Most agencies not complying with Results Act, officials say

Agencies still have much to do to comply with a 6-year-old law that requires them to show what they accomplish with the money they spend, according to federal officials speaking at a congressional hearing last week.

Many agencies still have not complied with the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993, which ties agencies' performance to their budgeting process—with less than half demonstrating how their information technology spending improves performance, as required by the act, according to the General Accounting Office.

Causes for the slow compliance range from the Year 2000 problem, which has consumed managers' attention, and a need for improved computer systems and data to track spending and performance, according to speakers at a House Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee hearing held last week.

GPRA, also referred to as the Results Act, requires agencies to develop broad strategic plans as well as performance plans that lay out agencies' goals and how they will measure their success in achieving them.

According to GAO, only 14 of 35 agencies have been able to tie specific spending amounts in their fiscal 1999 performance plans to accomplishing specific goals, such as increasing child support payments from deadbeat parents.

Aaron Taylor, spokesman for Citizens Against Government Waste, said agencies' efforts to fix computers for the Year 2000 may have diverted attention from GPRA.

"Once we get [the Year 2000 problem] out of the way, we need to focus on a lot of other issues," he said. Agencies' compliance with GPRA also has been hampered by a lack of computer systems and applications that could track performance, said Olivia Golden, assistant secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families.

"The lack of readily available information and the restrictions on data collection inhibit performance measurement," she said. "Making new investments in data collection and information systems are a key priority."

Still, some agencies have been able to tie spending to performance goals, said Paul Posner, director of budget issues in the General Accounting Office's Accounting and Information Management Division. For example, the Internal Revenue Service's 1999 performance plan tied the goal of "increased productivity" to an $888 million line item to pay for processing tax returns and related documents. The IRS would determine if it had achieved that goal by measuring several factors, such as whether the agency had met its stated objective of having 19.5 percent of individual tax returns filed electronically.

But Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee, blamed the Clinton administration for not pushing agencies hard enough to comply with GPRA, for example by not creating pilot programs that were mandated under the law. GPRA required the Office of Management and Budget to tap at least five agencies to participate in pilot programs in fiscal 1998 and fiscal 1999 to demonstrate how performance could be linked to spending; however, the agencies and programs have yet to be chosen.

"We hope that experience to date with respect to the pilot designations does not suggest that some of the statutory requirements of the Results Act will simply be ignored," Horn said.

Deidre Lee, acting deputy director for management at OMB, said OMB should have the pilot programs selected within the next several months.

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