and that OMB and PIC lack a social media and mobile application presence, as well as a customer outreach strategy to update users on changes to the site.

GAO recommended that the agencies take steps to make sure the content on Performance.gov meets federal reporting requirements, to assess and administer feedback from usability tests and to devise a strategic plan -- including a customer outreach plan as well as goals, objectives and resources needed to meet federal standards -- for the future of the site.

OMB concurred with the GAO's recommendations; GSA did not comment on the report.

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