GAO: GSA's performance plan 'falls short' of results act

The General Accounting Office reported this month that the General Services Administration's fiscal 1999 performance plan, which is required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), fails to take into account that problems in the agency's administrative information systems will have a detrimental effect on GSA's ability to accomplish its mission.

The report also outlined other flaws in GSA's plan regarding its information technology and telecommunications programs. For example, the plan does not tie GSA's strategies in these areas to performance goals, GAO reported.

Bernard Ungar, director of Government Business Operations Issues at GAO, said last week that most agencies have failed to fulfill the performance plan requirements mandated by GPRA. He said, "GSA was probably at the lower end of the totem pole in terms of meeting the requirements and expectations.

"[Because] GSA is closer to a business than other agencies and their outcomes are easier to measure, we would have thought it would have been easier for GSA to meet the requirements," Ungar said. "But it didn't turn out that way."

According to the report, part of the problem stems from GSA's antiquated support systems. GAO noted that GSA employs old and inefficient technology in many of its systems, and maintenance and upgrades of the systems are time-consuming and costly.

Consequently, the data GSA relies on to measure its performance is not reliable, GAO said.

In its report, "Results Act: Observations on the General Services Administration's Annual Performance Plan," GAO concluded that the GSA plan "falls short" of the criteria specified in GPRA and in guidance from the Office of Management and Budget.

"It is not a stand-alone document that provides a clear road map of what GSA wants to accomplish, how it plans to get there and what results it expects to achieve," GAO said.

According to the report, GSA's plan stated goals without specifying how it will achieve them. For example, the plan stated that the agency will increase its market share for programs providing IT solutions and network services but gives little indication how that will happen.

Except in three cases, the plan failed to specify budgetary resources associated with each goal, the report stated. For example, GSA's plan to implement capital planning for IT as required by the Clinger-Cohen Act identified the type of staff involved but no information on how the agency will use its resources to achieve that goal, GAO said.

GSA Administrator David Barram said in a prepared statement last week that he is committed to improving performance measurement at the agency and has begun appointing chief measurements officers in parts of the organization. He did not dispute any of GAO's findings.

"We fully recognize the need to comply with congressional requirements and energetically endorse the efforts to institute into the federal government solid management practices and tools," Barram said. "To that end, we are being extremely cooperative in the GPRA process."

GSA must report to Congress by mid-July on actions it will take in response to GAO's report.

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