Officials want better use of GPRA

Congress should strengthen oversight to ensure the use of program performance information in managing and funding programs, officials said this month.

Ten years after the passage of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), some progress has been made, but lawmakers should do more to see that performance results are taken seriously, said David Walker, the General Accounting Office's comptroller general, testifying before the House Government Reform committee.

"We see very little evidence that Congress, other than this committee, is using this information," Walker said. "There [have] to be consequences, and to date, frankly, there haven't been."

Rather than pass legislation to ensure that results are tied to a budget, lawmakers should pressure agencies and appropriators to consider performance information seriously, officials said.

"We're talking about a cultural change on Capitol Hill," Walker said. "Before you can have cultural change, you have to have affected parties realize we're on a burning platform, that the status quo is unacceptable."

Clay Johnson, the Office of Management and Budget's deputy director for management, said managing for results is a new way of thinking for the federal government. The government is increasingly embracing the act and is looking at programs' effectiveness and possible improvements.

Johnson was optimistic for progress in the next five years. "Executive branch leadership will be routinely asking whether the programs it administers are effective and efficient and doing what they were intended to do," he said, also testifying before the committee. "If they aren't, the executive branch will be looking for ways to improve working closely with Congress to do so."

Johnson said the responsibility initially lies with the executive branch to take the performance information into account when making budget recommendations. The responsibility is then passed to Congress.

"Congress has to be willing to pay attention to that," he said. "They need to be open to consider the performance information, and they aren't now."

Patricia McGinnis, president and chief executive officer of the Council for Excellence in Government, said GPRA's full potential has not been realized. "Unfortunately, I don't think it's been accompanied by strong enough leadership," she said, also testifying at the hearing.

McGinnis offered several suggestions for statutory and cultural changes to increase GPRA's effectiveness.

Large program authorizations should include funding for long-term, rigorous evaluation of results in addition to measuring performance, she said. This examination will help determine what portions of the programs need more attention.

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